Teeth Whitening - Cost, Types, Results & Risks (2023)


On this page

  • Candidacy
  • Cost
  • Choosing a Provider
  • Types
  • Popular Brands
  • In-Office Process
  • Take-Home Process
  • Professional vs. Over-the-Counter
  • Combining with Other Treatments
  • Maintenance
  • Benefits
  • Risks
  • Side Effects
  • Safety Data
  • Alternatives
  • FAQs

Millions of people suffer from dental discoloration to varying degrees. Even those who brush, floss, and visit the dentist regularly may find that food, environmental factors, and the passage of time will eventually take their toll on the natural radiance of their teeth. Fortunately, professional teeth whitening is an incredibly effective way tolighten or altogether eliminate stains and achieve a naturally white smile.

Today, you have more whitening options than ever before. Although there are many over-the-counter products to choose from, professional, dentist-supervisedtreatment is safer and offers more dependable results. Many cosmetic dentists offer both in-office and at-home treatment options from reputable, trustedmanufacturers.

Results vary depending on your dental health and the treatment you choose. However, the vast majority of patients have been satisfied with the outcome oftheir whitening treatment. Side effects are rare and mild, and the treatment is convenient and non-invasive. Following a professional whitening regimen,you could enjoy a dramatically improved smile and a huge boost of self-confidence.

In many cases, the terms "whitening" and "bleaching" are used interchangeably. Technically, however, any product thatremoves food or debris from teeth can be classified as a "whitening" product. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the term"bleaching" can only be used when a product contains bleach (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). Bleaching can lighten teeth beyond their naturalshade. As oxygen molecules penetrate your dental enamel, they will break apart the chemical bonds between stains.


Teeth whitening is a low-risk procedure, and therefore it is suitable for a wide range of patients. Candidates for teeth whitening typically have mild tomoderate discoloration, and they want to achieve a sparkling smile. However, there are certain factors that may preclude patients from being goodcandidates for treatment. These include:

  • Patients with fabrications or restorations on the front facing teeth (such as porcelain veneers, dental crowns, or dental bonding): Unlike natural teeth, restorative material does not respond to bleaching agents. Typically, if these patients do choose teeth whitening, they will alsoneed replace their restorations. The new crowns or veneers will match the enhanced color of their smile.
  • Patients with intrinsic stains: Intrinsic stains are gray discolorations, white spots on the teeth, or discoloration that results from a "dead" tooth. These stains affect theunderlying layers of the tooth. In general, teeth whitening is most effective on extrinsic stains (the yellow or brown stains) that affect the outerenamel. However, new KöR® Whitening Deep Bleaching™ can target both extrinsic and intrinsic stains.
  • Patients with extreme tooth sensitivity or worn enamel: Whitening may exacerbate these conditions.
  • Patients with bruxism or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD): Whitening trays may worsen these conditions. If patients with these health concerns wish to lighten their smiles, they may be better candidates forin-office whitening.

Ready to take the next step? Find a cosmetic dentist in your area


The final cost of teeth whitening will vary, depending on the type of whitening you choose, your dentist, the duration of your treatment, and more.

Average Costs

The type of whitening is the biggest factor when it comes to calculating the cost of your treatment.

  • Over-the-counter treatments typically range from $5 to $50. Although these methods are the cheapest form of whitening, they are also the leasteffective. Additionally, some whitening products (especially the very inexpensive ones) may contain dangerously high levels of peroxide. In general, if itseems too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Take-home treatments typically cost between $200 and $400. The final figure will include the cost of whitening trays and gel. If you require alonger treatment, your final cost will be on the higher end of the spectrum.
  • In-office whitening can run anywhere from $300 to $1000. The full total will depend on the number of sessions you undergo and whether you choose amore advanced treatment, such as laser whitening.

For each of these methods, there are various brands that are fairly comparable. However, their prices will fluctuate slightly.


Teeth-whitening is an elective procedure. Although it can have dramatic benefits for your appearance and self-confidence, whitening is not necessary foryour oral health. Nevertheless, this does not mean that teeth whitening will fall outside of your budget. There are numerous whitening options that canmake a dazzling smile a reality.

