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Teeth Whitening: 5 Things You Need to Know

Updated on August 18, 2014

White and sparkling teeth are something that most people want and work very hard to achieve. Tooth whitening is a great way to get a clean and healthy-looking smile in a short amount of time. Before making the decision to get your teeth whitened, there are five things you need to know.

  1. Tooth whitening is considered safe and largely effective against yellow teeth. The treatment is considered painless, but some people do experience sensitivity during the whitening process which may last for a short period of time after the treatment. There are reports that the chemicals used to whiten the teeth may irritate the gums in some patients.
  2. Some people may not be eligible for teeth whitening. Typically, people who have crowns, caps, fillings, bridges or any other similar dental work may not be suitable candidates for standard teeth whitening as they will not whiten with the teeth, creating noticeably darker spots. People who have severe staining, are very sensitive, or recently had a root canal may also not be good candidates. In some cases, alternative whitening methods may be used.
  3. Most over-the-counter teeth whitening methods are not as effective as professional whitening. While most whitening strips contain nearly the same types of gels used in professional whitening, it is usually in smaller amounts. According to some clinical trials, the most effective over-the-counter whitening strips whiten the teeth only by two shades. Many strips also only target the front teeth, leaving the molars a darker shade.
  4. There are two popular forms of professional tooth whitening treatments: laser whitening and custom-made mouthpieces or trays. Laser whitening is usually faster than using a tray when achieving a bright smile, but is also more expensive. Many cosmetic dentists also claim laser whitening is more effective. The second option typically involves going to the dentist office to get a mouthpiece fitted to the teeth by taking molds. Once the molds are finished, the trays are filled with the whitening gel and the trays are left on the teeth for an extended period of time. Trays allow a person to customize how white their teeth are and allow for less expensive maintenance.
  5. New habits may help the whitening procedure last longer. Cutting back on smoking as well as food and liquids that stain the teeth may help keep teeth whiter for longer, extending the amount of time between maintenance. This is especially beneficial if a laser whitening treatment is chosen. Most dentists note that the first 24 hours after a tooth whitening procedure is the most critical time frame to avoid staining foods and drinks as the teeth are more likely to stain during this time due to the softened enamel.


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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub about teeth whitening with the pros and cons. I get my teeth whitened at the dentist with my annual cleaning. Voted up!

    • profile image

      Shawn Spencer 5 years ago

      Another reason to go to a professional is that over-the-counter teeth whitening gels give a fairly basic mouth guard type approach, but my wife's bite a little different and there is just no way to force contact long enough without having the experience that a dentist does.

    • ThisisShe profile image

      ThisisShe 5 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by, Lady E! I think the frugal person inside me would rather go for the trays. More people have the best results from lasers from what I've seen though.

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 5 years ago from London, UK

      Thanks - very useful. I would like the Laser one.

    • ThisisShe profile image

      ThisisShe 5 years ago

      I think natural looking teeth is okay for most people. People who have severe stains on their teeth, or people who find themselves in the public eye a lot may understandably want to get their teeth whitened. Especially if you are in the public a lot. In my experience, people do judge people on the whiteness of their smile before anything else, even if they do not realize it. Thanks for your feedback!