Everyone wants a great smile, but large-scale dental work can be prohibitively expensive. Thankfully, there are some great alternatives available that don’t break the bank, and each year brings about the availability of new dental options. While you might be under the impression that unless you spend tens of thousands of dollars, you’re stuck with what you’ve got, this isn’t necessarily the case.
While many people opt for in-patient dental operations, you’d be surprised by how many off-the-shelf products can help improve your teeth and give you a better smile. We’re going to look at some of the best alternatives to expensive dental work, alongside some of the more traditional dental work options.
Teeth Whitening Options
Patients choose teeth whitening procedures for a variety of reasons. Fixing one’s smile can greatly improve self-confidence. Frequently, adult patients have resigned themselves to never improving their teeth, but there are ways to improve one’s smile regardless of age or bank account.
Dirty teeth are off-putting, and teeth whitening procedures can dramatically improve a smile. Regardless of good personal hygiene, heavy drinkers and smokers often find themselves with yellow, brown, or black teeth.
While most teeth straightening procedures require professional dental solutions (and probably a fair amount of money), some patients choose a teeth whitening procedure instead, since a simple teeth whitening procedure can remarkably improve the appearance of uneven and crooked teeth.
Teeth whitening procedures have become increasingly popular in recent years, and many affordable off-the-shelf teeth whitening options are now available.
Teeth Whitening Kiosks
Teeth whitening kiosks have sprung up almost everywhere in recent years, taking the cosmetic industry by storm. Often found in department stores or beauty salons, teeth whitening kiosks offer the use of expensive teeth whitening equipment with the help of an on-site practitioner.
Potential Downsides to Kiosks
The rise of teeth whitening kiosks has been controversial for a number of reasons stemming from the fact that the kiosks are largely unregulated. In fact, there are no background or experience requirements to open a kiosk, and as a result, many kiosk owners are entrepreneurs who lack any dental background.
If customers have procedures performed at a teeth whitening kiosk, the kiosk practitioner will likely lack the full training and experience that a dental professional would possess. This lack of knowledge and experience can bring with it a host of additional issues, possibly the most dangerous of which being the fact that, since most practitioners lack full dental training, they will be unable to spot dental problems which indicate that the teeth whitening procedure would not be appropriate in the given situation.
The teeth whitening procedures performed through kiosks are unregulated (unlike dentistry), and there have been reports of some kiosks performing careless application of the products and lacking proper infection control.
Although these downsides might seem insurmountable, no serious physical problems resulting from a procedure performed by a teeth whitening kiosk have been reported. The service is still in its early years and some improvements have already been made.
The Advantages of Kiosks
Despite the potential problems, there are also definite advantages to using teeth whitening kiosks. Kiosks offer an ease of accessibility that a dental appointment, which generally needs to be booked months in advance, cannot. Kiosks have an advantage over dental office procedures in terms of cost, as most kiosks offer teeth whitening procedures for less than $200. Once patients have experienced the price shock which so often accompanies visits to a dental office, it’s easy to understand why teeth whitening kiosks may present a favourable alternative, especially if patients can find a reputable and trustworthy kiosk operator.
Improving the Teeth Whitening Kiosk Industry
In response to criticism from the dental industry about the lack of regulation in teeth whitening kiosks, the Australian Cosmetic Tooth Whitening Association has recently established a number of standards which aim to improve patient safety during the procedure. The new regulations include a maximum hydrogen peroxide level, which all kiosk operators offering tooth whitening must obey. Additionally, the Tooth Whitening Association has placed a limit on the amount of power bleaching a patient can receive within a 24-hour period, and now requires higher standards of kiosk practitioner training.
The cosmetic industry strongly responded and criticised dentists for trying to overprotect the dental industry by highlighting illegitimate concerns. The cosmetic industry argued that the procedures that take place at a licensed dentistry are much more powerful (and more expensive) than those performed at a teeth whitening kiosk. Although the new regulations have served as a step in the right direction with regards to safety, only a small number of kiosks are actually members of the Australian Cosmetic Tooth Whitening Association, so the rules and new regulations are therefore not widespread or universal.
Do-It-Yourself Teeth Whitening Kits
For those who don’t want to go to the dentist or rely on kiosks, there are now some teeth-whitening options for home use. Most reputable drug stores or supermarkets carry such do-it-yourself teeth whitening kits. Although most at-home kits aren’t as strong as the professional services, the kits can do the job adequately depending on your needs.
The real advantage of these kits is their price – they are dramatically cheaper than any other teeth whitening options available. The convenience of being able to take the kit home and do it yourself – in your own time and on your own schedule – can also be a major benefit. Some kits can even get the job done in as little as seven days.
There is a vast array of potential home teeth whitening kits, so finding the right one for your needs is important. In measuring the effectiveness of a kit, it’s easiest to base the evaluation on the number of shades by which a certain solution improves the appearance of your teeth. Such a shading system has become an industry standard for whitening evaluation, and in using this standard, some home-based whitening systems said to whiten teeth up to eleven shades prove to be almost as powerful as the more expensive dental office treatments.
