Looking for best options for at home teeth whitening? Doe gets the double scoop from our favorite Toronto Dentist, Dr. Dora Sarrouf B.D.S.
Dora’s passion for cosmetic dentistry has led her to practice with one of the top cosmetic dentists in Toronto, Canada - Dr Sol Weiss, where almost everyday someone receives a complete smile makeover. “It’s amazing what can be done to improve people’s smiles (and lives) with minimally invasive techniques and I love being a part of that” says Sarrouf.
“My patients come from all over the GTA and I’m lucky to practice with two great teams: The Art of Dentistry at 25 Bellair St. in Yorkville which is minute walk from Bay station and always a gorgeous area of the city to visit with a ton of cafes, restaurants and shops! And, Portrait Dental, located in Liberty Village; very convenient for anyone living and working in the area. This office also has great hours for someone with a busy schedule. We’re open to see our patients from 8am till 8pm on weekdays, Saturdays, and soon we’ll be open on Sundays as well.
Both practices are general dental offices that excel at cosmetic dentistry. Every first visit with myself or one of the other awesome dentists starts off with a complete oral examination where we carefully examine every aspect of our patients’ oral health and smile. Depending on their needs and concerns, we come up with the best treatment plan to help them reach their healthiest, most attractive smile. Both clinics offer Invisalign or ‘clear aligner therapy’ to solve minor to moderate orthodontic issues. We also work with top of the line materials and technology and offer sedation dentistry making every visit - no matter if it’s for a simple cleaning or wisdom tooth extractions - as comfortable as possible for our patients.”
A complete expert on what make a smile both healthy and beautiful, we asked Dr. Sarrouf to weigh in on the best at home options for teeth whitening. She literally tells us everything we need to know below
How do I get whiter teeth? And will bleaching harm my teeth?
This is by far the most common “aesthetic” question I get from my patients so let’s talk about teeth whitening! I whiten my own teeth about once a year and I recommend bleaching to anyone looking to brighten up their smile… but first things first: before anyone begins to think about whitening, their mouth NEEDS to be clean and healthy. Any gum issues, cavities, chips, cracks and decalcifications should be taken care of to prevent any unnecessary sensitivity or mediocre results. So, if they haven’t seen a dentist or hygienist in a while, they should go in before trying anything at home.
They also want to be aware of what type of staining they have; intrinsic or extrinsic as some products may not work for them or give them the results that they expect. Extrinsic stains occur on the outer layer of teeth (called enamel) and are caused by things like tea, coffee, wine and smoking. Intrinsic staining is when the inner structures of the tooth are darker and are caused by things like ageing, trauma, fluorosis and tetracycline staining. In general, those who have yellow/orange staining will respond better to bleaching than those with blue/grey staining. Many people also don’t realize that at home whitening products won’t whiten veneers, crowns and filling materials.
What works best for teeth whitening at home?
My top recommendations for anyone looking to whiten their teeth at home would have to be strips or trays. A customized tray made specifically for your own teeth along with a whitening gel is the best way to get pearly white teeth.
My personal favs are Zoom NiteWhite 22% Teeth Whitening Gel AND Opalescence Tooth Whitening Take Home Gel. These are great because not only do they work AMAZING, they both contain products that minimize sensitivity. Most dental offices will sell these for 20-30$ per kit. Amazon sells them as well but the mark-up in price can be ridiculous. The great thing about having customized trays made is that the gel can get into all the curvatures and in between your teeth so you get a uniformly white smile and don’t get gel on your gums (ouch) like you would using whitening strips. Also, the customized trays last forever if your teeth don’t change. So you can re-touch your bleaching every year or so to keep your teeth nice and bright. The first time I bleached, it took me about 4 nights of sleeping with my trays to get to my whitest smile and now I use those same trays about once a year (just for 1 night!) to get rid of any built up stains.
Some general insider tips if you're using (any) trays or whitening gel:
If your teeth are very sensitive you can alternate sessions using the whitening gel and Sensodyne toothpaste in your trays.
