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    Want to whiten your teeth? Here are some options.

    Many people feel they would benefit from a whiter smile. Teeth may lose their brightness for a variety of reasons, including certain foods and beverages, age, trauma, tobacco use, and certain medications. You can help keep your smile as white as possible by maintaining healthy brushing and flossing habits, avoiding tobacco use, and limiting foods and beverages known to cause staining. That said, if you think you need little extra help with brightening your smile, there are a few options to consider. 

    Over-the-Counter Options

    The American Dental Association cautions that there are many myths about teeth whitening, so it’s important to be mindful when exploring options. However, several over-the-counter products do exist that may be effective at removing mild stains from the surface of your teeth. These include whitening toothpastes, chewing gums or strips. When shopping for over-the-counter solutions, look for the ADA seal of acceptance on the packaging to verify that the product meets ADA’s safety standards when used as directed. 

    Custom At-Home Trays

    Although you can find whitening kits over the counter, you may benefit from custom-made trays from your dentist. These whitening trays are made at the office for you to take home. They fit comfortably in your mouth to prevent the whitening gel from contacting your gums, which can cause irritation. In most cases, these whitening trays are used for short periods of about one to four weeks.

    In-Office Treatment

    You can also whiten your teeth right in the practice, usually in one visit. The dentist will place a protective shield or gel over your gums to prevent irritation before applying the whitening agent. Watch this video from the ADA for more on how this procedure works. Results from teeth whitening treatment generally last a long time but may be influenced by things like genetics, diet, age, some medications and certain habits like smoking. Fortunately, touch-up treatments are quick and easy.

    Side Effects

    According to the ADA, the most common side effect of teeth whitening is an increase in tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. However, this is usually mild and temporary. As noted above, using a custom-made tray from your dentist or opting for in-office whitening treatment may minimize the potential for irritation to your gums.

    Because everyone is different, some teeth whitening solutions may be more appropriate for your teeth than others. Talk to your dentist about which options are available that would work for you.