Discolored teeth are one of the most common complaints people have about the appearance of their smiles. As a result, teeth whitening is one of the most sought-after cosmetic dentistry treatments. In response to the high demand for whitening, people have developed many approaches to accomplishing it. 

How do you decide which is the best option for you? Of course, the best way to decide is to consult with a cosmetic dentist who can evaluate your smile to determine what will work best for you. At Top Down Dental in San Jose, we are always concerned with your overall health, which depends on your dental health. We know it’s possible to enjoy a beautiful smile using methods promoting oral and overall health. If you’re not ready for a consultation, here’s a brief guide to some of the teeth whitening options available, along with considering their relative safety to help you decide.

Home Remedies

Effectiveness: Staining to Low

Safety: Harmless to Harmful

As with any treatment, people have developed home remedies to whiten teeth. And as with other such approaches, these home remedies are all over the place regarding effectiveness and safety. 

In general, home remedies for teeth whitening don’t work. Many of them can stain your teeth (such as brushing them with turmeric). Those home remedies that provide some whitening often only give temporary results, at least partly because they are dangerous to your teeth. 

Understanding how harmful home remedies for teeth whitening can be is also essential. These techniques can use abrasive and/or acidic compounds to remove stains. This can work to remove stains, making your teeth look whiter. The problem is that home remedies for whitening aren’t specifically removing stains; they’re also removing tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the white outer layer of your teeth, but it’s very thin. It only takes a short time to remove enamel from teeth that look whiter to teeth that look yellow because thin enamel lets the darker inner layers of your teeth show through. 

Tooth enamel is precious: the body can’t replace it. It’s not worth it to try home remedies that put your enamel at risk.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Teeth Whitening

Effectiveness: Low to Moderate

Safety: Harmless (If used properly)

Compared to home remedies, OTC teeth whitening is an excellent choice. The mechanisms behind OTC whitening are well-understood, and they’re more selective at removing stains. Teeth whitening uses chemicals that attack stain molecules, breaking them down and removing them from your teeth. 

All OTC whitening is proven effective, but how effective varies by technique and how well you can use them. With many OTC whitening approaches, you might whiten only part of your teeth. This can lead to more visible discoloration because the darker parts stand out clearly against the lighter ones. 

OTC teeth whitening is harmless if used according to instructions, but it can damage your teeth if misused. Although the compounds in teeth whiteners preferentially target stains, they can remove minerals from your teeth, making them more vulnerable to decay. The instructions balance whitening, so your body can replace lost minerals to protect your teeth and keep them safe. 

However, to make sure you don’t damage your teeth with OTC teeth whitening, follow these guidelines:

  • Talk to your dentist before starting whitening
  • Carefully follow the instructions on the package
  • Use only one whitening product at a time
  • Stop whitening and talk to your dentist if you experience sensitivity or if teeth start to look translucent or yellow

It’s worth trying OTC whitening. However, you might benefit from professional teeth whitening if you’re not getting the desired results.

Professional Teeth Whitening

Effectiveness: Moderate to High

Safety: Harmless to Helpful

Professional teeth whitening is more effective and safer than OTC whitening. With this approach, your dentist will utilize stronger whitening compounds. However, special formulations help protect your teeth from adverse effects, including sensitivity. Professional whitening can also avoid being too effective. We can control the whiteness of your teeth so they won’t exceed the whiteness of any crowns, fillings, or other restorations. 

Getting professional teeth whitening can improve your oral health. That’s mainly because talking to your dentist allows them to evaluate your oral health and perform any dental procedures necessary to protect your teeth. Sometimes, for example, your teeth might not be as discolored as you think. A professional cleaning can remove hardened tartar deposits, while a quick teeth polish can help them look brighter and whiter.

Porcelain Veneers

Effectiveness: High to Very High

Safety: Harmless

Up to this point, all the whitening techniques have had the same limitation: your teeth can’t get whiter than your natural enamel. All the other whiteners try to remove stains and/or stained enamel to expose whiteness below, but these still can’t get your teeth whiter than the natural tooth enamel. This might not feel like enough if your tooth enamel is naturally more yellow, gray, or brown than you’d prefer. 

Porcelain veneers aren’t limited to the whiteness of your natural teeth. Instead, porcelain veneers use advanced ceramic facades to cover your natural teeth. Your teeth can become as white as you want them to be. With the stain resistance built into veneers, the whitening effect can last much longer than other whitening: years instead of months (or weeks). 

Although placing veneers does involve removing some of your tooth enamel, if you take care of them properly, they can protect your teeth with advanced ceramic that is stronger and more resistant to decay.

Which Whitening Is Best for You?

Don’t keep suffering with discolored teeth. Get teeth whitening that will help you feel confident in the appearance of your smile. If you’re ready to start whitening your teeth, contact San Jose cosmetic dentist Dr. Nancy Nehawandian at (408) 354-5600