In-Office Financing

Many dentists offer in-house repayment plans. Because whitening treatment is an affordable procedure to begin with, you can typically pay off the full costof the procedure within a few months. Additionally, many dentists offer whitening promotions and specials. For example, some practitioners will offer freetouch-up treatments or discounts if you pay in full before you begin treatment.

However, be cautious about dentists who frequently offer incredibly steepdiscounts. If a dentist is working that hard to drum up business, it could indicate a safety problem with his or her practice. Whitening is very safe whenperformed by an experienced practitioner. However, when it is not properly administered, it could cause long-term sensitivity and gum irritation. Again, ifit seems too good to be true, be skeptical.

Third-Party Financing

You may also qualify for third-party financing through a bank or another lender. Often, patients use medical financing companies such as CompassionateFinance® to obtain cosmetic dentistry loans. These companies provide fixed, low, and even no-interest repayment plans with approved credit. Theadministrative team at your dentists' office can usually help you find a lender that meets your budget. They can also assist you with any requiredpaperwork.

Tax Deductible

Although whitening treatment is not covered by insurance, in a few cases, it may be tax deductible. For example, if you are an entertainer, model, orbroadcast journalist, a whiter smile could enhance your career. Therefore, it could be considered a business expense. Your dentist will not be able toanswer questions about taxes. However, it is something to consider and research when calculating the cost of your treatment.

How to Choose a Whitening Provider

A large number of dentists offer teeth whitening. However, because the treatment can have such dramatic results for your overall appearance andself-confidence, it is important to be selective as you choose a cosmetic dentist.

Experience and Treatments

When researching a dentist, you should first make sure that he or she is properly accredited. For optimal results and safety, look for a practitioner whois certified by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. You should also choose a dentist who performs teeth whitening on a regular basis. If you areinterested in a particular method, such as laser whitening or KöR® Whitening Deep Bleaching™, inquire about these techniques before youmake your final selection.

Past Results and Reputation

Many cosmetic dentists have galleries of past treatments. Take a look at these pictures and ask yourself if you like the final results. Is there anoticeable difference before and after treatment? Do the patients' smiles look natural and healthy? Ask friends for recommendations. Your regular dentistmay also be able to refer you to a cosmetic specialist. For further assistance, use DocShop's handy search tool.

Personal Connection

You will want to choose a dentist with whom you feel at ease. Although teeth whitening is a short treatment, you may want to return to the same dentist forroutine touchups. Additionally, you are more likely to enjoy optimal results when you feel comfortable with your dentist. Therefore, you should selectsomeone who truly listens to your needs and goals. Never choose a dentist who pressures you to undergo more cosmetic treatments than you actually want.

The Initial Consultation

Before beginning any dental treatment, you will have a complete consultation with your cosmetic dentist. To decide whether teeth whitening will work wellfor you, your dentist will first examine your teeth and gums. After determining your candidacy for treatment, you will discuss your goals and likelyresults. Your dentist will want to help you achieve natural-looking, satisfying results. With realistic expectations for treatment, you are more likely tobe pleased with your outcome. You will also discuss your budget and lifestyle.

With this information, your dentist can help you decide whether in-office orat-home whitening is the right option for you. Finally, he or she will perform a shade analysis. Your dentist will match your smile to a shade guide bothbefore and after treatment. By documenting your transformation, you will be able to see the measurable difference in the color of your teeth.

Types of Whitening

When you are looking to lighten your smile, you have many options to choose from.

