At Home Whitening Tips

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The question is on a lot of our patients minds, “Should I do a professional whitening program designed by my dentist or is an at home procedure better for me?” Depending on the time you have and budget our recommendation will differ. If you are leaning towards at home whitening, there are important considerations to think about. Here are the basics of what you should know before you whiten your teeth at home.

What product should you use?

Here at Southwest Portland Dental, a dentist in Southwest Portland, we recommend trays and strips. They are the most effective at-home choices for the most dramatic whitening. We like them because they use “barrier methods” which whitens and keeps the peroxide solution against the teeth for the longest amount of time.

The reasons these products work so well is because it is a daily application, which will whiten your teeth up to five or more shades. Most brands of trays and strips recommend you use them for around 30 minutes a day until you get to the desired shade (usually at least a week). For the most perfected results, look for higher concentrations of peroxide combined with longer application times.


How do at-home whiteners work?

Tooth bleaching at home uses either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide gel applied to the teeth using thin mouth guard type trays. Over the counter whitening strips that go over the front teeth can also be used. These products won’t damage your teeth. The peroxide agents penetrate into the porosities in the enamel and oxidize the stain deposits that build up on your teeth.


Why Does Tooth Discoloration Happen?

As a person ages, the teeth often become darker due to staining by foods (coffee, tea, or red wine), tobacco or bacterial pigments. Many do not realize that environmental factors can influence the color of teeth as well. Tetracycline antibiotics can also cause a gray staining of the teeth. Dental bleaching can help to lighten the enamel and reverse the staining of the enamel. But as we discussed above at home treatments are usually safe and easy to use as well.


What is the Difference Between at Home Whitening and Professional Whitening?

The fit of the trays or strips for at home whitening kits can be awkward, so many people do not like them. Unlike a custom tray that you would get from our dental office, disposable versions are made with generic molds that are designed for the average-size mouth. Well obviously there is no average one size fits all, so what ends up happening is common leaks of the peroxide solution through any gaps and this causes tooth and gum irritation. Whitening strips easily wrap around teeth but sometimes slip and slide.

Dr. Jarvis can help you with a custom bleaching tray which will be made for at-home use, and the staff here at Southwest Portland Dental can apply a masking gel or dam to protect gums during stronger, in-office treatments.


If you are planning on whitening our teeth make sure to avoid coffee, dark color foods and drinks. Anything that can stain the teeth will work against the whitening procedure.