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Learn about the safest ways to whiten your teeth.
Tooth staining or discoloration refers to a change in the tooth’s color. Depending on where they occur, tooth stains can be classified as extrinsic or intrinsic.
Extrinsic stains (also called surface stains) develop when colored compounds accumulate on the tooth’s outer surface. The hard outer layer of teeth is called enamel.
Most extrinsic stains occur due to environmental factors or behaviors, such as:
Intrinsic stains develop inside teeth, often inside the enamel or dentin, the layer under the enamel. Dentin contains microscopic hollow tubes that are connected to a tooth’s nerve.
Intrinsic tooth stains occur due to:
You can also develop intrinsic tooth stains with age. Over time, tooth enamel becomes more transparent and thinner. This allows the natural yellow color of dentin to become more apparent.
Think of teeth-whitening products as an exfoliating face wash; they both are abrasive and remove the surface layer of either tooth or skin. For this reason, it is important to be mindful that using teeth-whitening products over time can cause increased tooth and/or gum sensitivity. It is also important not to try to whiten teeth that may have cavities.Dr. Khushbu Aggarwal, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists.
Over-the-counter (OTC) whitening strips brighten stained 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.
LED whitening kits apply a whitening agent 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.
Whitening toothpastes have higher amounts of abrasives and detergents than standard toothpastes. They typically lighten tooth color by one or two shades.
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.
See NewMouth’s top 10 teeth whitening products of 2022.
Sometimes, at-home treatments aren’t enough to achieve your desired results. Here are some other, more powerful options:
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
Remember that professional whitening costs between $500 and $1,000 per treatment. But upkeep is minimal (once or twice a year).
Some dental professionals may use a laser to heat the whitening gel. This increases the rate of the chemical reaction, allowing the gel to work more quickly.
Research on the effectiveness of lasers in dental procedures is ongoing, but they are generally considered safe for tooth whitening.6
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.
Veneers are a great option if you have tooth stains that whitening can’t remove. These thin shells fit over the front of teeth and effectively hide stains and discoloration. They are also used to restore damaged teeth.
The most effective way to prevent staining is to take good care of your teeth and eat a balanced diet. More specifically, to keep your teeth white long-term, incorporate these tips into your lifestyle:
Always remember to speak to a dentist before using over-the-counter products.
Understand that teeth whitening doesn’t work for everyone. Each person’s results depend on their tooth condition and the product they use.
Tooth whitening is generally safe if you follow the product's instructions and check with your dentist. However, possible side effects of the whitening process include:
If you experience any of these, stop whitening your teeth and contact your dentist.
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