Over-the-Counter Methods

As stated above, over-the-counter methods are the cheapest form of whitening. These methods can include:

  • Toothpastes: These products strictly whiten and will not bleach your teeth. Whitening toothpastes have a mildly abrasive effect, and some can lighten teeth by up toone shade.
  • Gel: Whitening gel can offer comparable results to strips. The exact treatment regimen will depend on the type and strength of gel you choose.
  • Rinses: Whitening mouthwash contains small amounts of peroxide. You will use these rinses just as you would use a traditional anti-bacterial mouthwash. Manyexperts believe that whitening rinses are not as effective as other methods, since the peroxide is only in contact with your teeth for about 60seconds.
  • Pre-made whitening trays: Store bought whitening trays often fit uncomfortably. Because they are not customized for your smile, the gel may ooze out and irritate your gumtissue. Dental professionals recommend dentist-provided trays instead.
  • Strips: Whitening strips are thin pieces of plastic coated in peroxide. You will attach the strips to the front of your teeth, and you will wear them about 30minutes a day for two weeks. The results typically last around four months. Most experts and consumers agree that whitening strips are the mosteffective form of do-it-yourself whitening.

At-Home Care

Dentist-prescribed whitening offers much more dramatic results than over-the-counter products. At the same time, it is still quite affordable, making it anexcellent investment in your smile. If you choose this method, you will receive custom-made whitening trays. They will fit comfortably in your mouth, andyou will fill them with whitening gel. This gel will use a lower concentration of peroxide than in-office treatment. Therefore, the procedure will poselittle risk for gum sensitivity, even without complete dentist supervision. You will wear the trays for 30 minutes to several hours every day, depending onyour dentist's instructions and the whitening method you use. You could also choose overnight whitening.

Although take-home whitening is quite effective, in-office care usually offers the most dramatic results

In-Office Whitening

Although take-home whitening is quite effective, in-office care usually offers the most dramatic results. Your dentist will use whitening gel with a muchstronger concentration of peroxide. After an hour or less, the gel will break apart the bonds between stained molecules, giving you a dramatically brightersmile. Many dentists use lasers or specially formatted lights to achieve optimal results. The high-power light will activate the gel, allowing the oxygento penetrate your teeth more thoroughly. Your dentist may also combine in-office and take-home methods for more dramatic and long-lasting results.

Popular Professional Whitening Brands

With the increasing popularity of teeth whitening, more and more manufacturers have developed their own bleaching products. Most companies offer bothin-office and at-home options in various strengths.

Philips Zoom!®

Philips Zoom!® is perhaps the most well-known teeth whitening brand. In-office treatment uses whitening gel with a 25 percent concentration ofperoxide. Additionally, chairside whitening utilizes a proprietary blue light, which stimulates the whitening process. If you choose take-home Zoom!®,you can choose from Day White Maximum White and Nite White Maximum White. The whitening gel used in both has a unique formula to give you smoother, moresparkling enamel.

Philips also offers several other options to meet patients' unique needs. For example, Day White Gentle contains ACP and potassium nitrate to combatsensitivity. Nite White Quick 3-Day may be the optimal solution for patients who need a fast change before a big event.


BriteSmile® is strictly an office-based treatment. Dentists have been using this method of whitening for over a decade. Like Philips Zoom!®, thetreatment uses a combination of whitening gel and a blue light to achieve dramatic results. To further protect your sensitive gum tissue, the gel onlycontains about 15 percent peroxide. It also has a nearly neutral pH level. BriteSmile® takes about one hour to complete. Your dentist will apply thewhitening gel three times, and it will remain on your teeth for about 20 minutes each time.


Opalescence offers a wide range of treatment options. In-office treatment uses a powerful gel with a 40 percent concentration of peroxide. Despite the highlevels of peroxide, it also contains potassium nitrate to reduce sensitivity. Added fluoride can also strengthen enamel and help to prevent decay.Opalescence® also makes custom-made whitening trays, as well as pre-made trays, available only through your cosmetic dentist.


LUMIBRITE is specially designed to achieve dramatic results with minimal sensitivity. The treatment combines whitening gel with the Sapphire Plasma ArcCuring and Whitening Light. The light does not use harmful UV rays, and the gel is strong enough that it can work on its own, even without the light.LUMIBRITE Desensitizing Gel also helps to prevent discomfort during and after treatment.

