Your Quick Guide to Teeth Whitening

One of the most popular cosmetic dentistry treatments nowadays is teeth whitening. Teeth whitening is an affordable, quick, and non-invasive way of enhancing your smile. Valued universally by women and men alike, teeth whitening can satisfy every temperament, timeframe, and budget.

Those who use teeth whitening solutions experience moderate to dramatic improvement in the whiteness and brightness of their smile. That said, it is not considered as a permanent solution to discoloration. It will also require “touch-ups” or maintenance to achieve a long-term effect.

Whitening vs Bleaching: Differentiating One from the Other

According to the FDA, bleaching is only used when the teeth can be whitened beyond its natural color. This also strictly applies to products that contain bleach such as carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide. Whitening on the other hand refers to the restoration of surface color by removing debris and dirt.

Technically speaking, products that are used to clean the teeth like toothpaste are considered a whitener. Since the term whitening sounds better than bleaching, it is often the term used even when referring to the use of products that contain bleach. In-office whitening uses fast-acting and powerful hydrogen peroxide.

When used in teeth bleaching, concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can range from nine to forty percent. By contrast, bleach used for at-home teeth whitening is the slower-acting carbamide peroxide, which eventually breaks down into hydrogen peroxide. Carbamide peroxide only has a third of the strength of hydrogen peroxide.

Teeth Whitening Risks

Teeth whitening treatments are deemed safe. However, it also comes with certain risks everyone should be aware of. In some cases, teeth whitening can cause:


While only temporary, sensitivity to touch, pressure, and temperature can be experienced after teeth whitening or bleaching. Often, this is the case when higher-concentration bleach is used. Some patients also report zingers or spontaneous shooting pains down in the middle of the front teeth.

Individuals with the greatest risk for sensitivity are those with leakage from faulty restorations, significant teeth cracks, and gum recession. Whitening sensitivity often lasts a day or two but can persist for up to a month. Some dentists will recommend a toothpaste that contains potassium nitrate for sensitive teeth.

Gum Irritation

At least half of those who use peroxide whiteners experience some level of gum irritation that results from contact with the trays or from bleach concentration. Such irritation can last for several days and can dissipate after the peroxide concentration has been lowered or the bleaching has been stopped.

Technicolor Teeth

Restorations such as veneers, dental crowns, or bonding will not be affected by bleach. That said, they will retain their default color even if the surrounding teeth are whitened. This can result in what is referred to as “technicolor teeth.”

Maintaining Your Results

To ensure the longevity of your newly whitened teeth, the following might be recommended:

  • Maintenance whitening or at-home follow-up – This can be done once a year or implemented immediately.
  • Avoiding dark-colored foods and beverages – You need to avoid dark-colored foods and beverages for a week after your whitening procedure.
  • Use straw – Whenever possible, use straw when sipping dark-colored beverages.
  • Practice proper oral hygiene – Make sure you brush and floss your teeth regularly after meals and before bedtime. It is also recommended that you visit your dentist regularly for routine check-ups.