Are you unhappy with the stained or discolored appearance of your teeth? While over-the-counter products may be inexpensive, they do not provide the same results as in-office treatments.
Here we review the pros and cons of each of teeth whitening methods, with a special focus on Zoom Teeth Whitening.
What causes yellow teeth?
Here are a few of the most common factors that will stain your teeth yellow:
- Smoking: Few things will yellow your teeth more effectively than smoking tobacco. These stains aren’t always easily brushed away either.
- Certain Foods: Many foods stain teeth. Spaghetti sauce, curry spices, even berries contain pigments that cling to tooth enamel and stain it yellow.
- Certain Beverages: Tea and coffee are well known to stain teeth yellow, but so will red or white wine, dark-colored sodas, and most sports drinks.
- Thinning enamel: Teeth start to turn yellow once the enamel thins and the yellowy-brown colored dentin underneath is exposed. Anything that thins the enamel protecting your teeth will contribute to this yellowing – including grinding your teeth.
- Fluorosis: While a somewhat controversial compound in certain circles, fluoride is widely considered to be good for teeth. However, too much of it causes fluorosis, brownish yellow spots that form on your teeth. Remember, fluoride is ubiquitous here in the USA so you’re probably already getting plenty of it, whether you realize it or not. Most tap water is fluoridated, it’s probably in your toothpaste, and dentists don’t hesitate to write prescriptions for fluoride tablets and treatments for their patients.
- Some Antibiotics: Tetracycline can stain teeth yellow. According to the National Institute of Health, if you were given antibiotics before you turned eight, or if you’re mother took them in the second half of her pregnancy, your teeth could be permanently stained as an adult.
At-home teeth whitening products
There’s no shortage of teeth whitening systems and products on the market. From whitening toothpastes to chewing gum alleged to remove tobacco stains, it’s no stretch to say that some of these approaches deliver results a little more predictably than others.
That said, however, each of the following systems still has it’s own merits and some degree of efficacy. These are the top four at-home teeth-whitening products in the United States.
- Whitening toothpastes
- Whitening rinses
- Whitening strips and gels
- Tray-based tooth whiteners
1. Whitening toothpastes
All toothpaste removes surface stains, to an extent, by using mild abrasives. Whitening toothpastes share the same abrasives as the regular variety toothpaste but also contain various polishing and chemical agents that allegedly improve the results.
While most brands claim to whiten the shade of your teeth by one degree (at best), that’s not particularly impressive when you consider that one in-office bleaching session with your dentist can make your teeth up to nine shades whiter – albeit at a far greater cost than a few tubes of whitening toothpaste.
2. Whitening rinses
This is a relatively new technique to whiten teeth, and the jury is still out with respect to how effective it is. Rinses essentially function like whitening toothpastes, with most sharing the same or similar whitening agents, hydrogen peroxide being the key ingredient.
While it’s certainly easy and painless enough, it takes a minimum of three months of daily rinsing before any whitening is noticeable, and even then these rinses can only whiten your teeth to a certain extent. If your teeth are yellow enough to have you researching whitening procedures, you’ll probably be disappointed by the results you’ll see with a rinse.
3. Whitening strips and gels
This is another relatively inexpensive option that delivers results, but probably not to the extent you’ll need if your teeth are really yellow.
These products are also peroxide-based, with initial results visible after a few days and full results after approximately four months of steady use.
4. Tray-based tooth whiteners
These peroxide-based whiteners can be purchased both over-the-counter and through your dentist. This treatment involves a tray with dimensions similar to a mouth guard. The tray is filled with a whitening agent and worn for a few hours a day over a period of one month or more, depending on how discolored your teeth are.
In-office bleaching: Zoom Teeth Whitening
While it is one of the most expensive teeth-whitening methods currently available, the Zoom Teeth Whitening System is also the fastest and most effective option by a long shot.
Dramatic results are visible immediately after treatment, with generally only one session being required to remove even the most stubborn of stains from your yellow chompers.
However, there’s one caveat to Zoom Teeth Whitening you should be aware of before digging deeper into the procedure: a small minority of people report a very intense shooting pain both during whitening and sporadically for the first 24 hours following treatment.
Now, let’s explore Zoom Teeth-whitening in a little more depth.
How does it work?
Phillips — yes, the company that makes TVs, headphones, and other consumer electronics — are the same people who’ve introduced Zoom Teeth-whitening technology to the world.
Zoom is a bleaching system designed to lighten the discoloration of enamel and dentin. The treatment is performed in-office, and combines the application of a hydrogen-peroxide based gel with the “Zoom Advanced Power Chairside Lamp,” a UV device which accelerates the bleaching process of the peroxide.
The idea is that as the hydrogen peroxide gel is broken down by the rays of the Zoom lamp, oxygen enters the enamel and dentin of the tooth to bleach any stains while leaving the structure of the tooth intact. The entire process takes less than an hour when performed by a qualified professional.
In many jurisdictions the only people authorized to perform teeth bleaching are dentists and other licensed medical professionals. As with the vast majority of cosmetic procedures, you should always stick with a board-certified professional.
With teeth bleaching treatments like the Zoom method, given that you could be one of the roughly 10% of people for whom it causes intense pain, you want to be under the care of an experienced professional. This isn’t a procedure that you want to leave to just anybody, even if it costs you a few extra dollars.