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GLO Science Professional

GLO Science Professional uses a Guided Light Optics (G.L.O.) mouthpiece, combined with whitening gel, to lighten patients' smiles. The mouthpiece willdeliver both heat and light to the treatment area to prevent oxygen from escaping and to maximize the strength of the gel. The entire treatment takes about40 minutes, and it can achieve dramatic results. When you complete your treatment, you will be able to take the mouthpiece home for safe routine touchups.

KöR® Whitening Deep Bleaching™

KöR® Deep Bleaching™ is an innovative new treatment that combines both in-office and at-home methods to achieve outstandingresults. KöR® is the only method of whitening that can target both intrinsic and extrinsic stains. The process can lighten your teeth by up to 16shades. Best of all, the results are permanent. You can continue to enjoy coffee, red wine, and other stain-producing substances will no ill-effects on thecolor of your smile. KöR® does cost significantly more than other forms of whitening. However, because you will not need touch-up treatments, itcan be an economical choice in the long run.

The In-Office Whitening Process

In-office bleaching is the safest and most effective form of teeth whitening treatment available. Treatments, including ZOOM!® Whitening,BriteSmile®, Rembrandt®, and other popular brands, are generally performed in following four stages:

Preparing Your Teeth

Before beginning your in-office treatment, your dental hygienist will clean your teeth and gums. This will ensure that food particles, bacteria, and tartardo not interfere with the power of the bleaching agent.

Applying the Whitening Agent

After the initial prep work, your dentist will apply the whitening gel to the surface of your teeth. There is a lot of precision and thought involved inthis step. Your dentist will brush the whitening solution onto all exposed surfaces of your smile. He or she will evenly cover your dental enamel so yourresults appear natural and seamless.

It is important that the whitening solution does not come into contact with your gums

It is important that the whitening solution does not come into contact with your gums. If not properly applied, the solution can irritate your softtissues. This is why your dentist will typically place a protective barrier over your gums. Once the barrier is in place, he or she will apply thewhitening gel.

Letting the Whitening Gel Work

The gel will remain on your teeth for a prescribed amount of time. Depending on which treatment you select, your dentist may use a specialized light toactivate the whitening agent. Typically, the longer your enamel is exposed to the bleaching gel, the more dramatic your results will be. Most treatmentsare performed in intervals. Typically, your dentist will apply the gel three times, with five to ten minutes between each application. The gel will remainon your teeth for about fifteen minutes before your dentist removes the layer and applies a new round of whitening agent. Your smile may be up to eightshades lighter after just one hour.

Additional Treatments

Your dentist may recommend multiple treatments in order to help you achieve desirable cosmetic results. Most patients require at least two in-officewhitening treatments in order to reach their cosmetic goals. Additionally, the whiteness of your smile may fade over time. You may want to undergotreatment every few months or years to maintain treatment results.

Many dentists offer "lifetime" whitening when patients pay for their procedures in full. With this special offer, you will receive take-home whiteningtrays and gel to perform routine touch-ups. At your initial consultation, you should consult with your doctor on the promotions that he or she is currentlyoffering.

The Take-Home Whitening Process

Take-home teeth whitening treatments are another way to dramatically improve the luster of your smile. Because this type of whitening treatment isdentist-supervised, it is safe and effective. This method uses custom-made trays to deliver whitening gel to your smile Take-home treatments generallyinvolve the following four stages:

Customizing Your Whitening Trays

In order to tailor whitening treatment to your needs, your dentist will create impressions of your teeth. Lab technicians will use these measurements tocreate whitening trays that fit comfortably and securely in your mouth. After the aligners are finished, your dentist will check to see that the fitproperly. He or she will then educate you about the best ways to use and care for your trays.

Applying the Whitening Agent

Typically, you will place whitening gel directly into the bleaching tray using a syringe. Then you will fit the whitening tray over your teeth. At thattime, the gel will evenly cover the surfaces of your teeth and oxygen molecules will start to penetrate your enamel. Because your tray will fit securelyaround your teeth, the whitening agent should remain inside while your tray is in place.

