How To Whiten Teeth? Your Guide to Teeth Whitening Treatment, Costs, and Options

Everyone loves sparkling white teeth. Here's the guide to how it happens!

Teeth whitening, even Hollywood does it!

One of the most popular dental procedures that one might have considered at least once in their life is teeth whitening. Actors and other important personalities get it all the time! It not only helps whiten the teeth, gets rid of discoloration and remove any unwanted stains, but all this can also be done without any damage to the bone structure.

If you are searching for ways to whiten your teeth effectively, know that it is advised to consult a dentist for better results without causing any damage to the enamel.


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What causes teeth discoloration?

Pellicle, a thin coating, forms on the enamel, and catches stains. The enamel of the tooth naturally has pores that can hold onto these stains. There are two kinds of stains:

Extrinsic Stains

Extrinsic stain is the result of when pellicles are attached to the surface of the enamel. They include:

  • Excessive smoking/tobacco usage
  • Consumption of caffeinated or 'dark-colored' drinks like tea, coffee, or carbonated beverages
  • Not following a proper oral health routine, like brushing or flossing. Negligence of dental health leads to plaque and calculus build-up.
  • As dentine becomes visible due to aging, it can also change the teeth color. Dentine has a darker color than enamel.

Intrinsic Stains

Intrinsic stains exist within the structure of the tooth. The causes can be:

  • High exposure to fluoride, particularly in childhood
  • Increased usage of tetracycline antibiotics by pregnant woman, particularly in the third trimester
  • Using tetracycline antibiotics at the age of 8 years or younger, as teeth are still developing at this stage
  • As a result of any injury or trauma
  • The absorption of extrinsic stains causes enamel, resulting in discoloration.
  • Tooth whitening is successful and generates results if a bleaching agent is used. A number of teeth whitening kits have these. It has to be conducted without causing any damage to the bone; hence, it is better to seek help from a teeth whitening dentist and not experiment with it yourself.

Teeth whitening products have peroxide, which either exists in the form of CP (carbamide peroxide) or HP (hydrogen peroxide). Although one can whiten their teeth using over-the-counter products, it is risky because of the high percentage of peroxide.

What exactly is teeth whitening? How does it work?

As the name suggests, teeth whitening means lighting the color of the teeth. The color is lightened to a more natural degree rather than pure bright white. Teeth whitening is optional and not a necessary dental procedure. Since the whitening procedures require the use of carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, it is better to get it done through a licensed dental health practitioners that make effective use of them.

The bleaching agent used for color lightening soaks through the enamel, seeping into dentine, the main part of the tooth. It is also used in teeth whitening kits. The bleach components react with the molecules responsible for discoloration. Bleach also makes the surface of the enamel more reflective, hence, giving a more neat and polished look.

What are some teeth-whitening treatment options?

If you are looking for options on how to whiten teeth, there are a number of options available for teeth whitening. One can struggle while choosing between them; hence, here we have a look inside them:

In-practice whitening products They are used by a dental health professional. In-practice products have a high peroxide percentage and are applied directly to the teeth. They are sometimes activated using light, laser, or heat. If you are looking for instant results and do not experience tooth sensitivity, this can be the best option.

Take-home dentist products These types of products, that are regulated and supervised by dentists, have a comparatively lower percentage of peroxide. They are mild and can be worn in a tray during the day or overnight at home. You can also make use of teeth whitening strips.

These type of teeth whitening products are directly held against the teeth using a custom-made tray while minimizing contact with gums. If you experience mild tooth sensitivity, fluoride will help minimize it. Discolorations and stains begin lightning in a 7 to 14 days span.

OTC Teeth Whitening Products OTC or over-the-counter whitening products have a minor peroxide percentage. It leads to slower and somewhat less-effective results. However, these products have a higher acid content and should be used with care.

It is a slow process and can take up to six months to show results with OTC. But these self-administered products have many risks associated with them, hence opting for a teeth whitening dentist is a safer option.

Teeth Whitening Toothpaste Just like OTC whiteners, tubes of whitening toothpaste are also commonly used. These products have a small percentage of peroxide, which acts as a polishing component.

