Everything You Need to Know About Teeth Whitening


Teeth whitening treatments don’t last forever but can help you maintain a brighter smile for months or even years. You can prolong your results by taking good care of your teeth and cutting back on stain-causing foods and drinks, including red wine and coffee.

Lemon and baking soda should never be used to whiten your teeth because they are very corrosive to enamel. Instead, opt for whitening rinses that contain oxygen sources to lighten your teeth by one or two shades.

What is Teeth Whitening?

Teeth whitening, or bleaching, is the process of lightening the color of your teeth. Typically, this is done using chemicals that break down chromogens or stain-causing molecules. The most common whitening products are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide.

These chemicals come in gels applied to your teeth; sometimes, light is used. Most professional whitening kits contain higher concentrations of these chemicals than OTC kits, which can result in a whiter smile.

Whitening trays are custom-made by your dentist for a better fit, and they usually contain a higher concentration of the whitening agent than OTC trays. These trays are also designed to protect your gums and cheeks from the whitening product.

Whitening strips are thin plastic sheets that contain a layer of peroxide gel. They are placed on your teeth according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually for twice-a-day applications for 14 days. This method can lighten your teeth by 1 or 2 shades.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

Whitening removes superficial stains to make teeth appear brighter and healthier. To do this, a whitening product contains one of two bleaching agents: hydrogen or carbamide peroxide.

These agents penetrate the surface of your tooth enamel to break down or oxidize dark-pigmented molecules within the dentin—the yellow, hard substance that makes up most of your teeth. Whitening is safe for most people. However, it may not affect tooth discoloration; whitening results can vary between individuals.

Before a whitening treatment, dentists from clinics like Pampered Tooth will take a patient’s health history and observe soft tissues and the placement and condition of restorations like dentures, crowns, or fillings to ensure the whitening process is safe. Once the whitening session begins, the dentist will place a protective barrier around the gums before applying the whitening gel. This helps prevent sensitivity and other complications during the procedure. Laser or halogen light tools can also accelerate the whitening process and increase brightness through a chemical reaction with the gel.

How Long Does Teeth Whitening Take?

The time it takes for teeth to whiten depends on the method used and your goals. Generally, OTC treatments using whitening strips and pens take up to a week to work.

The dentist can fabricate trays for in-office procedures that fit your mouth comfortably. The whitening gel can be placed into these trays to wear for up to an hour a day or overnight at home. Results should be visible in 10-14 days and usually last 2-4 years if the teeth are kept up with regular brushing, flossing and mouthwash.

After a whitening treatment, it’s important to avoid eating or drinking dark-colored foods and drinks to help prevent staining and discoloration. It’s also helpful to brush and floss regularly and use a mouthwash that contains enzymes to eliminate stains. In addition, a dental checkup and cleaning every six months will help ensure your smile stays healthy and bright. To extend the effects of whitening, many patients also choose to use a whitening toothpaste or rinse between treatments.

What is the Best Teeth Whitening Method?

The best way to whiten teeth is to get a professional bleaching treatment. Your dental team will put a protective coating on your gums before applying a prescription-strength whitening gel to your teeth with a custom-fitted tray. This will usually contain a lower concentration of the active ingredient (hydrogen or carbamide peroxide) than over-the-counter whitening gels and is less likely to cause gum irritation than whitening strips.

Other popular whitening methods include using a whitening mouth rinse, which typically contains oxygen sources that lighten teeth by one or two shades. Another option is a whitening pen, which uses an LED device to speed up the action of the whitening gel and enhance results.

You can also try a DIY tooth-whitening method by brushing your teeth with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. However, it would help if you only used this whitening strategy occasionally, as frequent usage can erode tooth enamel. You can also chew on crunchy foods like apples, radishes and carrots to remove plaque from your teeth and gums mechanically.