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Whitening Your Teeth

Updated on August 12, 2013

Looking to Whiten Your Teeth?

Simply brushing and flossing your teeth is not enough to keep them shiny and white. If you want to remove stains from food and drink, you may want to consider one of the many options available for at home whitening/bleaching. Alternatively, you could invest in a professional whitening session at your dentist office. There are pros and cons with the variety of alternatives, including cost, time, pain (yes, it can hurt a bit), length of results, and ease of use. Before we get into a comparison of products, let's review the primary causes of yellowing teeth:

  • Certain drinks are likely to cause stains: coffee, red wine, tomato juice, cola. You have several options, here. Either avoid drinking them all together, try drinking them with a straw, or immediately swish with clear water and brush your teeth after consuming them
  • Smoking will lead to nicotine stains. Quit smoking and your teeth will look better, and your lungs will thank you, too.
  • Tomato-based sauces will also cause stains. Drink lots of water and brush your teeth after eating.
  • Deep, red fruits (pomegranate seeds, red grapes, tomatoes, etc.) may cause stains. Same advice as above. Rinse with clear water and brush after enjoying.
  • Plaque build-up. Regular trips to the dentist for professional cleaning will help reduce this effect. Of course, brush and floss regularly, as well.
  • Long-term use of antibiotics. Oftentimes, this can result in a grayish cast to a person's teeth. Over-the-counter teeth whitening products may not effectively work. You should talk to your dentist to see what can be done to brighten your smile.
  • Age. Unfortunately, you cannot do anything about this factor. But paying attention to the items above will keep you looking fresh and younger than your years.

Keep this list in mind - once you invest in teeth whitening, you'll want to prevent yellowing from re-occurring for as long as possible. So, cut back on your coffee, don't smoke and keep your oral hygiene habits impeccable!

White, bright teeth
White, bright teeth
Crest Whitening Toothpaste
Crest Whitening Toothpaste

Regular Dental Care Products with Whitening Agents

At the lowest level of whitening products are toothpastes, floss and mouthwashes that have been specially formulated to brighten your teeth. Generally speaking, if used consistently, they can whiten healthy teeth about one shade over time. These products can be purchased over the counter, and may cost about the same as "regular" counterparts, or slightly more. Therefore, they are a cost-effective means of whitening your teeth, if you only wish to take off surface stains, and you are motivated to prevent stains from reoccurring in the future.

These products contain mild abrasive ingredients that usually will not cause any discomfort. No bleaching agents are included. As with any toothpaste and mouthwash, do not swallow.

The number of brands available is just about as broad as your imagination. Of course, you can find whitening toothpastes, floss and mouthwashes produced by Crest, Colgate, Aquafresh, and Arm and Hammer. You can also find natural brands, specialized formulations for sensitive teeth, night time, etc. Just take a trip to your local drug store and peruse the aisles.

Consumer using tooth whitening strips
Consumer using tooth whitening strips

At Home Bleaching Kits and Whitening Strips

Whitening strips have become very popular in the past 5 or 6 years. They are easy to use and much less messy than bleaching kits. The cost is still significantly more than whitening toothpastes and products discussed above, but you will see more dramatic results more quickly. Besides cost, there are two additional drawbacks to mention with respect to strips. First, they only work on healthy teeth that have yellowed due to age and stains. Second, they may cause significant tooth sensitivity. Consult with your dentist before paying the $20-40 for one of these kits.

There are several major brands and formulations for whitening strips, including Crest, Listerine, Oral B and Rembrandt. Listerine's strips dissolve in your mouth, which they claim to be a benefit because you don't have to take them off 1/2 hour after you put them on. Crest Strips come in a variety of styles, including Daily Multi-care, which you use for only 5 minutes a day (brightening more slowly over time), and Crest Whitestrips Premium, which you only need to use for 7 days (1/2 hour morning and night). Most brands require use for 14 days, 1/2 hour morning and night.

These products contain hydrogen peroxide as a bleaching agent, and will only work on natural teeth; they will not whiten veneers or other dental work. Amounts of the bleaching agent differ, from 6% to 10%, depending on formulations.

Similarly, at home bleaching kits require use of bleaching gel (amounts of carbamide peroxide as a bleaching agent vary: between 16% and 22%). The gel is inserted into trays that fit into the consumer's mouth. Some of these trays can be custom molded for a better fit. Prices are generally about $100 and up for these kits, but results can be achieved more quickly than the whitening strips. Again, expect some sensitivity of teeth. The application can be difficult and messy, compared to the strips, not to mention expensive.

With both of these options, you can expect results to last approximately 6 months. Your teeth may be lightened up to 2-3 shades.

You can get dramatic teeth whitening results at the dentist!
You can get dramatic teeth whitening results at the dentist!

Professional Whitening

For immediate results (often in only a single appointment), your best bet may be to have your teeth professionally whitened by your dentist. This is also recommended for stains on veneers and stains that are a result of antibiotic use. Of course, the major drawback is the potential cost! You should expect to pay from $400-900 per session, which will not likely be covered by insurance. Some people will notice that teeth will darken a bit as they become re-hydrated with saliva a day or two after the procedure. They will then ask for a second or third procedure to continue the whitening procedure.

Dentists use a number of different products, including "BriteSmile," "Zoom!," "Rembrandt," or "LaserSmile." Instead of choosing your dentist based on the product they use, definitely chose the dentist first. The products are substantially similar, but the dentist's application will make all the difference! The active ingredient can include up to 50% hydrogen peroxide. You and your dentist will decide on a shade to which to lighten your teeth, before the procedure.