The duration of your treatment will depend on the strength of the whitening gel

Letting the Whitening Gel Work

The duration of your treatment will depend on the strength of the whitening gel. Generally, you should wear your tray daily anywhere from 15 minutes to onehour. For your convenience, you could also select overnight whitening treatment. The full treatment regimen will last about two weeks.

Additional Treatments

Your dentist may advise you to perform teeth whitening treatments every few months, or whenever stains begin to reappear. You should only perform touch-uptreatments with the guidance and advice of your dentist. Over-whitening can cause permanent enamel erosion. Additionally, you should stop whitening yourteeth if you are pregnant. The whitening agent contains chemicals that can harm your baby if swallowed.

Professional vs. Over-the-Counter Whitening

With the ever- growing popularity of teeth whitening treatment, dentists around the globe are offering a greater variety of bleaching systems.Additionally, the ability to whiten your smile has become a high demand. More manufacturers are placing whitening agents in polishes, fluorides, strips,and other hygienic products. Nevertheless, the use of certain bleaching products can actually harm your dental health.

Dentist-supervised whitening systemsare safer for your enamel. They are also more effective at penetrating and removing deep-set stains. If you do choose to whiten your teeth yourself, youshould only choose products that bear the American Dental Academy® seal of approval.

Make the Investment in Your Smile

Although dentist-provided whitening does cost more than over-the-counter methods, professional treatment is a worthwhile investment. Not only will it havestunning results for your appearance and self-confidence; it could save you money in the long run. Unsafe or improper use of whitening products couldnecessitate costly restorative treatment.

Combining Whitening with Other Treatments

Although teeth whitening can achieve outstanding results on its own, cosmetic dentists often perform whitening in conjunction with other procedures. Inthis way, they can more thoroughly transform your smile. Some of the most common procedures to combine include:

Porcelain Veneers

Dental veneers can be a great way to conceal severe intrinsic stains, which do not respond to traditional whitening treatment. They can also reshape yourteeth, close gaps in your smile, conceal erosion, and make minor orthodontic adjustments. These thin shells will be custom-made to match your smile, andthey will attach directly to the front of your teeth. Like many patients, you may choose to have a veneer placed on one or two teeth, while you enhance therest of your smile with whitening treatment. In this case, your dentist will perform whitening first, so your veneers will match the new color of yourteeth.

Want to learn more about Porcelain Veneers?

Remember that veneers will not respond to future whitening. Therefore, it is important to stay up-to-date with your touch-up treatments. By maintaining thewhiter shade of your smile, you can ensure that your natural enamel and veneers will still match.


With dental bonding, your dentist can perform many of the same functions that he or she can with porcelain veneers. Your practitioner will applytooth-colored composite resin to your teeth. He or she will carefully sculpt the material so that it covers up cosmetic flaws and matches the shape of yourteeth. After hardening the material with a curing light, he or she will polish your teeth to give them a natural luster. Again, if you choose bonding inconjunction with whitening, your dentist will typically perform whitening first. You will also need to maintain your routine touch-ups.

Want to learn more about Dental Bonding?


Dentists typically recommend more conservative treatments, such as veneers or bonding, to correct aesthetic concerns. However, if you have a severelycompromised tooth, a porcelain crown may be a better option. Crowns are tooth-shaped caps that fit over your natural tooth. In the past, crowns were alwaysmade of metal. Today, dentists also offer restorations made of porcelain, zirconia, and other state-of-the-art materials. These restorations will matchyour nearby teeth and further enhance your whiter smile.

Want to learn more about Dental Crowns?

Orthodontic Treatment

Like many patients, you may desire both whiter and straighter teeth. Teeth whitening can be a great option after traditional braces come off. Many braceswearers experience significant dental discoloration. This is because metal brackets and wires can easily trap food and bacteria. However, even if youchoose an alternative form of orthodontia, such as Invisalign®, whitening can further enhance your healthy smile. In most cases, dentists will performwhitening after your orthodontic care is complete.

Want to learn more about Orthodontic Treatments?

