How to Whiten Your Teeth (And Keep Them White)

If you desire having whiter teeth, you are not alone. Millions of people agree that they would want a brighter smile, and, fortunately, there are many options to achieve this. From in the dental office to at-home applications, whitening your teeth may be attainable. But, before you begin your quest for whiter teeth, you'll want to learn how to safely whiten your teeth and keep them white.


The Various Kinds of Teeth Whitening Systems

With lots of teeth whitening systems to choose from, talk to your dentist to find which one might be best for your whitening needs. However, some to consider are toothpastes, trays, strips, and gels.

1. Teeth Whitening Toothpaste

Using a whitening toothpaste is a good option when you are trying to maintain a brighter smile. Designed to remove surface stains, you may start to notice whiter teeth in a few weeks when you routinely brush twice daily. While a whitening toothpaste may work well for the surface stains on your teeth, don't rely on this option to rid your teeth of more stubborn stains.

2. Teeth Whitening Trays

Like whitening toothpaste, teeth whitening trays can be easily purchased over the counter at your local drugstore. The trays are designed to be filled with a tooth whitening solution then placed over your teeth for an instructed amount of time—sometimes a few hours or even overnight. Depending on your level of teeth staining, the use of whitening trays can help remove surface stains and some inner stains. If you purchase teeth whitening trays from your dentist to use at home, you can have custom-fitted trays made to mold perfectly over your teeth. With proper use, teeth whitening trays can bring you results within a few days and typically recommended to use only a few times a year.


3. Teeth Whitening Strips

Similar to trays in that they wrap around your teeth, teeth whitening strips help remove intrinsic and extrinsic stains when worn properly for roughly two weeks. Teeth whitening strips are an easy and affordable option to whiten your teeth at home with an over-the-counter product.

4. Teeth Whitening Gels

An easy additive to your current oral routine, a teeth whitening gel can be added to your toothpaste, two times a day, for additional whitening power. With no extra time or effort needed to whiten your teeth an average of six shades, you'll be enjoying a brighter smile in about 30 days.


5. LED Teeth Whiteners

Gels, strips, toothpastes… what about a less messy LED light option? Similar to the blue LED light technology that dentists use to lift surface stains, an at-home LED light will help accelerate a whitening agent. It's best to purchase a whitening agent and LED light combo kit to ensure the two products are compatible. Simply apply the whitening agent, sometimes in pen form, evenly to your teeth then insert the lighted mouthpiece for less than 20 minutes, twice daily. Rather quick to see teeth whitening when done properly—in about 7 days.

At Home Teeth Whitening vs. in Office

Depending on your teeth whitening desires, at-home teeth whitening products can help you achieve whiter teeth; however, if your teeth stains are more severe, you're wanting immediate results, or you simply don't want to experiment with at-home teeth whitening products, in-office dental whitening may work better for you. Whatever your reasons, here are some things to know.

1. How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost?

There is a wide range of costs associated with teeth whitening. At-home options are going to be a less expensive route, roughly $75 and less depending on desired product, brand, and quantity, though there are some kits that may cost upwards of $200+. In-office whitening treatments may cost between $500-$1500 depending on your needs and wants.

2. How Long Do Your Teeth Stay White For?

Having your teeth whitened in-office will give you a brighter smile that lasts longer than most at-home options. Dentists use stronger products so not only will the appointment be relatively short in duration, but your results will also be more vibrant and longer lasting than at-home treatment. Typically, in-office whitening isn't recommended more than once or twice a year whereas at-home options could potentially be used more but following the individual products instructions is paramount.

Maintenance, however, is important regardless of the method you choose. Using whitening toothpaste and whitening gel will help keep new surface stains from setting in. Also, your teeth will stay whiter longer if you limit heavily staining foods and beverages, like berries, candy, soda, coffee, tea, and avoid tobacco. Teeth whitening is not permanent so without proper maintenance you will begin to notice discoloration sooner than with thorough care.


Risks Associated with Tooth Whitening

Tooth sensitivity is a common side-effect of teeth whitening and the stronger the treatment, the duration, and the frequency of use all affect this. Luckily, sensitivity typically fades within a few days after use.

Gum irritation can occur when the whitening agent comes into contact with your gums. If proper barriers aren't placed on your gums, if the agent isn't properly placed on your teeth, or if the agent isn't rinsed off quickly, you may experience gum sensitivity or a burning sensation for a few days.

Uneven lightening can occur if you've had any restorative work, like crowns, veneers, or implants, or if the whitening agent is not applied uniformly to each tooth.


Should You Whiten Your Teeth

Many people benefit from teeth whitening. Depending on your individual oral health, teeth whitening could work for you.

  • It is important that you no longer have your primary teeth but all your permanent teeth, so age is a factor.
  • Be mindful if you've had any restorative work because the surrounding teeth could whiten but not the bonded surface; however, you could certainly chat with your dentist to learn what your options are.
  • If you have a damaged tooth that is discolored, this tooth will not whiten. Options could be available by talking to your dentist about restorative work and whitening beforehand to create all teeth to match.

If you feel at-home treatment will allow you to achieve the whitening you need and you are able to devote the time to it, this could work for you. If you desire more immediate, vibrant results, in-office teeth whitening treatments may suit your needs better. Either way, options are possible but chat with your dentist to determine what will be best for your oral health.