Here are a few tips to get the most out of your at-home or dental-office whitening efforts:
1. Have realistic expectations about the product you are using. It’s important to understand what affects tooth color and what kinds of treatments work for which kinds of stains. Each product has a different capacity to whiten.
2. Combine different whitening products that work on different levels to get optimal results. Each product works differently on teeth stains.
3. Brush without toothpaste or with a non-fluoride toothpaste before a treatment. Teeth need to be free of food debris and plaque before applying whitening treatments whether at-home or in-office. However, fluoride will actually help prevent the peroxide or other whitening agent from getting through the enamel.
4. Floss before you whiten. This will clear away any plaque between the teeth that can get in the way of the whitening agent.
5. Don’t do the whitening treatment if you have any cuts or scratches in your gums. These cuts will certainly be irritated by the whitening process. Wait until the cuts have healed.
6. If your in-office whitening treatment involves more than one appointment or application, don’t use any over-the-counter or other at-home whitening methods between whitening appointments.
7. Brush your teeth afterward with a fluoride toothpaste that also contains potassium nitrate. This will help enamel remineralize following whitening, reducing tooth sensitivity and help maintain whitening results.
8. Avoid eating citrus fruits (eg: oranges, grapefruit) or other acidic foods during and in between recurring bleaching applications. These kinds of foods will only increase the possibility of tooth sensitivity and the acidity level of your saliva which could actually end up damaging the enamel and hindering the whitening process. Acidic ingredients may be included in your whitening product to remove the protein pellicle, but to also ingest acidic foods would make it too much.
9. Avoid drinking coffee, dark colas, red wine, and eating foods that stain for the first few days after whitening to keep stains from resettling on your demineralized and vulnerable enamel. Waiting a few days gives your enamel a chance to strengthen with use of a fluoride toothpaste. It also gives sufficient time for the protein pellicle to re-establish itself and protect the enamel from stains and acids.
10. It is usually recommended that people wait until at least the age of 16 before having their teeth whitened. The problem with doing teeth whitening too early is that there may still be some teeth coming into place. When the rest of the tooth erupts after the whitening treatment, the newly erupted portion of the tooth will look a completely different color than the whitened portion.
11. Those who have cracked or enamel-worn teeth, sensitive teeth, allergies, periodontal disease, cavities, exposed roots, fillings, crowns, bonding, or veneers, or pregnant women should not engage in tooth whitening. The whitening efforts will either not be successful, or will only result in tooth sensitivity. If whitening is being used as part of an overall smile makeover, the structural issues of your teeth need to be addressed before whitening can be done.
12. Use a teeth whitening guide to help you evaluate your current tooth color and the shade you’d like to achieve. Changing your smile by just two or three shades is often enough to make a noticeable change.
13. Keep in mind that teeth are actually naturally a pale yellow color, and that the portion of the tooth closest to the gum will always be darker than the coronal (or biting) surface of the tooth.
14. Don’t forget to smile!