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In-office teeth whitening

Whereas do-it-yourself teeth bleaching kits contain up to 5 percent hydrogen and 10 percent carbamide peroxide, dentists can use 10 to 35 percent hydrogen peroxide.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: June 26, 2012

A white, bright smile is an important accessory for any face. But while most toothpaste includes particles of silica or aluminum oxide to grind away surface stains, they can't clear up long-term, persistent staining. Professional teeth bleaching—bleaching gel that is obtained from a dentist—can brighten discolored teeth.

There are two ingredients that can be used to bleach teeth - hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. Both compounds are oxidizing agents that break down stain-causing molecules on the teeth.

Because dentists are certified to use a more concentrated bleaching gel, professional procedures like BriteSmile and Zoom whitening can whiten teeth more quickly. By comparison, kits for do-it-yourself teeth bleaching contain only up to 5 percent hydrogen and 10 percent carbamide peroxide, whereas dentists can use 10 to 35 percent hydrogen peroxide. A higher dosage is necessary when carbamide is used, since it is slightly weaker.

What It's Good For

Teeth bleaching is the whitening of teeth to remove stains from tooth enamel. These stains can be blamed on all kinds of culprits—drinking dark liquids, like red wine, coffee and colas, smoking and even the use of some antibiotics that are no longer prescribed for pregnant women, like tetracycline.

Who it works for: Teeth that become yellowed from engaging in various social habits, like smoking or a nightly Merlot, can be with professional bleaching. Genetically discolored teeth are less likely to be affected. Grayed teeth or teeth stained due to exposure to tetracycline in the womb are also not good candidates for gel teeth bleaching.

Professional teeth bleaching whitens teeth more quickly than home bleaching systems, so people who are looking for a quick fix may benefit from a trip to the dentist.

Recommended age range: No age restrictions are associated with teeth bleaching.

When will I see results?: Your smile should be significantly sparklier after a single teeth bleaching treatment, though take-home trays and bleaching gel (sometimes provided at the end of an appointment) can help to enhance and prolong the results.

How long it lasts: The whitening can last six months to a year with proper dental care and oral hygiene.

Key benefits of in-office teeth whitening: Bleaching has a very high success rate on yellowed or superficially stained teeth (grayish teeth are less affected). Brighter smiles often increase person's self-esteem.

Did you know?: Bonding and veneers, more complex cosmetic dental procedures, are often used in cases where bleaching isn't sufficient or ineffective.

Who's Done It?

Keira Knightley, Demi Moore, and ex-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin have had their teeth bleached.

Find experts who offer in-office teeth whitening near you