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How to Get Whiter Teeth

Hana Ames Headshot
Written by
Hana Ames
Medically Reviewed by 
Dr. Nandita Lilly
7 Sources Cited

What Causes Tooth Discoloration?

Tooth discoloration can be attributed to various factors, including lifestyle habits, dental health issues, and natural aging.1

Lifestyle habits that commonly cause tooth stains include:

  • Drinking too much coffee or red wine — Certain drinks, including dark sodas, contain compounds that can stain teeth.
  • Smoking Tobacco contains tar and nicotine. Tar is dark brown and nicotine is clear until it reacts with oxygen, which turns it yellow. Both of these substances can stain teeth.
  • Eating certain foods The starch in foods like white pasta and potatoes can get stuck in teeth and lead to stains.2

Dental health conditions that can cause tooth discoloration include:

  • Medications — Some medications such as antihistamines, antipsychotics, and antihypertensives can discolor teeth.
  • Trauma — Mouth injuries can disturb enamel formation in children under 8 years old, potentially causing tooth discoloration. Mouth trauma in adults can also cause discoloration.
  • Poor oral care — Not regularly brushing and flossing can lead to stain buildup on teeth.

Finally, the natural aging process can also cause tooth discoloration. Tooth enamel usually gets thinner as you age. This means the hard tissue under it, called dentin, may begin to show through. Dentin can be gray, brown, or blue.3

4 Tips to Get Whiter Teeth At Home

There are many things you can do at home to get whiter teeth without visiting the dentist’s office. Most treatments contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.

1. Whitening Strips

Over-the-counter (OTC) whitening strips brighten teeth quickly and effectively. They are applied directly to the teeth. 

Typically, you will apply the strips twice daily for 30 minutes for 14 days. These strips are relatively inexpensive and usually whiten teeth one to two shades.

2. LED Whitening Kits

With LED whitening kits, a whitening agent is applied directly to the teeth with a brush. Then, the blue LED light is turned on to activate the whitening agent. The blue light causes a chemical reaction, allowing the whitening agent to safely bleach teeth.

Many brands suggest using LED kits for 8 to 30 minutes for several days. However, all kits have different application times. Always read through the instructions and follow them.

3. Whitening Toothpaste and Mouthwash

Whitening toothpastes have higher amounts of abrasives and detergents than standard toothpastes. They typically lighten tooth color one or two shades. 

Whitening toothpaste and mouthwash are designed to be used at least twice a day, over long periods. Whitening mouthwashes can take up to 3 months to improve tooth color. 4

4. Whitening Trays and Gels

This method involves using a fitted tray containing carbamide peroxide gel. The trays are worn for 30 minutes to 2 hours a day or overnight, depending on the instructions.5 Gels can also be applied directly to teeth using a pen instrument with a brush applicator.

4 Professional Treatments for Whiter Teeth

Sometimes at-home treatments aren’t enough to get the results you are looking for. Here are some other, more powerful options:

1. In-Office Whitening

Professional whitening treatments contain higher concentrations of the bleaching agent, typically hydrogen peroxide. 

Dentists also provide gum protection to prevent sensitivity associated with whitening. Treatments usually take between 30 and 60 minutes, and results are instant.4

Keep in mind that professional whitening is expensive, costing between $500 and $1,000 per treatment. But upkeep is minimal (once or twice a year). 

2. Laser Teeth Whitening

Some dental professionals may use a laser to heat up the whitening gel. This increases the rate of the chemical reaction, allowing the gel to work quicker. Research on the effectiveness of lasers in dental procedures is ongoing but they are generally considered safe for tooth whitening.6

3. Teeth Cleanings and Polishing 

Routine teeth cleanings are recommended to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Regular scaling and polishing can remove extrinsic stains. These are stains on the surfaces of teeth. This treatment also provides an excellent base for any whitening treatment.

4. Veneers

Veneers are a great option if you have tooth stains that whitening can’t remove. These are thin shells that fit over the front of teeth and effectively hide stains and discoloration. They are also used to restore damaged teeth.

5 Effective Ways to Prevent Tooth Stains

Here are some ways to prevent tooth discoloration:

1. Quit smoking

If you smoke, quitting is the best way to prevent tooth stains. The chemicals in tobacco, tar and nicotine can stain teeth over time. Smoking also increases the risk of many oral and general health problems.

2. Limit pigmented foods and drinks

Foods and drinks with strong pigments, such as beetroot or coffee, can cause stains. By limiting the amount of highly pigmented foods and drinks you consume, you can limit staining. 

Alternatively, brush your teeth after every meal to make sure your mouth is free of compounds that may cause stains.

3. Use straws

By keeping reusable straws on hand, you can still drink your daily coffee or the occasional glass of red wine. Straws help avoid staining the front teeth without having to miss out on your favorite beverages.

4. Stay hydrated

Drinking a glass of water after eating or drinking other beverages can help prevent tooth stains. Water rinses away acids and other staining substances.

5. Use a whitening toothpaste

Daily use of whitening toothpaste with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance can stop stains from occurring. They can also remove existing stains.

Which Teeth Whitening Treatment is Right for You?

Each treatment has its own pros and cons. For example, whitening strips are inexpensive and brighten teeth at home in just 30 minutes. However, they only improve tooth color by a couple of shades.

Extrinsic stains, or stains on the surfaces of teeth, can usually be removed with toothpaste and during regular teeth cleanings. LED whitening kits, for example, are best for yellow teeth but are not as effective for removing brown stains.

Why We Recommend LED Whitening Kits

At NewMouth, we generally recommend LED whitening kits over other types of whitening treatments. There are many reasons for this:

  • They are designed to be safe and effective for at-home use.
  • LED lamps are a safer alternative to UV lights. UV lights can cause cells to mutate, whereas LED lights do not. 
  • They’re typically a lot more affordable than a trip to the dentist, with most kits costing under $200.
  • Despite their low cost, some kits use whitening agents close to the levels used by dental offices. For example, the AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Kit offers 35 percent carbamide peroxide, compared to the 40 percent professionals use.
  • Many LED kits are specifically designed to whiten teeth without sensitivity. This includes the hismile PAP+ Teeth Whitening Kit™ that contains three enamel-safe ingredients to give you immediate results without any sensitivity. 
  • Some LED kits, like the GLO Brilliant Teeth Whitening Kit, are hands-free, meaning you can incorporate them into your daily routine.
  • Snow Teeth Whitening is another great option for enamel-safe, reduced-sensitivity whitening. 
  • Results usually last significantly longer than that of strips or toothpaste.

Summary

If your aim is to get whiter teeth, speak to your dentist before you try any over-the-counter treatments. Teeth whitening doesn’t work for everyone. Results depend on your unique circumstances and level of tooth discoloration.

Last updated on April 21, 2022
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 21, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Tooth Discoloration” Cleveland Clinic, n.d.
  2. Top 9 Foods That Damage Your Teeth” American Dental Association, n.d.
  3. Tooth Whitening at Home” Consumer Reports, 2016
  4. Carey, C. M. “Tooth Whitening: What We Now Know” J Evid Based Dent Pract., Jun. 2014
  5. Alqahtani, M. Q. “Tooth-bleaching procedures and their controversial effects: A literature review” Saudi Dent J.,  Apr. 2014
  6. Lasers” American Dental Association, n.d.
  7. Accepted Products” American Dental Association, n.d.
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