If you ask most adults what they would like to change most about their smile, the majority will answer that they’d like whiter, brighter teeth. This focus on white teeth probably accounts for the sudden boom in the teeth whitening industry over the last 15 years. In any given grocery store, you’ll find a mind-boggling array of toothpastes, strips, gels, and mouthwashes that promise to whiten teeth from the comfort of your home. In order to make the right decision for your smile, talk to your dentist before using teeth whitening products at home.

Grocery Store Teeth Whitening: Caveat Emptor

Nearly all teeth whitening products available over-the-counter or by prescription from your dentist contain an active ingredient called hydrogen peroxide (or its cousin, carbamide peroxide). Yes, that’s the same hydrogen peroxide that’s in the brown bottle gathering dust under your bathroom sink, except in a slightly higher concentration. Peroxides infuse the surface of the tooth enamel with oxygen, destroying stains at a molecular level.

However, it’s important to note that while most teeth whitening products available at the grocery store will work, the low concentration of peroxide means that the results will show up very gradually. For example, the average whitening toothpaste takes an average of 4-6 weeks to show visible results. Whitening strips make work faster because they have a higher concentration of whitening agent, but they often don’t cover the entire surface of the tooth, resulting in spotty results.

Talk to Your Dentist About Take Home Whitening Trays

Your family dentist can help you see dramatically whiter teeth in record time with professional teeth whitening trays. Teeth whitening trays are custom-fitted to your smile, so they fit snugly and ensure the professional-strength whitening gel reaches all surfaces of the teeth. You’ll be able to see a noticeable difference in the shade of your teeth after one or two sessions wearing your trays, although full results are usually reached in about 10 days. Because you will be whitening your teeth under the supervision of your dentist, you can be assured that you will be enhancing the beauty of your smile safely.