Updated 25 February 2020
Teeth whitening is becoming increasingly popular with in-home kits and professional treatments being actively managed. In this guide we explain in-the-office or at home. In this guide, we explain everything you need to know about whitening your teeth safely and getting the best results from trusted DIY kits. We outline:
You can have one of two types of tooth stains:
- Extrinsic stains – Stains on the top of your enamel are extrinsic. They happen from the food and drinks you consume. They also occur from lifestyle habits, such as smoking or chewing tobacco. The faster you deal with extrinsic stains, the easier it is to get rid of them without professional services.
- Intrinsic stains – Stains that go beyond your tooth’s enamel and affect the dentin are intrinsic. They occur from trauma, too much fluoride, ageing, or a reaction to certain minerals or medications. Most intrinsic stains require professional assistance to remove them and sometimes even require more extensive services, such as dental veneers.
Essentially, you have three options for teeth whitening:
- Dentist whitening – Professional teeth whitening can change the colour of your enamel in less than an hour thanks to concentrated peroxide gel and UV lights. The virtually painless process whitens your teeth while protecting your gums. Most patients only need one visit, but excessive stains may need a couple of visits.
- Professional teeth whitening kits – Some dentists offer take-home kits that allow you to whiten your teeth on your own time. Using the same grade peroxide gel, but in lower concentrations, the plastic trays sit on your teeth for the designated time (one hour to overnight depending on your desired results).
- DIY home teeth whitening kits – You can purchase DIY teeth whitening kits yourself without a dentist’s prescription. Store-bought kits contain bleach gel in much lower concentrations that are safe to use without the supervision of a dentist. They come with one-size-fits-all trays and al of the tools you need to ‘paint’ your teeth white.
How Dentist Teeth Whitening Works
How At-Home Teeth Whitening Works
- Dentist teeth whitening can only be done by a licensed dentist. Dentists use a variety of teeth whitening products that instantly change the colour of your teeth.
- Dentists start by cleaning your teeth to remove all dirt and debris to allow for maximum whitening. The dentist then protects your gums and areas of the mouth that won’t be whitened.
- After applying a hydrogen peroxide gel to the appropriate areas, you sit in the dentist’s chair, letting the gel whiten your teeth. Some whiteners also use a professional light that helps harden the gel and speed along the whitening process. Once complete, you should be able to see a difference in your tooth’s colour.
How At-Home Teeth Whitening Works
- Over-the-counter teeth whitening kits come equipped with all the tools you need to whiten your own teeth.
- Depending on the type of product you buy, you’ll receive a one-size-fits-all mouth tray, whitening gel, and possibly a light that helps harden the gel and whiten your teeth faster.
- Most kits require multiple uses of the product before you’ll see results.
- When you talk about teeth whitening products, you’re often talking about ‘bleach’ products, but because whitening sounds better than bleach, it’s the universal term.
- Technically, bleach products whiten your teeth beyond what they are naturally capable of looking like. In other words, you’ll have a ‘faker’ looking smile because of the colour of the teeth.
- Whitening technically refers to products that eliminate extrinsic stains. The most common teeth whitening products are toothpaste and mouthwashes that remove staining debris and dirt, leaving you with a whiter smile.
- For purposes of this guide, though, we’ll call teeth whitening products, the over-the-counter products you can buy to change the colour of your smile.
While over-the-counter and mail-order teeth whitening products sound like the perfect solution for everyone, they are best suited for anyone with the following:
- Mild to moderate extrinsic tooth stains
- No receding gums
- A recent dental exam and cleaning
- No coffee, tea, or red wine stains
Each person will have different results, even if they are using the same products. The time it takes depends on the depth of the stains and your overall oral health. In general, though, it takes between two and four weeks to see substantial results with OTC teeth whitening products.
Whether you use professional or over-the-counter teeth, whitening products/services, regular upkeep is necessary, including the following:
- Avoid certain food and drink immediately after whitening your teeth. Coffee, tea, red wine, and dark-coloured berries are the most offending food and drink and should be avoided for at least a week after whitening your teeth. If you do consume any of these items, rinse your mouth out with water right away to avoid stains.
- Use a straw whenever drinking dark or staining liquids. When you drink with a straw, the liquid bypasses your tooth enamel, reducing the risk of tooth staining as a result. It’s still important to rinse your mouth out and use caution when drinking dark liquids.
- Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day is crucial. You can’t whiten teeth without caring for them. Brushing and flossing remove the dirt and debris from your teeth that could stain your teeth or cause other harm to your otherwise healthy teeth.
Teeth whitening, especially the DIY kits, do have some risks that you should be aware of before proceeding
- Tooth sensitivity – If you use bleaching products, it can cause your teeth to feel sensitive to extreme temperatures or even to touch. This is why a dental exam before using any whitening products is important. A dentist can tell you if you have any dental health issues that may interfere with teeth whitening
- Gum irritation – If you have sensitive gums, the peroxide in the whitening products may irritate your gums, making them sore.
- Ineffectiveness – Only ‘real’ teeth with true enamel can be whitened. If you have any dental veneers, bonding, or fillings, they won’t whiten, which could leave your mouth with an uneven look.
- Other Side Effects – If you have sensitive teeth or gums, have other dental health issues, or are just concerned about how teeth whitening will affect your mouth, talk with your dentist first.
If you prefer to do your own teeth whitening at home, we’ve uncovered the top teeth whitening products that deliver the results you desire.
Cost: Approximately $40 per kit
Product: With just 30 minutes a day for 5 days, CleverWhite can deliver brighter, whiter teeth. A CleverWhite kit includes:
Cost: Approximately $30 per kit
Product: The Regenerate Boosting Serum Set helps boost the effectiveness of your teeth whitening efforts with an advanced toothpaste that helps keep stains away. You can use the boosting serum for three days for only three minutes at a time. You can repeat the process monthly. The kit includes:
- Many people assume they’ll have a beautiful and perfect smile after using a teeth whitening product. If your teeth respond well to the ingredients, you may get better results than the average user.
- In all cases, your actual results depend on the depth of your stains, the reason for the stains, and the type of treatment you pursue.
- Always talk to your dentist first about the appropriate treatment. In some cases, whitening won’t help, and you’ll be a better candidate for services, such as dental bonding or dental veneers, which help enhance your existing enamel by adding a porcelain surface to it, giving your teeth the bright, white appearance you desire.
- If you don’t love your smile, talking with with your dentist and discovering your options can help you decide on the next steps. While you may not have that bright, white smile you once had as a young child, you can make your smile whiter with the right products.