Smile Makeover

Whenever you combine two or more cosmetic treatments, this is referred to as a smile makeover. Teeth whitening is one of the most common treatments toinclude in a makeover. It is often the finishing touch for the treatment. In addition to the treatments mentioned above, a smile makeover could include gumcontouring, dental contouring, fillings, and restorative treatments. Your dentist will discuss your options, and help you select the right procedures foryour goals.

Want to learn more about Smile Makeovers?


Just as every patient's smile is unique, the results of teeth whitening treatment will vary. Although most patients are pleased with the results, they arenot 100 percent predictable. There are several factors which contribute to the overall outcome of teeth whitening treatment. The final color of a patient'ssmile will depend on several factors. These include:

  • The severity of the stains
  • The level of the tooth the stains reside on
  • Lifestyle and dietary habits
  • The type of teeth whitening system used
  • The number of treatments a patient undergoes
  • Whether the patient wears whitening trays as directed (in cases of at-home teeth whitening)

What You Can Expect

Although results are different for each person, following treatment, you should notice a definite improvement in your smile. Most whitening manufacturerstell patients that their smiles may be lighter by six to eight shades. As stated above, KöR® Deep Bleaching™ can lighten yoursmile by up to 16 shades. If you choose in-office treatment, you should notice your results immediately. With at-home care, the results will appeargradually as you progress through the course of your treatment.


Although treatment results can be instantaneous, stains may reappear in the months and years following professional teeth whitening. Because treatment doesnot make your smile less susceptible to staining, you may need routine whitening treatments in the future to maintain desirable results. Nevertheless,there are several ways that you can protect your white smile and prolong the effects of your treatment.

Dental Hygiene

The most important thing you can do to protect your smile is to maintain good dental habits. Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Although you shouldcertainly brush after meals, dentists advise you to wait about 30 minutes before you do. If you brush immediately after eating, you will rubstain-producing molecules and harmful sugars into your soft dental enamel. Instead, rinse your mouth with water right after a meal. You should also flossand use antibacterial mouthwash daily. Be sure to schedule your biannual exams and cleanings.

Stain-Producing Habits

Certain habits can increase your risk for discoloration, as well as the severity of dental stains. To protect your white smile, you should avoid thefollowing:

  • Smoking
  • Routine consumption of black tea, soda, coffee, and red wine
  • Frequent consumption of berries, tomato sauce, soy sauce, and other highly pigmented foods
  • Frequent consumption of citrus, fruit juices, and other acidic food and drink

Additionally, certain medications can cause dental stains. Talk to your doctor or dentist to find out if you can combat the effects of these medications.

Touch-up Treatments

Even with careful maintenance and lifestyle changes, teeth will typically darken over time. For optimal results, you should maintain regular whiteningtouchups. In most cases, you will require touchups every six months or so. However, the exact time frame varies for each person. You may be able to wait afull year before touching up, or you may benefit from treatment after four months. In either case, you should never perform whitening without therecommendation of your dentist. Too much whitening can cause permanent sensitivity and enamel erosion.


A dazzling, white smile is the hallmark of professional teeth whitening. When you choose bleaching treatments, the results are beautiful andnatural-looking. Many times the treatment can make you look significantly younger and healthier.

Improved Confidence

The benefits of teeth whitening extend beyond your appearance. In-office or take-home whitening treatments have both physical and emotional effects. Yourwhiter smile can positively affect other people's perceptions of you, as well as your own self-esteem. The procedure is meant to accentuate your facialfeatures and natural beauty. With your whiter teeth, you may be more willing to smile and laugh in public. In turn, this can have important benefits foryour professional and social life.

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Quick Results

Whether you choose to undergo treatment in the convenience of your home or the comfort of your dentist's office, teeth whitening is a quick and convenientway to brighten the natural pigmentation of your teeth.

