Help me evaluate my tooth whitening options?
July 24, 2014 8:02 AM   Subscribe

What are the main teeth whitening methods? What are the pros and Cons of each? I found some groupons for "take home whitening" which seems like they just sell you a kit, and I found some for "chair side" whitening (~$100), where they use a gel and LED light? and there are also just over the counter ones. I searched ask mefi, but the last question about this that I found was from 2009, I wonder if the treatments are newer or better now?
posted by lijiaxiaoniu to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
This may seem stupid as hell, but I buy at home kits from eBay from whoever is a top-rated seller. It's like $16 for a one-year kit, you make the custom fitting trays for your teeth, squeeze the 44% peroxide gel into the trays and leave it on for up to 2 minutes. Wait a week, leave it on for three minutes, next week, 4 minutes. The first few times you use it it can cause pretty bad sensitivity because it's working. And you definitely never want to leave it on for more than 2 minutes the first time. Beware that the strong stuff is actually eroding your enamel, so I compensate by using an enamel-building toothpaste.

I told my frentist (friend/dentist) that I do this and she shook her head and laughed at my crazy renegade choices.

She also notes that my teeth are healthy and beautifully white.
posted by kinetic at 8:09 AM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get a toothbrush.
Put it in your shower.
Go to walgreens and spend $4 on this whitening gel.
Every morning when you get in the shower, brush some of it on.
Continue showering.
At the end of your shower, rinse and spit.

It's cheap and equivalently effective to any OTC consumer tooth whitening system.

As proof of of efficacy, here is a picture of my teeth.
posted by phunniemee at 8:11 AM on July 24, 2014 [30 favorites]

The study results showed no clinically significant difference in bleaching efficacy. Both techniques [at home and in office] produced satisfactory and long-lasting bleaching results.

That said, I had a Zoom treatment two years ago, and I've been pleased with the results. You do an at-home touch-up every six months (your dentist will provide a tube of the whitening gel. One tube = one touch-up = $10.) My teeth are still noticeably white, though not brighter than the whites of my eyes, which is a metric someone mentioned to me a while ago - to look natural, don't bleach your teeth whiter than the whites of your eyes.

If you have sensitive teeth, you'll probably be happier with an at-home treatment; I don't, but I still had some sensitivity during the treatment (though none after, and none with the at-home touch-ups.)
posted by punchtothehead at 8:18 AM on July 24, 2014

Whatever method you choose, be sure to abstain from staining foods while you are lightening. It will go faster and be less frustrating. Coffee, black tea (switch to green), and soda are things to avoid. Good luck!
posted by domo at 8:20 AM on July 24, 2014

I've used the Zoom system, with the trays custom-made by the dentist.

I really hate it, actually: the taste of the gel, the sensitivity, and the stuff dripping down the back of my throat during the night. But it does work very well.

(Phunniemee, that stuff you use - can it be bought online?!)
posted by Salamander at 8:28 AM on July 24, 2014

I used the Crest white strips and they literally made my teeth hurt. I would not recommend.

Phunniemee... thems some gorgeous chompers you got there. I wonder if that stuff is available in ye old Canada. Otherwise it gets added to my "walgreens sweepstakes" list.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:33 AM on July 24, 2014

(Phunniemee, that stuff you use - can it be bought online?!)

Yup, looks like they have it in little kits now or something?

p.s. Thanks :) I also floss every day and have for the entirety of my adulthood, which I would highly recommend as a first step to having prettier teeth.
posted by phunniemee at 8:35 AM on July 24, 2014

Thanks phunniemee! I have tried the Rembrandt trays in the past and the pain did not seem worth it for the result. I have sensitive teeth, and I like this quick daily idea. I am also using Sensodyne now which seems to make the pain of whitening and the pain of my Sonicare less.
posted by Lardmitten at 8:39 AM on July 24, 2014

I did ZOOM about five years ago, which made me feel like Katherine Helmond in that one stretched-face scene from Brazil and was bizarrely painful after, but I really loved the results. I felt like a movie star and took to smiling a LOT.

Recently, I tried activated charcoal. The linked site raves about it, and I have seen pleasant results using the slurry method, as I'm nervous about grinding anything into my teeth. Plus, zero pain. But you have to be really careful about cleaning up because it gets everywhere.
posted by mochapickle at 9:07 AM on July 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Crest white strips work. Had some sensitivity afterwards, but it only lasted a day or so. I only use them about once a year, so cheap overall. Our dentist even told us to just try them, don't bother with office visits unless you are an extreme case.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:17 AM on July 24, 2014

Seconding activated charcoal. Non abrasive, non invasive, super effective, cheap.
posted by headnsouth at 11:03 AM on July 24, 2014

I tried the GoSmile system for a bit, but I stopped using it. It caused a lot of pain in my gums for several hours after I used either the tubes of whitening junk or the AM or PM toothpastes. On top of that, it didn't make my teeth any whiter. Evaluation: that system is a complete waste of money.

I haven't tried any other whitening methods, as I don't really care.
posted by tckma at 11:36 AM on July 24, 2014

I was asked over memail just now to come back and talk about any zinginess that happens with the cheapo tooth whitening.

It's very, very little. My uncle is a dentist and my parents are weirdly obsessive about white teeth, so I've tried all kinds of fancy and expensive whitening stuff over the years. By far and away the most painful was the Crest white strips "professional" formula. Just complete and utter tooth pain failure. I haven't gone near those in years.

I have one tooth that's very sensitive to the bleach zings. Brushing on the whitening gel aggravates it...mayyyybe once every two months? I think because I'm doing it for a relatively short period of time and just brushing it on (rather than drowning my teeth in a tray or something), it's a lot more gentle. (I imagine this kind of thing varies from person to person, though, so you may have a different experience.)
posted by phunniemee at 12:44 PM on July 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I use activated charcoal in the shower the same way phun uses the whitening gel. It's is SO messy and it needs to stay on for a couple minutes so this seems to be the best way to do it. It will remove all stains pretty fast but it won't bleach your teeth. Every once in a while I use whitening gel too, but not too much as it does eat your enamel. A couple days in a row every few months.

This is a good combo for me, recently a friend was amazed I'd never had my teeth whitened professionaly.
posted by fshgrl at 2:03 PM on July 24, 2014

Although I now need whiter eyeballs I have learned.
posted by fshgrl at 2:12 PM on July 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

3rding activated charcoal. It's cheap and it really works.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:23 PM on July 24, 2014

My dentist suggested trying the at-home things to see how I tolerated the sensitivity before she would allow me to consider the in-office whitening treatment. I'm glad she did because a couple of short stints with the Crest White Strips made my teeth feel like they were made of nerves and icy, shattered glass. I do not recommend them.

I've had luck with something I got from Sephora, the GLO system, I think it's called. It's not cheap though, so you might be better off with a dental treatment.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 3:01 PM on July 24, 2014

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