Want a super-powered smile? See your dentist.

There’s no doubt that a bright, white smile is an important part of a healthy, attractive, youthful look. And the best way to boost a smile into overdrive is to have your teeth bleached by your dentist. People who quake at the thought of seeing their dentist are embracing teeth whitening as they did fitness centers, personal trainers and Yoga in the 1980s and 90s, and they’ve got the smiles to prove it.

Options abound for consumers in search of brighter, whiter smiles, from dentist-supervised procedures, to bleaching spas and over-the-counter whitening kits, which are available from drug stores and over the Internet. Teeth whitening is a $600 million industry that is growing 15 to 20 percent a year. But consumers should exercise caution, warns an article in the March 2001 AGD Impact, the newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry.
Of particular concern to dentists are companies that sell professional-strength bleaching materials, which are intended for use only under a dentist’s supervision, directly to the public via the Internet, late night infomercials and shopping mall kiosks. “Consumers have no way of knowing what they are getting when they buy bleaching products from these sources,” says Academy spokesperson Myron J. Bromberg, DDS.

While bleaching is safe, it requires a dentist’s supervision to ensure proper results. Not only may an over-the-counter product not work well enough, says Dr. Bromberg, but it might work too well. “There is a wide range in results when using these products without supervision,” he says. “If a bleaching agent is too strong, or used for too long, teeth can wind up with an unnatural, frosty look.”

Proper whitening depends upon the use of a custom-made bleaching tray, which only a dentist can properly fit. Some Internet companies sell the materials to make your own bleaching tray. But only dentists should use these materials. Without supervision and expertise, these materials can cause gagging or damage to existing dental work. “As with any dental procedure, bleaching should always be done under the supervision of a dentist,” says Dr. Bromberg.