Heard about teeth whitening, but not sure exactly what it does? Wondering about the difference between having your teeth whitened by the dentist or trying the products you can buy in the store?

Here are some free basic facts about the new craze in tooth whitening.

We Know: How Tooth Whitening Products Work

Two Kinds of Tooth Whitening

Non-Bleach Whitening: The most familiar kind of tooth whitening agent is found in whitening toothpastes or dentifrices. These toothpastes contain polishing or chemical agents that work to improve tooth appearance by removing surface stains on your teeth. They do this by gently polishing off the stains or through a chemical reaction called chelation.

Bleach Whitening: When you go to the dentist or buy one of the new over-the-counter tooth whitening products to whiten your teeth, you’re bleaching them with peroxide. The new over-the-counter tooth whitening products usually contain about 10 percent peroxide and the treatment usually takes place over a few weeks time. At the dentist, the whitening product may contain as much as 35 percent peroxide but the treatment usually takes only an hour.

Do the Home Whitening Products Work?

According to a recent study by Consumer Reports, the new whitening kits such as Rembrandt 2-Hour and Colgate Simply White, which range in price from $15 to $30, DO tend to lighten the color of your teeth. The dental procedure is more effective, but costs a lot more money.

What are the Side Effects?

We turned to the American Dental Association (ADA) website for answers here. According to the ADA, data on the uses of the 10 percent peroxide products show they are safe. The most commonly observed side effects are tooth sensitivity and tissue irritation. The most commonly observed side effects of the professionally applied, higher-dose peroxide products are temporary tooth sensitivity and occasional tissue irritation. Irreversible tooth damage was reported only on rare occasions.

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