A man is getting his teeth whitened

Tooth Whitening: Ways to Get a Brighter Smile

Do you have the dazzling smile you desire? You can get the picture-perfect pearly whites you dream of in two ways:

  • restore your natural tooth shade by removing surface stains caused by tea, coffee, red wine and tobacco
  • whiten teeth beyond their natural shade through bleaching

Teeth Cleaning

At the dentist: A professional cleaning is the only way to remove calculus and tartar

At home: All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives. Whitening toothpastes have additional polishing agents to remove stains on the surface of teeth.

Bleaching Methods

This process uses either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. As the active ingredient breaks down, oxygen infiltrates the tooth’s enamel, lightening its color.

At the dentist: After protecting your gums with a gel or shield, your dentist will apply the whitening product to your teeth, using a specially made tray that fits like a mouthguard. The total treatment can require two or three visits to the dentist.

There is also laser whitening where a rubber dam is put over your teeth to protect the gums, and a bleaching product is painted onto your teeth. Then a light or laser is shone on the teeth to activate the chemical. The light speeds up the reaction of the whitening product and can make teeth up to five or six shades lighter.

The effects of professional dental whitening are thought to last up to three years; but will vary from person to person.

At home: Products for whitening teeth at home include bleaching strips, bleaching pens and gels. How effective these methods are depends on the amount of whitening agent. Be aware that home products may contain mild acids and abrasives that could damage teeth and gums.

Side Effects of Professional Teeth Whitening

Some people may find their teeth become sensitive to cold during or after treatment. Others may experience discomfort in the gums, a sore throat, or white patches on the gum line. These symptoms should disappear within a few days of completing treatment. If any of these side effects continue, see your dentist.

Taking Care of Teeth After Professional Whitening

You can help keep your teeth white by:

  • reducing the amount of food and drinks you have that can stain teeth; consider using a straw for beverages that might stain to avoid direct contact with your teeth
  • stopping smoking
  • brushing or rinsing immediately after you consume stain-causing beverages or foods.
  • removing plaque by brushing your teeth at least twice daily and floss at least once daily
  • using a whitening toothpaste (once or twice a week only) to remove surface stains and prevent yellowing