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What Is Teeth Whitening?


An image of a patient undergoing in-office teeth whitening treatment. teeth-whitening-office_160425068

Professional in-office and take-home teeth whitening treatments are performed and used under your doctor's supervision. Having a trusted dentist administer or oversee your bleaching treatment can ultimately lead to maximized results and minimized complications. Over-the-counter whitening treatments and home-remedies can be effective at whitening and brightening your tooth's enamel, however, it is important for you to be aware of the differences between using professional strength bleaching systems and commercially available whitening products.


Teeth whitening candidates include patients who are unhappy with the appearance of stains or discoloration of the teeth. However, there are certain factors that may preclude patients from being good candidates for treatment. These include:

  • Patients with fabrications or restorations on the front facing teeth (such as porcelain veneers, dental crowns, or dental bonding). The materials used for these treatments do not respond to bleaching agents, while the natural tooth will. In these cases, patients will need to also replace the tooth fabrications to match the new color of the teeth.
  • Patients with instrinsic stains. Instrinsic stains are grey-toned discolorations, white spots on the teeth, or discoloration that results from a "dead" tooth. These stains affect the dentin layer of the tooth. Teeth whitening is most effective on extrinsic stains (typically the yellow or brown-based stains) that affect the enamel layer of the teeth.
  • Patients with extreme tooth sensitivity or worn enamel.

The Procedure

During the in-office teeth whitening procedure, the dentist will place a shield or gel over the gums to prevent or limit the bleaching solution from coming into contact with gum tissue. The dentist will then apply an even layer of the teeth whitening solution to the teeth. The bleaching solution is allowed to remain on the teeth for up to an hour while the whitening agents take effect. With some in-office whitening treatments, a special light is directed at the teeth to activate the whitening solution. Once the time is up, the whitening solution will be removed from the teeth so the patient and dentist can see the results. Some patients may opt to undergo another round of whitening, and others will be satisfied with the degree of whitening that is achieved with one round of treatment.

Dental Bonding ColorThe at-home teeth whitening process is quite different. During the initial appointment, the dentist will take an impression of the teeth and gums. This impression is sent to a dental lab where custom upper and lower teeth whitening trays are fabricated. One to two weeks later, the patient will return to the dentist's office to pick up the trays and at-home whitening kit. The dentist will then advise the patient on its use. Typically, the patient will apply an even amount of whitening solution to each tray. The patient will then wear the trays for as little as 30 minutes a day, or up to overnight; the amount of time the patient wears the trays will depend on the concentration of the bleaching gel, degree of tooth sensititivity, and the desired level of whiteness. After two weeks of use, patients should begin to see desired results.

Side Effects

Over-the-counter whitening treatments utilize a variety of bleaching agents which range in strength. If not used correctly, the non-prescription whitening solutions can cause damaging, and in some cases irreversible, side effects to develop. If you are considering using teeth whitening products, whether professional-grade or over-the-counter, consult your dentist, first. Being aware of pre-existing conditions, the health of your teeth and gums, and consulting with a licensed dental professional will aid in not placing your oral health in jeopardy. Common side effects of tooth bleaching include:

  • Gum Sensitivity
  • Tooth Sensitivity
  • Gum Redness
  • Gum Irritation
  • Uneven Results
  • Nerve Damage


Just as fingerprints are unique, no two teeth are identical. Results have shown that patients who use professional strength whitening systems experience more satisfying results in a shorter amount of time, than if using over-the-counter bleaching agents. With the ever growing popularity of teeth whitening, companies are adding peroxide or bleach-based whitening products to a variety of products, including strips, tooth paste, fluoride, mouthwash, tooth polish, whitening pens, and chewing-gum. In order to determine if teeth whitening solutions will effectively penetrate deep set stains, below the outer-lying enamel of your teeth, consult a dentist.


Have you ever wondered how much money Americans spend of teeth whitening products every year? Consumer reports reveals people spend billions of dollars yearly trying to whiten their teeth. Unfortunately, many consumers don't see desirable results and don't use commercial-grade whitening products to their full effect.

Professional Teeth Whitening

The cost of a professional teeth whitening treatments depends on the cosmetic needs and goals of each patient. Doctor supervised treatments range in price, from $200 to $2,000 and management of results can be even more costly. However, undergoing treatment under the advisement of your dentist means professional attention is being paid to your smile and his or her experience, with performing teeth whitening treatments, can help your results be seen quicker and last for a longer period of time.

Over-the-counter Teeth Whitening

Over-the-counter whitening treatments cost anywhere from $10 to $100, and whitening products range anywhere from $1 to $50. Results have shown that patients who use non-commercial whitening products have to undergo treatments more frequently, within a short period of time, to ultimately see or maintain results. It is important that you consult with your trusted healthcare professional before choosing to undergo treatment of any kind. A dentist will be able to properly evaluate your smile and make a recommendation regarding which teeth whitening treatment is the best to use.

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