Although they are effective at first, repeated use can potentially be detrimental for teeth, even impacting enamel in some situations and leading to discolouration later. Refer to cosmetic dentists as they will be able to assist you with protection from cavities and how to ensure better dental health.

What is the average cost of teeth whitening treatments?

The cost of teeth whitening treatments varies depending on the preference of treatment and steps involved. As per the data available from ADA's national dental fee survey in 2017, a take-home teeth whitening kit is generally worth $610.

On the contrary, the cost of in-chair bleaching can sum up to nearly $260 per tooth. If your treatment also includes plaque removal and consultancy, the collective cost can be around $280 per tooth.

What are the risks affiliated with teeth whitening? Are there possible side effects?

There are a few possible side effects of teeth whitening. The procedure can make teeth sensitive to hot and cold temperatures for a short while. Furthermore, one can also experience pain in the teeth and gums.

In some cases, there is also a possibility of 'over whitening,' which can give a grayish effect. Although rare, it can happen if the whitening process is over-extended and is not conducted correctly. If one uses at-home whitening kits, there can be a burning sensation or nausea.

Although the chances for this to happen are relatively thin, in some cases, the teeth-whitening tray might not fit perfectly around the teeth. The peroxide in these products can cause the burning of gums. Hence, one should opt for professional teeth whitening through a qualified dentist.

What do you need to avoid after getting done with the teeth whitening procedure?

Following a teeth whitening procedure, it is adviseable to avoid food items with intense color and ones that leave stains. Things like coffee and caffeine drinks should be avoided for nearly one week because teeth pores are open in this window of time, and hence the teeth are more susceptible to these stains. Experiencing cold or hot after it is quite normal as well, hence it is better to avoid too hot or chilly foods and beverages.

Teeth whitening dentists also suggest avoiding tannin-rich food and beverages. It is better to avoid foods with high acidic content. These include black tea and coffee, especially after you have freshly received the treatment. To limit potential damage to your new whitened teeth, consume drinks from a straw.

To ensure that the treatment stays fresh for a more extended period of time, consume 'plain colored' foods for at least 48 hours. These include fish, pasta, potatoes, rice, chicken, cauliflower, bananas, bread, and low-fat yogurt.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is teeth whitening permanent? How long does it last?

Teeth whitening will not last forever. It can last from a few months to three years. However, it varies from case to case, depending on individual scenarios. If you do not take proper care and do not cut down on dark liquids and foods, it can significantly affect the results.

Maintaining a proper oral hygiene routine, brushing and flossing regularly can make the effects last longer, between 1 to 3 years. If one avoids smoking and staining foods, it can even last longer than that. For the best teeth whitening results, you must regularly seek a dentist's help.

How long does the teeth whitening treatment take?

If you opt for in-chair whitening treatments, it can typically take 1 to 3 hours. However, the treatment time varies from case to case, procedures involved, products used by the dentists, and individual circumstances.

What is bleaching and power bleaching? How does it make a difference?


In this treatment, the dentist will firstly create molds of your bottom and top teeth. Customized trays and mouth guards are made to fit precisely over the teeth. In the second appointment, the dentist puts bleaching gel in trays. The trays are fit inside the mouth for about 15 to 30 minutes.

UV light may also be used in the whitening process. After getting the treatment, you will be recommended to repeat specific procedures at home as well and will be able to see a difference in 2 to 4 weeks. You can also get a custom-made gel-filled tray from your dentist and conduct the treatment at home.

Power Bleaching

Power bleaching, commonly referred to as laser whitening, can only be conducted at the clinic. Firstly, the dentist covers the gums, then applies a bleaching agent on the teeth.

After this, a laser is cast to activate the whitening process. The procedure overall takes nearly an hour and requires only a single sitting with the teeth whitening cosmetic dentist.

What foods should you avoid after getting teeth whitening treatment?

It is advisable to avoid consuming foods and beverages that have a darker color, at least for the first two days. For best teeth whitening results, one should try to stay away from:

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Fruit juices
  • Soy sauce
  • Tomato sauce
  • Beets and spinach
  • Every fruit except banana
  • Bolognese
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