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Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure to lighten the color of your enamel. Many people seek this procedure to improve their appearance, and you can do this at home or your dentist’s office.
In this article, we talked to dental professionals to learn more about teeth whitening. Our team asked various questions about the procedure so that you know what to expect and how to make an informed decision.
For this article, we sought the expertise and advice of the following professionals:
Dr. Greg Grillo has over 28 years of experience in dental care. He studied at the University of Washington and is currently a licensed dentist at Express Dentist.
Dr. Anish Puri is currently part of Clove Dental’s team in Camarillo, CA. He and his family have been in the dental field for over 30 years, and they have three offices in Ventura County, CA.
Dr. Jarri Amini is currently a dentist working in the UK. He graduated from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry in 2012 and has over 10 years of experience in tooth whitening.
Dr. Joyce Kahng owns and operates Orange + Magnolia Dental Studio. She finished her Doctor of Dental Surgery at the University of the Pacific in 2010.
Get your brightest smile with NewMouth's top teeth whitening picks for 2024.
People who whiten their teeth typically see positive esthetic changes over time. But there’s more to teeth whitening than just physical benefits.
NewMouth: Are there any psychological or confidence-related benefits to teeth whitening?
Dr. Greg Grillo: Yes, teeth whitening can boost self-esteem, confidence, and social interaction. It can also enhance the perception of attractiveness and professionalism and even increase business success.
NewMouth: Can teeth whitening improve the appearance of stains from smoking or coffee consumption?
Dr. Greg Grillo: Teeth whitening can effectively remove or lighten stains caused by smoking, coffee, tea, red wine, and certain medications. The results typically last 6 to 12 months, depending on person’s habits and diet. But touch-up sessions every few weeks can dramatically increase the duration of initial results.
Teeth whitening is a common practice, but knowing the different methods is important to maintain oral health. Dr. Puri weighed in on what you can expect from common teeth whitening methods.
NewMouth: What are the key differences between in-office and at-home teeth whitening options?
Dr. Anish Puri: In-office treatments performed by dental professionals usually use stronger whitening agents and offer faster results. At-home options, like whitening strips or trays, are more gradual and less potent.
NewMouth: Are there any natural or DIY teeth whitening methods you recommend or advise against?
Dr. Anish Puri: Natural remedies like baking soda or hydrogen peroxide are sometimes used, but their effectiveness and safety aren’t always guaranteed. Professional advice is recommended before trying DIY methods.
NewMouth: Which treatment best suits people with sensitive teeth or gums?
Dr. Anish Puri: Products specifically designed for sensitive teeth, usually those with lower concentrations of bleaching agents or alternatives like toothpaste with whitening properties, are recommended for sensitive teeth or gums.
See NewMouth’s top 10 teeth whitening products of 2024.
Teeth whitening can vary in cost. There are many factors influencing this variation, which Dr. Amini discussed.
NewMouth: Are there any factors that can influence the cost of teeth whitening?
Dr. Jarri Amini: The moment that the professional dentist has to spend with you in order to deliver the treatment makes a difference in how much your treatment will cost. If you are spending hours at a time in the dental chair, this will be more expensive than if you initially just have impressions taken at the dentist, and they give you the trays to take away.
Over-the-counter products for teeth whitening can start from less than $10. At-home kits may cost around $100, while dentist lead whitening could cost between $200 and $500. In-office treatments can cost around $800 to $1,000.
NewMouth: Does dental insurance typically cover teeth whitening procedures?
Dr. Jarri Amini: Dental insurance covers things like accidents or if you have problems with your teeth. Whitening is usually considered a cosmetic procedure and therefore is not covered by most dental insurance. It’s advisable to check your actual policy to see what is covered.
NewMouth: Are there any cost-effective alternatives for people on a tight budget?
Dr. Jarri Amini: This is a case where prevention is cheaper than the cure. Make sure you are brushing your teeth with a soft toothbrush and avoiding too much staining food.
There are also options online, where you get one-size whitening trays that can be molded using boiling water to shape to your teeth. However, the disadvantage of these is that if they don’t fit well as they’re not fully customized.
They could let out bleach onto your gums, irritating them. The trays made by professional dentists are much more accurate, fit better, and will be safer to use.
