6 things you should know about teeth whitening

Are you interested in teeth whitening? There are so many over-the-counter products, online trends, and treatment options that it can be hard to know what to choose. Here are six tips that can help. 

1. Believe your dentist, not what you read online.

Always consult your dentist before you begin any whitening treatment. The internet can be a great place for learning and discovery, but some trends offer no real benefits or cause actual harm.

For example, one social media fad saw users making a homemade whitening mix with mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda. But this is risky – the wrong combination could dissolve your tooth enamel or burn your gums.

2. Treatments from your dentist are stronger (and last longer).

Your dentist will use a higher concentration whitening agent than at-home options. The treatment will typically be done over multiple short in-office sessions, or even at home with their guidance, but the procedure type and the amount of time needed will vary based on your personal oral health history. Before beginning treatment, your dentist will discuss options with you and perform a thorough examination.

3. There are many at-home options.

Most over-the-counter whitening products will use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which are natural bleaching agents, to break down molecules that make up stains and discoloration. Three common products are whitening strips, LED whitening kits, and whitening toothpaste.

In general, these at-home treatments can be effective when the manufacturer’s instructions are followed. They are also more affordable than in-office options because teeth whitening typically is not covered by dental plans. 

4. Whitening toothpastes aren’t all the same.

Many toothpastes claim to whiten teeth, and this can be an option for those who prefer to avoid a full whitening treatment. You won’t see the same results as a treatment, but you may notice a difference if you choose the right product.

  • Fluoride toothpaste with a whitening agent is the best choice.
  • Charcoal toothpaste doesn’t whiten teeth – in fact, it is so abrasive that it can irritate or damage your teeth and gums.
  • Purple toothpaste doesn’t cause damage, but it also doesn’t truly whiten your teeth. Your teeth simply appear whiter temporarily because the light purple color from the toothpaste helps neutralize yellow tones.

5. Side effects are common, but temporary.

Whether you choose to whiten your teeth at the dentist’s office or with an at-home product, you can expect some minor side effects such as increased sensitivity to hot, cold, touch and pressure, or inflammation of the gums.

Tooth sensitivity from whitening usually fades in the days after you finish treatment. If you experience lasting or unexpected discomfort in your teeth or gums, stop treatment and consult your dentist immediately.

6. Whitening isn’t for everyone.

Teeth whitening is most useful for people with yellow or orange spotting that comes from natural aging or stains from dark foods and drinks (such as berries, tea, or coffee). In general, whitening does not work on gray teeth, antibiotic-stained teeth, dental crowns, fillings, bridges, veneers, and bonded teeth.


With so many options and variables involved with teeth whitening, it’s important to check with your dentist before you begin any treatment. They’ll review your personal oral health history and help make sure it’s safe and effective for you.