  • Professional take-home systems allow you to whiten your smile at your own convenience. Typically, you will use an in-home system over several weeks.However, in some cases, you may require longer treatment to achieve optimal results.
  • Through in-office, doctor supervised treatments, you can achieve a whiter smile in as little as an hour. Office treatment often has slightly moredramatic results that at-home care; in some cases, it can lighten your teeth by up to eight shades in an hour.

Safe and Non-invasive

Bleaching is one of the most non-invasive cosmetic dentistry procedures on the market. Therefore, the treatments is a wonderful option for patients withdental anxiety, as well as those who want to avoid lengthy treatment. It is also more affordable and far less invasive than other cosmetic dentistryprocedures, such as crowns or porcelain veneers.


Teeth whitening has very few long-term risks. Nevertheless, if you are considering using whitening products, whether professional-grade orover-the-counter, consult your dentist first. When a dentist is aware of pre-existing conditions and your dental health history, he or she can take stepsto minimize potential damage. Though rare, the risks of teeth whitening include:

  • Permanent gum or tooth sensitivity
  • Damage to your dental roots
  • Enamel erosion
  • Uneven results
  • Damage to the mucous membranes in your mouth

Minimizing Your Risks

Typically, whitening-related damage results from over-whitening, improper use of whitening agents, unsafe concentrations of peroxide, or problems with theprotective seal over your gums. To minimize your risks, choose professional whitening treatment, performed by an experienced cosmetic dentist. Follow yourpractitioner's instructions precisely, and never perform extra whitening treatment without your dentist's approval.

Teeth Whitening Addiction

With the advent of at-home treatment options, teeth whitening addiction is a growing problem. Patients with this addition, sometimes referred to as"bleachorexia," never feel that their smile is white enough. As a result, they continually whiten their teeth without the approval of their dentists.Sometimes, they will visit several dentists, hiding their past whitening treatment from each practitioner. In other cases, they will use over-the-counterwhitening products, many of which contain unsafe levels of peroxide. Eventually they strip away the enamel from their teeth. They may also have chemicalburns on their soft tissues. They may even have irritated sinus passages from constantly breathing in the bleach fumes. Again, these risks are rare, andthey are typically associated with over-whitening or improper whitening.

Temporary Side Effects

Although teeth whitening rarely causes long term damage, temporary sensitivity is not uncommon. If you experience any discomfort following your treatment,your dentist can often help you to minimize irritation.

Tooth Sensitivity

Dental sensitivity is the most common side effect of teeth whitening. It will typically dissipate within a few days of your treatment. While there is noway to predict who may develop the condition, certain patients face a higher risk for post-whitening sensitivity. You are more likely to experience thisside effect if you:

  • Already have sensitive teeth
  • Notice changes in the sensitivity of your teeth following a hygienic cleaning
  • Experience sensitivity following brushing, flossing, or fluoride treatments

You can manage and decrease sensitivity with gentle cleansing products and as toothpastes. If you experience irritation, you should also abstain fromtouch-up treatments until otherwise instructed by your dentist. If the level of your sensitivity increases and begins to affect your daily routine, consultwith your dental practitioner.

Gum Irritation

Gum irritation is one of the most common side effects associated with teeth whitening. This condition may result from:

  • Using an ill-fitting bleaching tray
  • Failure of the protective barrier during in-office treatment
  • Overuse of a whitening agent

Undergoing teeth whitening treatments with an experienced cosmetic dentist will help to minimize risks and side effects. Most professional at-hometreatments use custom-made trays. Your dentist or lab technicians will craft the bleaching tray from a mold of your bite. In this way, your dentist canhelp to ensure that the whitening gel does not come in contact with your gum tissue.