Your dentist will start with a general cleaning to remove plaque and tartar build-up. Your teeth will also be polished. Afterwards, a dental dam will be placed around the teeth to be whitened. You'll be given eye protection and a bib, as well. Next, comes the fun part. The dentist will apply the peroxide gel or paste on your teeth and will then activate it with a light or laser. You'll have to wait at least 60-90 minutes with the whitener on your teeth. Afterwards, it will be washed or wiped off.

In some cases, your dentist will send home an at-home bleaching system for you to use for follow-up treatment.

Side effects may be the same as with other treatments above, including tooth sensitivity to heat and cold. At times, if done improperly, the bleaching agents may come into contact with gum tissue, causing pain. Make sure you pick the right dentist and get a secure dam fit before the procedure begins!

What Price Beauty?

A nice, white smile is attractive. And it might even be worth an investment for a special date, like your wedding, prom, or reunion. Think about the overall cost in deciding how much to pay for the temporary cosmetic procedure, however. Realize too, that some of the options will take more time to show results and there may be some slight discomfort involved.

If you have had any significant dental work, or suffer from gingivitis or other health problems related to your mouth or gums, be sure to discuss your options with your dentist in advance. I hope you are dazzled with the results!

At home bleaching kit
At home bleaching kit


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    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Carrie,

      Clean, white teeth are pretty and the best thing that people can do is just to brush and floss regularly. Teeth whitening products are optional. Best, Steph

    • carriethomson profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi steph these are some great tips!! oral hygine is very important in order to have good teeth and good health.


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you for your extensive list of ways to whiten the teeth,Personally I use crushed strawberry's which I find works wonders,However if the stains are really bad then at least I can refer to your list of what to use.

    • profile image


      8 years ago


      We can maintain white teeth if we could take good care of them at an early age.I beleif apart from bushing, one should also chew their food properly as undigested food may cause acidity which can be a result of bad breath and stain in your teeth.Just like your face ages so do your teeth. Sometimes teeth whitening does not work because the stains are ingrained through food and drink such as wine, tea and coffee or through smoking then dental veneers are an option for you. They are designed to hide any existing stains that cannot be removed by other means and hides any marks on your existing teeth

    • profile image

      Gainesville Dentist  

      9 years ago

      Some whitening materials cause mouth ulcers and cancers, so be careful in choosing your dental products

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Some of the tooth whitening products are actually harmful for your teeth. I just personally try to avoid harmful foods.

    • MikeNV profile image


      10 years ago from Henderson, NV

      If you already have white teeth brushing and flossing is actually all you need. Some people have naturally white teeth. And some people even if they bleach will never get 100% White teeth.

    • profile image

      Smile Tooth Whitening 

      10 years ago

      There are a lot of people who say that brushing works...just takes longer.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      People commenting at my site say that brushing is useless, you really need to use trays...

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Exactly Judy!! I am learning the hard way having just had a crown put in (for the first time) and I realize that bleaching may not be the answer. Proper oral hygeiene and attention to the foods and drinks we consume will help keep them pearly and bright.


    • Judy Cullins profile image

      Judy Cullins 

      10 years ago from La Mesa, CA

      LOve your articl Stephen,

      For us over a certain age, who have bridges with darker colors that won't bleach, how else besides your natural tips can we get them brighter.? I'm not into bleaching per se.

      Judy Cullins at

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Cool idea! Wine wipes. Wonder if you could use them for coffee too? Thanks for the comment!

    • rarobert profile image


      10 years ago

      Very informative hub! I found this really cool product that you might be interested in. It's called Wine Wipes and they are disposable wipes that remove the red wine stain from you teeth and mouth! Check them out at

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Important products and tips. Thank you. There is more on cheap teeth whitening methods here:

    • profile image

      Beauty Blog 

      10 years ago

      Having white theeth is perfet. But I think the best way to have them is in a natural way,. Just using right food and good toothpaste.

    • kismat profile image

      kismat raval 

      11 years ago from vadodara, gujarat, india

      hi dear see my hub

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      11 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Compu- you crack me up! Thanks for passing along the info and I hope your friends' teeth soon look shiny and bright. :-)

    • compu-smart profile image


      11 years ago from London UK


      i have just created a new email and sent to them and i will now keep an eye on their teeth lol :D

    • compu-smart profile image


      11 years ago from London UK

      Excellent tips..

      Here in the UK the goverment have stuff added to the water to help clean our teeth and us brits "not me:) have the yellowist teeth compared to other nations!!

      I do know many people that would love to read this but i would feel like im being rude if i sent them, this page!! lol..

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      11 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you, all, for your comments! prems4u - I don't know about cancers, but certainly there is a possibilty of pain if products are applied improperly at home or by professionals! PenmanZee - I drink a lot of coffee too, and I don't use a straw (LOL). sligobay - glad to bring a smile to your face! And yes, personal hygiene will help keep your smile bright for years to come. Cheers - Steph

    • sligobay profile image


      11 years ago from east of the equator

      My smile brightened just by reading this hub. Great content about an important aspect of personal hygiene and self-improvement.

    • dsasser profile image


      11 years ago from US

      useful info, thanks

    • PenmanZee profile image


      11 years ago

      I'm a heavy tea and coffee drinker and it shows. I sure will use some of these tips. I've already bagged a wife so beauty may not be an issue. Thanks. -:)

    • prems4u profile image


      11 years ago from KERALA Cochin

      Thanks for this beauty tip . But some whitening materials cause mouth ulcers and cancers be careful in choosing your dental products...

    • John Chancellor profile image

      John Chancellor 

      11 years ago from Tennessee

      Lots of great info - well done.


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