Talking Teeth

Do Whitening Kits Really Work?

by Dr. Edmond Suh // October - November - December 2021

Have you noticed that your teeth aren’t as white as they could be? It happens to many of us, and sometimes brushing isn’t enough to whiten them as much as we want. Plenty of whitening kits are available today ... but do they work?

The answer is yes, and no. Confusing, I know. Whether the kits work depends on different factors, and the answer will be different for everyone because not all teeth are discolored for the same reason.

First, you need to know your exact issue so that you can utilize the best teeth whitening kit for you. Spoiler alert – it may not be one purchased over the counter.

Causes of Discoloration

There are several different reasons why teeth can become discolored; however, for the most part, these reasons are broken down into two categories.

Extrinsic Discoloration: This is when the outside of your teeth has discoloration due to coffee, tea, red wine, tobacco, dyed foods, etc. Sometimes you may notice a difference when you use an over-the-counter whitening teeth kit or whitening toothpaste.

Intrinsic Discoloration: This is when the discoloration comes from within the tooth itself. Common causes are medications, infection, childhood illness, trauma, and aging. Over-the-counter remedies will not work on intrinsic discoloration, due to the fact that they are missing or only have minute amounts of carbamide peroxide, the main ingredient needed to get your teeth whiter.

It is entirely possible to have both extrinsic and intrinsic discoloration at the same time. So, you may be a heavy coffee drinker and purchase the best teeth whitening kit only to find that your teeth didn’t get as light as you’d hoped.

Options for Teeth Whitening

There are different options for teeth whitening. The main three choices are: over-the-counter kits, kits dispensed by dentists, and whitening treatments administered by dentists.

Teeth whitening kits: These will be purchased at places like pharmacies and big box stores.

Kits dispensed by dentists: These teeth whitening kits are different from over-the-counter kits. Due to their ingredients, which are much more effective, these kits cannot be purchased anywhere else other than from your dentist.

Administered by dentists: Dentists have a few options for teeth whitening in their offices. This option is the most effective, the quickest acting, and the longest lasting. This could be done by using a teeth whitening light, a teeth bleaching kit with higher amounts of carbamide peroxide, or other whitening products.

In addition to knowing if your issue is intrinsic or extrinsic, there are other factors that you will need to look at before making a decision on which route to take when it comes to teeth whitening products. Some factors to think about include cost; age (more so for children); dental history, including fillings and crowns; and type and reason for discoloration.

To reiterate, yes, teeth whitening kits work, but there are caveats and factors you need to know before running out to purchase the kit from the reviews you saw on YouTube. That reviewer may have a separate issue than you. Far too often, people are not fully aware of the reason behind their teeth discoloration and end up wasting a lot of energy and money trying different products that just won’t work. There are several options and factors to consider, so the best and safest option is to talk to your dentist about these choices – they are the experts and know how best to approach your issue, possibly saving you disappointment, frustration, and money in the long run. By speaking with your dentist, you will find out precisely what type of discoloration you have, what caused it, and the best teeth whitening products to use for your particular case.

Dr. Edmond Suh

Owner of Supremia Dentistry, located at 1711 S. Main St. in Wake Forest.