Ask an Expert: Do At-Home Teeth Whitening Products Really Work?

On any given day you can walk down the aisle of your neighborhood grocery or drugstore and see people staring at the array of over-the-counter teeth whitening options in front of them.  They’re probably thinking something along the lines of “Will this actually work?” or “Is this a waste of money?” We spoke with two cosmetic dentists to find out if at-home teeth whitening products are actually worth your time and money.

Yellowing, stained teeth happen as we age and can be accelerated by certain habits, like frequent cups of coffee and glasses of red wine. If your teeth are already yellow in color, at-home whitening won’t give you the quick and dramatic results you’re probably looking for. “The concentration of bleach [in over-the-counter whitening products] is not that high, just 7-10 percent,“ explains New York cosmetic dentist Irene Grafman, DDS.  However, “If you use them for three weeks, you will see a slight change.” San Francisco cosmetic dentist Niloufer Hamsayeh, DDS, agrees, and also points out that because you have to keep purchasing these products over time to get the desired effect, this advertised “cheaper” option could actually get quite expensive.

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So, who does at-home whitening products work for? People who naturally have whiter teeth or those who have already had an in-office whitening treatment will see the most benefits from over-the-counter products because they work to keep stains from reappearing, says Dr. Grafman.

The bottom line: If your teeth are severely dull or discolored, seek out a cosmetic dentist in your area to discuss the best in-office option for you. If your teeth are in good shape overall, at-home whitening products may be just the boost your smile needs.

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