Teeth Whitening Overview

Many of us don't love our smiles because we often compare them to the flawless white smiles we see on the red carpets of Hollywood. Be comforted by the fact that few of these celebs were born with perfect rows of teeth. There is probably a cosmetic dentist behind the scenes, working their smile to perfection. The single most common treatment: professional teeth whitening. Today there are numerous teeth-whitening options available, and determining which will be the best for your smile will depend on the amount of whitening you need and how much you are willing to spend to get it.


One of the better known names in teeth whitening is BriteSmile, the first dentist-run, retail tooth whitening operation. According to BriteSmile, a single one-hour application can make your smile as much as 9.3 shades brighter, and results can last anywhere from 2 to 4 years depending on your personal habits (such as consumption of tooth-staining beverages and tobacco products, and frequency of visits to the dentist).


Another popular professional tooth whitening option is Philips Zoom (formerly marketed as "Zoom!" and "Zoom! 2"--the exclamation points were part of the name). This is also an in-office tooth whitening procedure that uses light activated whitening gel. As with BriteSmile, the Zoom procedure begins with an oral exam by a dentist before the whitener is applied. The treatment usually occurs in three 15-minute sessions, and according to the company, can result in making teeth an average of eight times lighter. Zoom whitening gel is composed of 25% hydrogen peroxide, 10% more than that of BriteSmile. Zoom offers an at-home treatment option as well.

Tray tooth whitening

Another option for tooth whitening is a tray whitener. For this procedure, your dentist will take impressions of your teeth and then create a plaster cast which will be used to make flexible plastic molds (or trays). You can apply the whitening solution to the trays yourself and fit the trays over your teeth. When you're ready for the procedure, you simply brush your teeth, fill the trays with the whitener and affix the trays.

The tray method offers tooth whitening flexibility. Your dentist will supervise the procedure, but you can take the materials home and apply them on your schedule. You can wear the trays overnight (which can yield results after as few as two applications) or for a few hours every day over the course of two weeks.

Costing between $300 to $700, tray-based teeth whiteners are usually more affordable than tooth whitening treatments like BriteSmile and Zoom. However, the results you'll get from them won't be as dramatic. Tray-based whiteners typically lighten your smile by 6 shades at the most. So if you're looking for a significantly lighter smile you will need to repeat the procedure more frequently than you would BriteSmile or Zoom. This repetition could ultimately chip away at the money you saved by going with tray-based whiteners in the first place. But if you're satisfied with going only 6 shades lighter, then you'll be pleased to know that the effects of tray-based whiteners can last from one to three years.

Home tooth whitening

A final option for tooth whitening is the use of over-the-counter methods modeled on the dental tray system. Products like The Rembrandt Plus Superior Bleaching System are relatively inexpensive, use lower doses of whitening agents (Rembrandt uses 9% carbamide-peroxide gel), and guarantee results within a week. But the lack of truly custom-fitted molds can cause the whitening gel to be applied to the gums, and this lack of precision can cause discomfort and decreased effectiveness of the product.

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