Home:Over-the-counter teeth whitening products review. Which are best?

Tray-based at-home teeth whitening using a carbamide peroxide teeth whitener.

Tray-based at-home teeth whitening using carbamide peroxide as the whitener became popular in the dental community after a clinical study detailing this technique was published in 1989. The article described how a dentist could:

  • Create a plastic bleaching tray that had been fabricated so it fit comfortably over a person's teeth.

  • Dispense a peroxide-based teeth whitener to the patient (10% carbamide peroxide).

The patient would then, at home, place the whitener into the bleaching tray and then wear the tray for multiple hours per day, for some weeks, as the effects of the whitening process took place.

In the wake of the popularity of this dentist supervised and dentist dispensed version of tray-based at-home teeth whitening many over-the-counter products have since become available.

Tray-based teeth whitening in its ideal form.

While the topic of our pages is over-the-counter teeth whitening products, in regards to tray-based whitening we feel we must describe this technique in the fashion as performed by dentists. After all it is the dentist dispensed and supervised version of this bleaching method that over-the-counter products try to emulate.

When a dentist is involved with their patient's tray-based teeth whitening efforts the procedure usually includes the following steps:

  • The dentist performs a pre-treatment oral examination.

  • The dentist takes dental impressions of the patient's teeth from which plaster molds are made.

  • Customized bleaching trays are made on the patient's dental molds out of a thin, soft plastic.

  • The dentist dispenses a carbamide peroxide bleaching gel (usually 10%) to the patient. Instructions are given so the patient knows how to place the whitener in the tray and for how long to wear the tray during each bleaching treatment.

  • The patient returns periodically to the dentist's office so they can evaluate the patient's progress and the extent to which side effects have become a problem. Depending on their findings more whitener may be dispensed and the whitening treatment period extended.

What are some of the differences between over-the-counter and dentist dispensed tray-based at-home teeth whitening systems?

A bleaching tray and 10% carbamide peroxide teeth whitener.

While over-the-counter products try to emulate dentist dispensed and supervised teeth whitening systems there can be salient differences. We've listed some of these differences below:

Using over-the-counter teeth whitening products doesn't always involve a pre-treatment dental examination.
Probably the most important service a dentist can provide that an over-the-counter teeth whitening product cannot is an initial dental examination and diagnosis as to why the tooth staining the patient has noticed exists.
( More about pre-whitening treatment dental examinations ... )

Over-the-counter teeth whitening kits usually make use of stock bleaching trays instead of custom fabricated ones.
Most over-the-counter teeth whitening kits make use of stock bleaching trays. Dentist fabricated custom trays, which are trays specifically designed and created for the person using them, can provide certain benefits to the user. A well-designed custom tray can aid in the effectiveness and overall results of the bleaching process. A custom tray can also help to minimize side effects created by the bleaching process.
( More about stock and custom bleaching trays ... )

Selecting the peroxide-based teeth whitener that will be used.
Having your dentist choose the teeth whitener that will be used for the bleaching process can be a luxury. The whiteners your dentist will have available to them, while not truly prescription items, are whitening products that are only intended for distribution by a dental professional through their office.

In most cases the documentation that a manufacturer will make available regarding the safety, effectiveness, and quality control of "dentist dispensed" teeth whiteners far exceeds that information available for the typical over-the-counter product. Some over-the-counter teeth whiteners however are quality products. If you just pay some attention to certain whitener properties and learn a little about the manufacturer you can end up making some good choices.
( More about selecting an over-the-counter teeth whitener ... )

Determining when to stop or continue on with the teeth whitening process.
In the past a dentist was the person who dispensed the tooth whitener to the patient. Because of this they held great control and influence on matters related to the duration of the whitening treatment. Now with the availability of over-the-counter whiteners this professional oversight has been lost.

Just because products can be bought on an over-the-counter basis does not mean they are harmless. Over-the-counter teeth whitening kits must be used with care and prudence. In no instance is an over-the-counter teeth whitener intended for continuous usage over an extended period of time. The instructions that come with these kits must be adhered to.
( More about how long the teeth whitening process should be continued ... )

Evaluation of side effects created by the teeth whitening process.
Knowing that the side effects you are experiencing are normal and typical can be comforting. A dentist supervised teeth whitening system can offer this type of observation and counseling whereas over-the-counter products cannot. There are specific side effects that are routinely encountered by those who use peroxide-based teeth whiteners. Our pages describe some of them and also some of the solutions for them.
( More about the side effects associated with peroxide-based teeth whiteners ... )
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