New/Old Trend in Teeth Whitening: Do It at Home

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At-home tray whitening is nothing new. But its popularity has spiked as the economy has plunged, according to Arthur Kwan, D.M.D., of the Nu Smile Center for Aesthetic & Restorative Dentistry in Rocklin.

“Ratiowise, about 3-to-1 patients in my office will pick at-home tray whitening over chairside whitening,†Kwan says. “I think the economy has a lot to do with it.†Professional tray whitening runs about $200 to $400, while chairside treatments (such as Zoom!, done with the zap of a metal halide light), can range from $350 to $1,000.

Here’s how it works: Your dentist takes an impression of your teeth, which is used to create custom bleaching trays. At home, you put a little whitening gel in the trays (similar to a mouth guard) and wear them for 60 to 75 minutes a day. It takes about two weeks for full results (as opposed to 90 minutes for chairside treatment), says Kwan, but check this out: Your teeth should get super white—an average of eight shades lighter, according to a study published in the Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry.

Worried about pain? Good news: Kwan says his patients are reporting far fewer issues than in years past, thanks to new whitening gels containing ACP, which reduces tooth sensitivity and can even add some luster to your pearly whites.

There also are lots of over-the-counter options available. But that’s a whole ’nuther story, so we’ll just advise you to check with your dentist before you take the plunge. Not everyone’s a good candidate for teeth whitening, and not all products are safe.