What to expect during your Zoom treatment
The first thing that your dentist will want to do is conduct a comprehensive examination of your teeth and gums to ensure everything is in relatively good health.
They will then ask a few questions about your lifestyle and oral hygiene habits in order to determine if you will actually benefit from the procedure. For example, if you already have a lot of existing dental work, like crowns and veneers, your dentist will want to know in advance, and might recommend a different whitening treatment that is better suited to your situation.
Should you agree to move forward with the Zoom treatment, to ensure optimal results your dentist will likely insist that you have a regular teeth cleaning in advance of your bleaching and whitening session.
On the day of your treatment, your dental professional will begin by covering your lips and gums with a protective material, leaving only your teeth exposed. Next, they will apply the Zoom hydrogen peroxide whitening gel to your teeth which, with help from the Zoom UV light, penetrates the teeth and breaks up the stains and discoloration.
For the next 15 minutes, while the Zoom laser stimulates the properties of the whitening gel on your teeth, you can just sit back in your dentist chair and relax, look at your phone, or listen to music — whatever suits you. It should be noted, however, that people with a strong gag reflex might not find the procedure quite as comfortable.
This process is repeated three times for a grand total of 45 minutes. Upon completion, a sensitivity-reducing fluoride paste or gel is applied to your teeth. Once applied, the procedure is finished. At first, your teeth will be almost unnaturally white, but within a couple of days a more natural shade of white will take hold.
Before heading home with your now new blindingly white teeth, you’ll be given a Zoom home-use touch-up kit, which consists of a few custom-fitted whitening trays.
You’ll also be further reminded that if you resume smoking or continue to consume foods and beverages that are conducive to staining teeth, eventually your teeth will yellow again and you could find yourself in need of more whitening session in the future.
To partially offset this, it’s recommended that you always try to brush your teeth with toothpastes that contain whitening agents.
Does Zoom Teeth Whitening hurt?
At approximately $500 in total, Zoom Teeth-Whitening won’t hurt your wallet, but the procedure might still hurt. As mentioned earlier, there is a portion of the population for whom a whitening session feels like torture – although dentist familiar with the procedure will tell you these claims are wildly exaggerated.
Nevertheless, some people report it was the most painful experience of their entire lives. While it’s probably best to trust the professionals and take these testimonials with a grain of salt, if you believe you have particularly sensitive teeth, you should definitely mention it to your dentist in advance of your teeth whitening treatment.
Dr. David Peck, who has a busy dentistry practice in Springfield, MA, explains that around 10-15% of his patients experience some discomfort with teeth bleaching.
“We handle any possible side effects at the visit and always tell patients exactly what to expect, reminding them that the effects of the whitening will far outweigh any discomfort,” says Peck. “We also give our patients pain medications. At worst, any pain is over within 24 hours.”
A good dentist should immediately recognize if you’re likely to experience serious discomfort from teeth bleaching while they are conducting your initial, pre-treatment dental exam. If so, when the time comes your dental professional will take the appropriate measures to ensure that you remain comfortable throughout the entire procedure.
“We always ask if the patient is cold or hot sensitive,” says Peck. “If they are then we definitely inform them that they will experience some degree of discomfort. With the most sensitive patients, we provide topical fluoride gel for five to seven days prior to the procedure.
The most susceptible to discomfort are people who grind or clench their teeth, which causes what’s known as “cervical erosion.”
“For those patients we just block out their sensitive areas,” says Peck. “It’s all in the handling of the individual patient. If there is cervical erosion or prior sensitivity, these patients experience more pain because the process does open the dentinal tubules and enamel rods, which are sensitive.”
“Roughly 10% of patients who bleach their teeth with Zoom, or any bleaching system, will experience mild to moderate discomfort with their teeth for a short while,” says Dr. Rey Martinez, a respected dental surgeon based in Grayslake, IL. “Sensitivity to bleaching varies widely from person to person. If dental bleach stayed only in the enamel, there probably would be no pain at all. But the layer found under the enamel is dentin, a living tissue that can produce very strong sensations of pain.”
Martinez further explains why some people find the Zoom process so challenging while for others it’s a walk in the park. “One theory is that some people have slight imperfections in the enamel of their otherwise healthy teeth that lead to the sensitive, living part of the tooth, which responds painfully with prolonged contact to dental bleaching agents.” He acknowledges that the reason why some people with healthy teeth respond negatively to dental whitening is still not completely understood.
“What is very clear,” he continues, “is that teeth will almost certainly be sensitive to bleach if the teeth being bleached have decay, exposed roots, or defective fillings, because all these conditions allow bleach to touch the living part of the tooth.”
Dr. Richard B. Winter of Milwaukee has his own thoughts on the matter. He believes pain is created by “fluid movement within the tubules of the tooth (pores) causes pressure on the nerve through fluid dynamics, and this can lead to irritation of the nerve within the tooth.”
Nevertheless, Winter feels that worrying about the potential pain involved with in-office teeth whitening is wasted energy.
“We utilize desensitizers and fluoride pastes before whitening to all but eliminate this sensitivity,” he says. “With the proper use of fluoride, desensitizing toothpastes, and great home care, whitening is a safe and comfortable procedure that will provide a whiter, more beautiful smile for years to come.”
Finally, it’s important to remember that a whitening treatment may not be as effective for some people as it is for others. Your dentist will be able to determine if teeth whitening is right for you after performing a thorough oral examination.