Like other dental procedures, some risks should be considered before whitening teeth. Dr. Grillo elaborated more on the possible side effects people can experience from the procedure.
NewMouth: What are the common side effects of teeth whitening?
Dr. Greg Grillo: Tooth sensitivity, gum irritation, and temporary tooth discomfort. This is usually from the temporary dehydration that occurs during the whitening process.
NewMouth: Are there any long-term risks associated with teeth whitening?
Dr. Greg Grillo: Limited evidence, but some studies suggest potential enamel erosion and increased tooth sensitivity over time.
NewMouth: Can teeth whitening damage the enamel or weaken the teeth over time?
Dr. Greg Grillo: Proper use and follow-up care minimize risks, but excessive or unsupervised whitening can damage enamel.
People with sensitive teeth may find that teeth whitening isn’t suited for them. But there are other factors that can make people ineligible for teeth whitening.
NewMouth: Are there any contraindications or conditions that may make teeth whitening unsafe?
Dr. Greg Grillo: Pregnancy, breastfeeding, certain medications, untreated tooth decay, gum disease, and recent dental work.
NewMouth: How do factors like age, existing dental work (e.g., crowns or veneers), and dental health impact the suitability of teeth whitening?
Dr. Greg Grillo: Age is not a significant factor, but existing dental work may not respond to whitening as effectively. Dental fillings and porcelain will not whiten, but the enamel on surrounding teeth will. This can lead to unexpected results, and you may want to replace old dental restorations after whitening for a better smile.
NewMouth: What options are available for pregnant or breastfeeding people interested in teeth whitening?
Dr. Greg Grillo: Consult a dentist for safer alternatives, as standard whitening treatments may not be suitable. The best idea is to wait until you’re past these periods before considering whitening.
If you find teeth whitening isn’t for you, there are other cosmetic alternatives you can consider. Dr. Kahng discussed the different ways you can achieve a better smile.
NewMouth: What cosmetic dental procedures can address teeth discoloration if whitening is unsuitable or desired?
Dr. Joyce Kahng: Cosmetic dental procedures like dental bonding, porcelain veneers, or dental crowns can address teeth discoloration if traditional teeth whitening methods are not suitable or desired.
NewMouth: Can changes in diet or lifestyle contribute to a whiter smile?
Dr. Joyce Kahng: Changes in diet and lifestyle, such as reducing the consumption of staining substances and practicing good oral hygiene, can contribute to a brighter smile.
NewMouth: Are there over-the-counter products or natural remedies that may help whiten teeth?
Dr. Joyce Kahng: Over-the-counter products like whitening toothpaste, whitening strips, or whitening mouth rinses may provide some improvement in teeth whiteness. However, their efficacy may vary.
While teeth whitening is effective, results are not permanent, and there’s still the possibility of staining your teeth again. Dr Amini recommended best practices to maintain the results of teeth whitening.
NewMouth: What foods and habits should people avoid to prevent staining after teeth whitening?
Dr. Jarri Amini: Avoid anything that can stain your teeth. Common examples are smoking, drinking tea or coffee, eating staining food, such as tomato-based curries or turmeric-containing sauces, etc.
NewMouth: Are there specific oral hygiene routines or products that help maintain whiter teeth?
Dr. Jarri Amini: Brushing with a good toothpaste and a soft electric toothbrush 2 to 3 times daily can help keep teeth white. Brushing after eating is the best option for this. It is also important to use floss or interdental brushes to clean in between the teeth to prevent stains from building up in contact areas.
NewMouth: How often should people consider touch-up treatments to maintain their desired level of whiteness?
Dr. Jarri Amini: Going to the dentist every six months to have a scale and polish will help to remove any tartar and also some stubborn stains on the top of your teeth. Once you have completed your first 2 to 3 weeks of whitening, you may need to top up every 12 months or so, to use the bleach again for 1-2 nights to again remove stubborn stains and top up your whitening. This will keep your teeth looking the whitest for the long-term.
Teeth whitening offers an effective way to brighten and improve the appearance of your smile. Factors like age, existing dental work, and overall dental health can impact the suitability of teeth whitening.
Not everyone is a suitable candidate for teeth whitening. Always talk to a professional before the treatment to prevent any unexpected results.
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