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How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?

AnnaMarie Houlis Headshot
Written by
AnnaMarie Houlis
Medically Reviewed by 
Dr. Lara Coseo
12 Sources Cited

Overview: Teeth Stains & Benefits of Whitening

When your teeth come in as a child, they are naturally white. Everyone has a natural brightness to their teeth. This brightness, however, can dull over time.

The foods and liquids you consume (e.g., coffee, tea, and red wine) can stain your teeth. Tobacco products, certain medications, and even some mouth rinses can discolor teeth.

Plaque and tartar, which build up without regular dental cleanings, can lead to discoloration. Age, trauma, various medical conditions, and genetics may also affect tooth color.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to whiten your teeth, brighten your smile, and improve your confidence. You can choose between in-office and at-home treatments (or a combination). Teeth whitening results can also last for years (depending on the type of treatment).

What Causes Tooth Discoloration?

Extrinsic discoloration affects the outside of your teeth. These surface stains are shallow. Causes include:

  • Tobacco
  • Poor oral hygiene and plaque buildup
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Soda
  • Food with dyes
  • Red wine
  • Pasta sauce
  • Dark-pigmented foods (like dark berries)

Intrinsic discoloration forms within your teeth. This form of discoloration is deeper than extrinsic discoloration. Causes include:

  • Certain antibiotics (like tetracycline and doxycycline)
  • Diseases that prevent normal tooth development 
  • Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation
  • Fluorosis (white spots on teeth caused by excessive fluoride)
  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Amalgam (silver) fillings
  • Cavities
  • Trauma that causes reduced blood flow to teeth

How to Prevent Teeth Stains

To prevent tooth discoloration and keep your teeth white after treatment, keep these tips in mind:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time
  • Visit your dentist every six months for teeth cleanings
  • Floss to avoid colored foods from getting caught between teeth
  • Limit or avoid sugary foods and drinks
  • Avoid artificially colored foods and drinks
  • Limit intake of staining products like coffee, tea, soda, red wine, dark berries, and alcohol
  • Do not use tobacco
  • Use whitening products (read the instructions to make sure you don't overuse them)

Many healthy foods can also improve teeth health and brightness. These foods include vegetables, pineapple, dairy, nuts, seeds, onions, celery, and carrots, among others.

How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last? (Professional vs At-Home)

How long the effects will last depends on the type of whitening treatment used: 

1. Professional Teeth Whitening (In-Office Treatment)

Professional whitening treatments are more expensive. They cost between $500 and $1,200 per treatment. 

Some in-office whitening treatments can last between 6 months to 3 years with proper care.

Here are three professional whitening options that can brighten your smile quickly and effectively:

  • KöR — The KöR Dual-Activated, Tri-Barrel™ Hydremide® Peroxide formulation seals saliva and sulcular fluid out of whitening trays to make the bleaching agents in the gel more potent for much longer.  
  • 1-Hour Zoom! — The Zoom! in-office whitening system uses proprietary technology to brighten teeth by an average of eight shades. Treatment takes about one hour. The active light-activated ingredient is hydrogen peroxide. As it breaks down, the oxygen enters the enamel and dentin in teeth, bleaching away discoloration.
  • BOOST Opalescence™ Boost™ professional teeth whitening is chemically activated. The gel contains potassium nitrate and fluoride to prevent sensitivity and protect your enamel.

2. LED Teeth Whitening Kits (At-Home)

There are also many LED whitening kits available to whiten your teeth at home. These kits provide results that are comparable to professional whitening.

LED teeth whitening kits provide longer-lasting results than strips and toothpaste. After you reach the desired shade, the kit only needs to be used every few weeks to a month. This will maintain your white teeth (results vary depending on the brand). 

3. Laser Teeth Whitening 

Laser teeth whitening uses professional equipment to give you those pearly whites. The dentist will cover your gums/lips and then coat your teeth with a peroxide gel.

From there, the dentist will use a laser to activate the gel’s bleaching agent, which will whiten your teeth. It can lighten your teeth up to several shades.

The laser teeth whitening process isn’t cheap. It can cost about $500 and up for one treatment. However, results will last for several months.

Over-The-Counter Teeth Whitening

These are the most common over-the-counter teeth whitening options available. These are much cheaper than professional whitening treatments. Most over-the-counter teeth whitening products cost well under $50.

  • Whitening strips & gels Gels and strips typically use peroxide to whiten teeth. You should use these products regularly for at least two weeks, and the results will last for about four months after the course of your treatment.
  • Whitening toothpasteWhitening toothpastes usually use chemicals or polishing agents to remove most surface stains, though it may take several weeks before you actually see the results.
  • Charcoal teeth whitening — Because charcoal is an incredibly absorbent substance, it can absorb bacteria and stains on your teeth, giving them a whiter appearance. Charcoal is also abrasive and can break down the enamel on your teeth. So while charcoal can scrub off stains, it may also scrub off the top layer of your teeth, leaving them thinner, weaker, and more susceptible to cavities and cracks.

Some people see results directly after using whitening strips, and the effects can last up to six months. Some people don't see results until a few days to weeks later.

How Long Does It Take to Whiten Teeth?

How long it takes to whiten your teeth also depends entirely on the type of teeth whitening solution you choose.

Professional teeth whitening generally takes about an hour and may show immediate results. Over-the-counter products may take just minutes to use but up to weeks to see results. LED whitening kits work after one to five uses.

How Often Should You Whiten Your Teeth?

How often you should whiten your teeth depends on if you choose a professional teeth whitening solution or over-the-counter products.

While a professional procedure may only require one visit, whitening toothpastes should be used daily. Strips and gels should be used daily for a designated period of time.

Teeth Whitening: Common Questions & Answers

Is it bad to whiten your teeth?

It is not bad to whiten your teeth so long as you choose a safe method and practice regular dental care. Whitening strips, gels, toothpastes, and other remedies are dentist-approved methods.

How long does teeth sensitivity last after whitening?

Teeth sensitivity varies for everyone. It may last longer or feel more intense, depending on the teeth whitening solution you’ve chosen. Typically, however, you should feel better within a few hours or up to about 48 hours at most.

Can teeth whitening last forever?

Teeth whitening will not last forever. However, there are ways that you can prolong the brightened appearance of your teeth. Practice proper oral hygiene and stay away from foods, liquids, and products that can stain your teeth.

What is the longest lasting teeth whitening treatment?

Getting your teeth professionally whitened will likely last longer than using over-the-counter products to whiten your teeth. If you use whitening products like toothpaste daily, you can prolong the brightened appearance of your teeth.

Last updated on April 26, 2022
12 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 26, 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).
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  6. Is Charcoal Teeth Whitening Safe? A Dentist Chimes In.Nelson Dentistry, 25 Oct. 2017
  7. Opalescence Teeth Whitening.Opalescence
  8. Products.AuraGlow
  9. Snow® At-Home Teeth Whitening Kit: Results Guaranteed Celebrity Owned.Snow Oral Care
  10. Teeth Whitening - How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?Cosmetic Dentist Southern California, 30 June 2017.
  11. Welcome to GLO™ Science: Professional Teeth Whitening At-Home.GLO Science.
  12. Zoom Whitening Half Moon Bay California, Teeth Whitening.Half Moon Bay California, Teeth Whitening.
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