While the thought of bleaching your own teeth might be slightly off-putting, teeth whitening kits are tried and tested with safety being paramount. Kits are are recommended by tens of thousands of happy users, and some even carry the recommendation of dentists.
Although some kits are available straight off the shelf, customized dental kids are proving to be a fantastic new addition to the assortment of home-based teeth whitening options. Professional practitioners now offer custom-made trays that are built specifically for your teeth. These customized kits, including the custom-built trays and a professional-quality whitening gel, allow you to get a professional-quality white smile from the comfort of your own home.
Some practitioners even argue that home-based kits are actually safer than visiting an unlicensed whitening kiosk, since home-based kits come recommended by dentists and use a correct quality gel. For safe teeth whitening you need to be using hydrogen peroxide and an acid-free, neutral pH whitening gel, which most popular kits should include (and you can always check the fine-print on a kit, just to be sure). When visiting a kiosk that’s just sprung up in your local shopping centre, it can be hard to know if all the products truly have your safety at heart, or if they were just the cheapest products available.
Teeth Whitening Toothpaste
Teeth whitening toothpaste marks another great new addition to the home-based teeth whitening market. While any large-scale improvements will require a more specialized solution such as a whitening kit (or professional dental work), the addition of teeth whitening toothpaste complements existing products perfectly.
If you’ve already got fairly white teeth but only need to make a few small improvements, brushing with whitening toothpaste can do the trick effectively and cheaply. When used as an addition to other teeth whitening solutions, continuing to brush with a whitening toothpaste can help maintain your smile and stop further teeth darkening.
While the right whitening toothpaste can’t correct deep stains, it can help prevent further stains from appearing. After you’ve paid out for expensive whitening procedures, it’s vital to use the correct whitening toothpaste to make sure that you can stay out of the dentist’s office for as long as possible.
In-Chair Teeth Whitening
Although the most costly alternative, many patients opt for the professional level of care offered by dentists. Both kiosks and whitening kits have their downsides, but patients who want a complete high-end whitening service can opt to use a professional dentist. Not only are dentists fully trained in offering first-rate teeth whitening solutions, but they offer complete aftercare options, should any problems arise.
Professional dentists are obviously a much safer bet if you’re concerned about your dental health. Dentists possess the experience and knowledge to be able to recommend the right solution for your teeth, and they will even be able to identify cases when teeth whitening should not be recommended. Patients who have had a history of problems with their teeth are sometimes steered away from teeth whitening, as it’s thought that the whitening procedure may exacerbate the issue. (With home kits or kiosks, many patients remain unaware of the fact that they could be causing serious long-term problems for their teeth.)
Besides having access to your dental history and possessing a wider base of knowledge than kiosk operators, dentists are able to use the highest power teeth-whitening systems. They also have experience in offering such services safely.
Some people are obviously put off by going to the dentist for a number of reasons. Professional dental whitening can be very expensive, so the fact that some people turn to cheaper options such as kits and kiosks is understandable. While the right home-based whitening kit may be fully recommended by dentists, it might not offer cleaning power you might desire. In fact, for patients with the most stubborn stains on their teeth, dental treatment might be the only viable option.
Putting your dental health at the hands of untrained kiosk practitioners could also be unwise. Seeing a dentist is really the only way to assure yourself full peace of mind while undergoing teeth whitening procedures.
Teeth Whitening Safety and Side Effects
Although teeth whitening safety has come a long way in recent years, there is still reason to use caution.
One of the most common short-term side effects is sensitive teeth. Many patients complain that their teeth feel particularly sensitive, especially during the whitening procedure. This can be a problem for those who already have sensitive teeth in their normal daily life, as the procedure results in even more pain and sensitivity. However, the increased sensitivity usually goes away soon after the treatment has finished, and there have been no reported long-term side effects from using home whitening kits.
Some patients report feeling a sharp shooting pain during the in-chair whitening procedure. While this can be uncomfortable, it’s not serious and shouldn’t have any long-lasting consequences.
Some patients are also allergic to certain whitening products which can cause complications during or after the procedure. If you have a complicated dental or medical history, make sure the solution you choose is appropriate for you. A dentist should be brought fully up to date with any issues you might have before performing the procedure, and for this reason, it’s particularly advisable that you have a dentist perform the procedure and not opt for a kiosk or kit.
If you have a history of gum disease or dental cavities, you might also be discouraged from using teeth whitening procedures. Make sure that you check with a dental professional beforehand if you’re unsure whether you should go ahead with any dental procedure (home-based or otherwise).
You should also be aware that while yellow teeth respond well to whitening, the results of treating teeth which have dark brown stains are somewhat less successful. Be sure to keep your expectations in check, as whitening is not always a miracle cure for stained teeth.
Many advancements made in teeth whitening have left the consumer with a wide range of treatment options. To have a successful and positive teeth whitening procedure, be sure to perform thorough research, speak with your dentist, and weigh all of your options carefully. Keep your expectations realistic and enjoy the improvements that teeth whitening can make in your life.
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Claire York is a former dental healthcare professional who now writes for The Invisible Orthodontist and recommends you read more about their invisible braces. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.