All the Information You Need About Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening treatments remove stains and discoloration from your teeth. Learn more about teeth whitening treatments, costs and side effects.

There are many reasons why your teeth change color. Some of these are directly related to your dental health, while others are a side effect of lifestyle choices. There are many foods that can stain your teeth, including coffee, tea, soda and wines. Starchy foods, such as pasta or potatoes, may also cause staining. Smoking or chewing tobacco quickly causes your teeth to become stained.

Some medications also have side effects that lead to your teeth changing color. This also includes medication and materials used in dental procedures. Poor dental hygiene and certain medical conditions will also cause your teeth to change color, typically taking on a yellow color. There are some factors out of your control, such as genetics and aging. The older you become, the more your enamel gets worn away on your teeth. Teeth whitening allows you to fix stains or discoloration on your teeth. Listed below are several of the top teeth whitening options.

Teeth Whitening Toothpaste

A common product used to whiten your teeth is specialized toothpaste. These toothpastes use a variety of ingredients to either polish your teeth or give them a reflective appearance, which removes the surface stains from your tooth. It typically takes several weeks before you start seeing effects from tooth whitening toothpaste. While it can help remove discoloration from your teeth, it is not as effective as other methods. In order for the toothpaste to remain effective, you typically must take other steps as well, such as improving your dental health or avoiding foods that normally cause tooth discoloration.

The cost of tooth whitening toothpaste varies by the brand, but in most cases, it costs between $7 to $12. Opalescence Whitening is one of the top toothpaste options, since it uses less abrasiveness, which is healthier for your tooth enamel. Crest also has a specialized toothpaste, Crest 3D white. If you suffer from sensitive teeth, Sensodyne includes Potassium Nitrate, which relives tooth irritation. 

Teeth Whitening Kits

Teeth whitening kits are available over-the-counter. Each kit uses different materials, such as strips, trays or brushes. With these kits, you coat your teeth in a special substance to remove the stains from your teeth. A common element in teeth whitening kits is peroxide, which not only bleaches your teeth to restore their white appearance, but it reaches even the deepest stains embedded in your teeth. Teeth whitening kits are more effective than toothpaste, taking at most two weeks before you start noticing improvements. The kits typically must be applied for several hours each night. The average cost is between $50 to $100.

In addition to over-the-counter kits, you can also request a take home kit from your dentist. Some dentists use ready-made kits, while others create a custom kit for their patients. The main difference between over-the-counter and dentist provided kits is the ingredients. Dental kits use stronger ingredients, with concentrated levels of bleach to remove stains. Dental kits typically take the same amount of time as an over-the-counter kit, but cost on average between $150 to $200.

Dental Procedures

The most effective way to whiten your teeth is through dental procedures. Dental procedures to whiten your teeth are typically not covered by your insurance because they are classified as a cosmetic change. Professionally getting your teeth whitened ensures you do not miss any areas on your teeth, and also limits the side effects. It is more expensive than over-the-top options, but it provides much quicker results.

One of the teeth whitening procedures is Zoom. Zoom uses a unique hydrogen peroxide gel and treatment from a specialized lamp to whiten your teeth. The entire procedure takes between 45 to 60 minutes, but the results are immediate. A similar procedure is Boost. Boost uses a power bleaching gel to remove discoloration and whiten your teeth, without the use of a lamp. The results are immediate, but it takes closer to two hours. Both procedures cost between $450 to $600, based on your dentist.

If traditional treatments do not work on your teeth, another option is veneers. Veneers cover the front of your teeth, improving your color without detracting from your ability to chew. It takes multiple dental visits to install veneers. The process normally takes between two to three weeks and costs anywhere from $700 to $1,000.

Teeth Whitening Side Effects

There are several potential side effects from teeth whitening. One of the most common side effects is tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity normally begins during the treatment and lasts for a short period. If you already suffer from tooth sensitivity, consult your dentist before using any whitening products. Another side effect is soft tissue irritation along your gums. This can also cause your gums to appear white. The color change is temporary, rarely lasting more than a few days.

If you frequently get your teeth bleached you may experience additional discoloration, with your teeth becoming gray or translucent. Limit how often you use teeth whitening treatments and speak with your dentist for alternative treatments if this occurs.