Intrinsic and extrinsic stains cause tooth discoloration. Both types of staining may affect all or only a few of your teeth. Discoloration can also develop after certain restorative dental procedures.8
Dark-colored substances commonly cause extrinsic tooth stains. This includes foods and drinks like red wine, coffee, and tea, as well as tobacco products. Poor oral hygiene can also cause extrinsic tooth discoloration. These stains are located on tooth surfaces and tend to develop where the enamel is thin and rough. Cracks in tooth enamel also increase the risk of extrinsic stains.5
Intrinsic tooth stains can be caused by natural aging, certain medications like tetracycline, tooth injuries, certain diseases, or tooth defects. As people age, their enamel becomes thinner, which exposes more dentin. This results in progressively darker tooth color.7
While tooth stains are inevitable, there are many ways to whiten teeth fast. Treatments can include:
The terms “tooth bleaching” and “tooth whitening” are often used interchangeably. However, they are not actually the same.
Tooth bleaching is a process that involves an oxidative chemical that alters tooth color, increasing whiteness. By definition, tooth bleaching is the “removal of intrinsic or acquired discolorations of natural teeth through the use of chemicals.” 4
At-home teeth whitening kits can give you the same results as professional whitening treatment in less than two weeks. (Be sure to follow instructions carefully).
In contrast, tooth whitening is the process that results in whiter teeth, whether or not chemicals are used.5 Whitening can include bleaching with or without peroxides (e.g., hydrogen peroxide) to remove surface stains.
Here are four effective ways to whiten teeth quickly:
LED teeth whitening uses a bleaching agent and a light-emitting diode (LED) light to brighten your teeth.
An LED light alone will not whiten your teeth. However, when used with a tooth-whitening agent like hydrogen peroxide, the light helps speed up the whitening process. As this interaction occurs, the blue LED light penetrates your enamel and lifts stains.
There are many LED teeth whitening kits to choose from, and they are relatively inexpensive compared to professional treatments. The whitening results are not instant, but you should notice results after three to five uses (depending on the brand).
Read Our Reviews of the Most Popular LED Whitening Kits
Whitening toothpaste and mouthwash are popular over-the-counter options for stain removal. These products typically contain hydrogen peroxide or baking soda, which help kill bacteria and whiten teeth.
Opt for a mouthrinse like Colgate Optic White Whitening Mouthwash that helps protect against tooth decay and brightens your smile.
Whitening toothpaste can be abrasive if used excessively. Overuse can lead to enamel erosion or dentin exposure. Only use whitening toothpaste about once a week to prevent these effects.
Professional teeth whitening is the safest and quickest way to whiten your teeth. Although effective, these treatments are expensive, but the results can last up to a year.
In-office whitening treatments take about an hour. They can make your teeth two to three shades lighter in one visit.
All of the following treatments have a similar active ingredient (hydrogen or carbamide peroxide). Some incorporate the use of an LED light to provide quicker whitening:
Baking soda-based pastes are effective and safe for tooth stain removal and whitening. Many clinical studies have shown that baking soda pastes are more effective in stain removal than some highly abrasive, non–baking soda whitening mixtures.5
Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of water, and then apply it to your teeth with a toothbrush. Leave it on for 2 to 3 minutes. Rinse your mouth thoroughly. Your teeth should look brighter.
Baking soda whitens teeth in two different ways:
NewMouth recommends LED teeth whitening systems to achieve a brighter smile. They are affordable, easy to use, produce minimal side effects, and highly effective.
Keep in mind that baking soda can only remove superficial stains (extrinsic). Deeper stains (intrinsic) typically require professional teeth whitening.
Homemade baking-soda pastes should only be used once a week (for two minutes at a time).
Do not overuse baking soda paste because it can erode your enamel and cause sensitivity. If you prefer a non-DIY option, choose whitening treatments such as an LED kit or Crest Whitening Strips.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), you should avoid whitening your teeth with:
The best way to prevent tooth discoloration is through diet and lifestyle changes, such as:
Follow these oral hygiene tips to help prevent tooth stains:
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can prevent tooth discoloration. Many fruits and vegetables also improve teeth brightness, strength, and health. These include, but are not limited to:
Tobacco products can cause tooth discoloration. Similar to your skin, your teeth have pores. The tar and nicotine in tobacco easily absorb into these pores, resulting in yellow or brown discoloration over time. Smoking also increases your chance of developing cavities, gum disease, and other oral health conditions.
Smoking is also extremely harmful to your overall health and can cause cancer, lung infections, and other serious infections.
The best way to whiten your teeth instantly is by using a homemade baking soda paste. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of water, and then apply it to your teeth. Leave it on for 2 to 3 minutes. Rinse your mouth thoroughly. Your teeth should look brighter.
Note: do not overuse baking soda paste because it can erode your enamel.
No evidence suggests that banana peels whiten teeth. The minerals in bananas enhance your dental health, but they will not brighten your smile alone.
Yes. Dairy products like milk are excellent for your dental health. Milk does not whiten your teeth fast but will gradually brighten them over time.
Salt is abrasive and can make your teeth look brighter. However, due to its abrasive nature, salt can damage tooth enamel (which is irreversible).
(1) Carey, Clifton M. “Tooth whitening: what we now know.” The journal of evidence-based dental practice vol. 14 Suppl (2014): 70-6. doi:10.1016/j.jebdp.2014.02.006.
(2) CP;, Hara AT;Turssi. “Baking Soda as an Abrasive in Toothpastes: Mechanism of Action and Safety and Effectiveness Considerations.” Journal of the American Dental Association (1939), U.S. National Library of Medicine.
(3) Hayward, Roche et al. “A clinical study of the effectiveness of a light emitting diode system on tooth bleaching.” The open dentistry journal vol. 6 (2012): 143-7. doi:10.2174/1874210601206010143.
(4) “ISO 28399:2011.” ISO, 10 Mar. 2020http://www.iso.org/standard/44686.html.
(5) Li, Yiming. “Stain Removal and Whitening by Baking Soda Dentifrice: A Review of Literature.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, Elsevier, 19 Oct. 2017.
(6) “Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction.” Mouth Healthy TM.
(7) Rotstein, Ilan. “TOOTH DISCOLORATION AND BLEACHING."
(8) Torabinejad, Mahmoud, et al. Endodontics: Principles and Practice. Elsevier, 2021.