Most whitening gel has an expiry date so be sure to check it before purchasing. It also lasts longer if you keep it in the fridge.
That sharp second or two of zinging pain/sensitivity that you get randomly or from hot/cold drinks or even just breathing (the things we do for beauty lol) after or during bleaching is normal. It will go away, I promise. If this happens, lay off the bleaching for day or two and use Sensodyne toothpaste to brush and as a paste inside your trays.
If your teeth look speckled after bleaching that’s also normal. It just means that they are dehydrated but the color will eventually even out.
Weighing in on 4 teeth whitening trends
1. The activated charcoal toothpaste craze
After seeing this at least once or twice a day in my Instagram feed, even I was tempted to try this. Here’s why I didn’t and don’t recommend it - Charcoal is abrasive. This means that every time you use it you may be scrubbing away your enamel along with those surface stains. It can also be harmful for your gums and cause recession and sensitivity. If you are going to try it, make sure you don’t do it more than once a week every other week.
2. Whitening toothpastes
Similarly to the charcoal toothpastes, most toothpastes marketed as “whitening” work by just removing surface stains. They contain mild abrasives such as calcium carbonate or aluminum oxide which are effective at removing any mild staining but can also compromise your enamel if used regularly. Some “whitening” toothpastes may also claim to contain a small amount of peroxide. But since the exposure time to the toothpaste is minimal, whitening effects of the toothpaste will be minimal as well.
3. Crest 3D white strips
White strips work great and are a good option if you don’t want to have custom trays made.The active ingredient in the strips is hydrogen peroxide-the percentage which varies depending on the model of white-strips you choose. (PS. Hydrogen peroxide is also the active ingredient that most dental offices use when doing in-house whitening or if you buy take-home whitening gel from your dentist!) This active ingredient works by breaking down into water and oxygen which penetrate the tooth and liberate pigment molecules in between the enamel prisms which have caused staining. Putting hydrogen peroxide on your teeth sounds weird I know, but it’s proven to be quite safe as long as you don’t get it on your gums and aren’t over-doing the bleaching.
Which brings me to the cons of white-strips
Since they aren’t molded specifically to your teeth it is quite easy to get the bleach on your gums.
It’s easier to swallow the peroxide than with trays- worst case scenario is you get a bit of a belly ache so don’t worry too much.
If you have misaligned teeth it can be tricky to keep them on and its unlikely that you’ll get a uniformly white smile as the bleach may not be able to touch all surfaces of your teeth.
Price; considering white-strips are one time use and have an expiry date it’s often cheaper have custom trays made by your dentist if your planning on bleaching more than once.
4. GLO / Sunna Smile
These whitening products also seem to be trending at the moment. Although I haven’t tried them before, I’m pretty confident that they work! Similarly to Crest white-strips or the whitening gel purchased or used at the dentist, these types of products use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to penetrate into your enamel and destroy any molecules causing staining. The said benefit of the blue-light that shines into your mouth is to make the whitening process less time-consuming. Theoretically, this works by increasing the temperature of the hydrogen peroxide helping it break down into water and oxygen faster which then go on to break down the stain pigments but most research done on this has shown that using a light source doesn’t actually make a difference.
Some final things to keep in mind if you’re going to whiten
Before bleaching, make sure your teeth are super clean. Floss! For best results, bleach shortly after a cleaning with your hygienist.
Avoid smoking (try and quit it all together please and thank you) and avoid any heavily pigmented foods/drinks for about 2 weeks after you bleach. For example, coffee, tea, red wine, blueberries, curries. If you’re like me, and functioning without coffee is impossible,try and drink it with a straw.
If sensitivity is an issue (assuming that your teeth and gums are in good health) Try bleaching every second day instead. Use Sensodyne toothpaste and or mouth rinse AND worse case take ibuprofen / Advil
Looking for truly outstanding dental care in Toronto, Canada?
Visit The Art of Dentistry
Visit Portrait Dental