Tooth Whitening

There are several options to whiten your teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) has approved certain whitening products for safety and effectiveness. Your dental caregiver can also help you determine the best treatment for you. Tooth whitening is not a permanent solution and will require additional treatments for a prolonged effect.

CHECK WITH YOUR DENTIST FIRST

Your dentist can help you understand what results you may get with tooth whitening. The results you get from whitening will depend on the color of your teeth and the reason for the discoloration. The color of your teeth is affected by many things, including:

  • Traits passed down from parent to child (heredity).

  • Age.

  • Diet.

  • Tobacco use.

  • Tooth injury.

  • Medicines.

  • Health conditions.

Yellowing may be easier to improve than brownish or grayish stains. If you have bonding or tooth-colored fillings or crowns, they will not whiten.

WHITENING OPTIONS

  • Whitening toothpastes. These toothpastes contain polishing or chemical materials that help to remove surface stains better than a regular toothpaste. They are sold over-the-counter in your local or online pharmacy or grocery store. Whitening toothpaste may not work for all stains or whiten as much as you would like. Results can take several (2 to 4) weeks. A newer chemical in whitening toothpastes, blue covarine, may show more instant results.

  • At-home bleaching kits. These products contain some type of bleaching agent. A bleaching tray filled with the gel is inserted into the mouth for an instructed period of time. The tray holds the bleaching agent against your teeth. Another product comes in strips that are applied to the upper or lower teeth. Many bleaching kits are sold over-the-counter. ADA approved home kits can also be prescribed by your dental caregiver.

  • Bleaching treatment in a dental office. Your dental caregiver may recommend a bleaching treatment in 1 or more office visits. A bleaching solution is painted onto the teeth. Some bleaching treatments may also require having a light or laser directed at the solution. The gums are protected with a special gel or shield. This method is more costly than others but may help to improve the shade of your teeth quicker.

USE CAUTION

Side effects, such as tooth sensitivity and gum irritation, are usually temporary. However, you should consider that:

  • Children and adolescents may be more sensitive to the side effects of whitening. Safety and effectiveness of whitening in children has not been studied.

  • Long-term oral and health effects of whitening agents in children and adults have not been studied.

  • Excessive use of non-ADA approved bleaching agents may harm the tooth or the protective outer shell of the tooth (enamel).

  • Pregnant or nursing women should avoid tooth whitening that involves bleaching.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Floss at least once a day.

  • Follow your dental caregiver's instructions for home whitening or in-office bleaching.

  • Discuss any side effects with your dental caregiver.

  • If you chew gum, chew sugar-free gum after tooth whitening. The teeth may be less sensitive to sugar-free gum compared to regular gum.

  • See your dental caregiver for follow up exams as directed.