What does your Cochrane Dentist think of teeth whitening?

It seems like everywhere we look we see products advertised to whiten your teeth.  Have you ever wondered whether or not they really work?  Or if they harm your enamel?  Let’s explore a few of these questions and see whether they will do the job we want:

Whitening Toothpastes:

In general toothpastes use a silica grit to polish stain off the teeth.  This works for everyday stain from things like coffee, tea or cola drinks, but won’t get deeper into the enamel or dentin to make the teeth whiter.  Some whitening toothpastes have an ingredient called Blue Covarine which gives the immediate effect of whiteness by coating the teeth with a film of blue color that reduces the yellow look of the teeth.  This product is safe and is used in many of the toothpastes that promise immediate whitening results.  Crest has a new product called HD White toothpaste which is a two step process that has the user brush with a paste to cleanse the teeth and then a peroxide to lift stains.  The reviews on this look good, but it is a few dollars more than other pastes and may take a little bit more time to complete both steps instead of one.  And anything with peroxide could cause some sensitivity!

One thing that WILL help any toothpaste remove stain better is an electric toothbrush!  The electric toothbrush has been shown to improve cleaning by 35-50% over a manual toothbrush–it’s a power tool for your teeth!!

Whitening Rinses:

This is a fairly new addition to our oral routine, but can actually help reduce the amount of stain that attaches to the teeth in the first place.  The active ingredient in these rinses is Sodium Hexametaphosphate (SHMP) which coats the teeth preventing stain and reduces tartar formation.  It’s probably best to use these types of rinses to maintain your new white smile after the use of a deeper whitening product.

Whitening Pens:

These are pretty new on the market and use hydrogen peroxide.  They are designed to paint a gel film on the teeth which lasts for about 30 minutes.  There is a greater likelihood of the gel dissolving than with tray-whitening, but can be easy to use and are very portable.  Higher concentration peroxide formulations can only be purchased through the dental office.

In-office Whitening:

This type of whitening was very popular a few years back when we watched those “makeover” shows on television–after a few short weeks of diet, boot-camp, and some help with wardrobe, the participant looks like a Hollywood movie star–complete with gleaming white teeth!  This procedure takes about 90 minutes in the office and uses a peroxide-type gel applied repeatedly to the teeth which is intensified with an LED light.  The downsides to this type of whitening were the expense ($500-900) and that there could be significant tooth sensitivity during or immediately after the procedure.  There was no way to predict which patients may be sensitive after treatment, so many offices have chosen to be more conservative with take-home whitening….

Take-home Whitening:

A less expensive ($250 in our office) and more predictable way to whiten teeth.  Impressions are taken of the teeth, plaster models poured and clear plastic trays made that fit exactly over the teeth.  The user can choose from two different options for the whitening ingredient–carbamide peroxide which needs to be left on the tooth surface longer (overnight if you like), but can penetrate deeper to remove stain that has taken many years to build.  Hydrogen peroxide gel can be used in the trays for a shorter period of time, is less likely to be sensitive but is probably better for more recent stain.  Both types of peroxide won’t harm the enamel or gums if used correctly.  The process draws fluid from the enamel, which is then replaced with your own saliva, so the teeth rehydrate within 48 hours of whitening.  Tray whitening takes 1-3 weeks of daily use, depending on how white you want to get.  If you experience sensitivity, you can skip a day or two here and there and still get good results.  As a caution to anyone who has never tried whitening with peroxide type gel in the past, I suggest using a sensitivity or high-fluoride toothpaste for two weeks prior to whitening, throughout the process and for a couple of weeks afterward if needed.  Touch-up applications take one or two days, and probably won’t be needed for several months.   Whitening kits come with plenty of gel to get you through the process, and probably enough for a few touch-ups–you can store the extra gel in the fridge until needed.  Refills are only $35 for 3 more syringes of gel, so once you get past the expense of having the custom trays made, it’s actually a pretty economical way to maintain a whiter smile!

Something to remember while whitening your teeth:

If you drink tea, coffee, colas or red wine, smoke or use tobacco products, you are more likely to have stain on your teeth and the effects of whitening are less likely to last!  To get the optimum effect while whitening, refrain from eating or drinking foods that have a lot of pigment in them, as this will just be reabsorbed into your teeth.  If you think of your teeth as being dehydrated and thirsty while using a peroxide whitening product, remember that what you eat or drink will be slurped right up by your enamel!  So if you really must have that cup of coffee or tea, be sure to brush well after and drink lots of water through the day to replenish the liquid in the enamel.

We would love to help you with your quest for whiter teeth. Please come in to see your Cochrane dentist at Bow View Dental Care so we can help you plan a daily strategy to keep those teeth healthy and as white as you want them!


Book an appointment today,
We look forward to seeing your smile.


Monday closed
Tuesday 12-7
Wednesday 8-3
Thursday 8-3
Friday 8-3
Saturday closed
Sunday closed

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.