Almost all FDA approved whitening products use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. White strips will get easy cases about as well as a dentist strength product.  Just like it’s harder to bleach some hair platinum blonde than others, and it’s harder to get some teeth whiter than others. You can generally try over the counter strips first.

If your teeth are too sensitive, then you can try spreading out treatments to every other day.  If its’s still too sensitive, it’s best to take a break and desensitize your teeth.  There are about three or four things you can economically do to desensitize first.  You can start with three weeks of an over the counter desensitizing toothpaste, such as Sensodyne Pronamel.  Another option is Rx strength fluoride toothpaste, which is available with a prescription from your dentist.  You should see a decrease in sensitivity after 1 to 3 weeks of daily prescription treatment. Finally, some people are importing pro-arginine toothpaste from the UK.  I would caution against that.  Arginine works for SOME people, but it is only FDA approved for dentist supervised use. A lot of the sellers on Amazon either don’t know or conceal the active ingredient in the toothpaste.

Coconut oil pulling, strawberries, Charcoal, first aid liquid hydrogen peroxide or whatever else the flavor of the week is on the Internet may be cheap or fun to try out, but do so at your own risk and with a low level of expectations. The only product in your pantry that would safely and reliably whiten your teeth is probably baking soda, but only as a stain remover.

This brings to mind the two most common causes of yellow/dark teeth, and therefore two approaches to whitening them.

Extrinsic stain – coffee, tea, smoking, etc are deposited on the surface of the teeth.  They can be polished off with many whitening toothpastes.  Baking soda may be used in toothpaste or straight up on the toothbrush once or twice a day to polish your enamel stains. Caution – if you have white fillings on your front teeth, it will dull their polish.  Consumer Reports found that the best stain fighting toothpaste on the market was Ultrabrite Advanced Whitening, which is Colgate’s bargain brand sold in 99 cent stores.

Intrinsic color – the teeth have yellow or gray coloration “built in”. Yellow is fixable with higher power whitening. Gray teeth are VERY difficult, even for dentists. Most DENTIST strength products won’t work on gray/green teeth.

There are other causes of discolored teeth. You should see their dentist before starting any whitening to spot potential issues. That said, most people can start with baking soda and over the counter strips.  If they don’t get you where you want to go, then you’ll have to consult a dentist to troubleshoot and to suggest the next steps. If one round of OTC white strips doesn’t do the trick, I highly suggest professional help.

I actually prefer it when tougher cases have already done the OTC white strips just before they see me…it breaks in the enamel for the higher power stuff.  Our office uses Kor Whitening products, made by a company just up the street in Irvine.


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