Safety Data

In its September 2009 report, the American Dental Academy® addressed the safety of teeth whitening treatment. According to the ADA Council onScientific Affairs:

  • Over 20 years, dental professionals collected information about professional at-home teeth whitening. According to their study, there are nolong-term health risks when the whitening agent contains a carbamide peroxide concentration of 10 percent or less (or a hydrogen peroxide concentration of3.5 percent or less.)
  • As many as two-thirds of all whitening patients experience mild to moderate sensitivity in the early stages of treatment. Sensitivity correlates tothe concentration of peroxide and the length of time the whitening agent remains on a patient's teeth.
  • In 2005, the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) declared that at-home whitening products containing up to 6 percent hydrogenperoxide are safe for use. They noted that patients should consult with their dentists before using these products.
  • The ADA concluded that there is not enough information regarding teeth whitening and pregnancy. They recommend that expectant mothers delaywhitening until after their babies are born.[1]

Alternatives to Teeth Whitening

If you are not a candidate for teeth whitening, or if you have severe intrinsic stains, you can still enjoy a bright and dazzling smile. There are severalalternative treatments to choose from. Your dentist will examine your dental health and discuss your treatment goals to help you choose the right procedurefor your smile. Some of your options include:

Porcelain Veneers

Rather than lightening stains, porcelain veneers completely conceal them. These thin shells can be an especially effective option if dark internal stainsmar your smile. At the same time, they can cover up a number of additional flaws, including chips, worn edges, cracks, gaps in your smile, and more. Yourdentist will provide custom-crafted veneers that match the shape and natural healthy color of your teeth.


Bonding, like veneers, can transform intrinsically stained teeth. When your dentist places composite resin over your teeth, the material will cover updiscoloration and other flaws. Your dentist will carefully select the shade of resin that matches your teeth. Then he or she will sculpt and polish thematerial to give it a natural shine.

Tooth-Colored Fillings

Dark intrinsic stains often appear because of certain medications. In some cases, however, they may be the result of past dental fillings. Over the years,metal will start to show through your teeth, giving your smile a gray tint. Your dentist can remove old fillings and replace them with a composite resinrestoration. He or she will select the material that most closely resembles the natural shade of your teeth. In addition to the cosmetic benefits,tooth-colored fillings have some important advantages for your dental health. The material will form a stronger bond with your tooth. Additionally, unlikemetal, it will not expand and contract with temperature variations.

Snap-On Smile®

The Snap-On Smile® is a custom-crafted set of teeth that fits directly on top of your existing teeth. It can completely transform your smile with noneed for extensive treatment. Many patients use the Snap-On Smile® as a temporary measure. They can enjoy a brighter, healthier-looking smile as theyprepare for a smile makeover or another treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I too old for teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening can benefit adults of all ages. However, whitening gel will not lighten dental restorations. Therefore, if you have crowns or bridges thatshow when you smile, whitening may not be the optimal treatment for you. Additionally, if your gums have gotten more sensitive with age, you may not be agood candidate for whitening. Your dentist will help you discover whether this is the right procedure for your needs.

Can teens undergo teeth whitening?
Responsible teens who have their permanent teeth can receive teeth whitening with their dentist's approval. Most dentists recommend that adolescents waituntil their late teens before receiving the treatment. The exception to this is KöR® Whitening Deep Bleaching™. Younger teens around age 14or so are often the best candidates for this treatment, since their teeth are able to absorb oxygen more effectively.

Which type of whitening is right for me?
Both in-office and at-home professional whitening can be great options. There is no "right" or "wrong" choice when it comes to dentist-provided treatment.In general, in-office whitening may be a better choice if you are looking for the fastest and most dramatic results possible. If you already have somedental sensitivity, you are likely to be a better candidate for office care. At-home treatment may be the optimal choice if you are on a budget or you wantto whiten your teeth in the convenience of your own home. Your dentist will provide a thorough consultation and help you choose the right treatment foryour budget, lifestyle, and dental health.

How long will my results last?
Results are different for each patient, although you will eventually experience some re-staining. Depending on your dental health and diet, your resultscould last up to a year. However, if you are naturally predisposed to dental stains, or if you routinely consume stain-producing food and drink, you maybenefit from touch-up treatments every few months. KöR® Whitening Deep Bleaching™ is the only method of teeth whitening that canyield permanent results.

Can I just rinse with peroxide to whiten my teeth?
Despite what you may have heard, you should never rinse your mouth with peroxide! Doing so will cause serious damage for your teeth and oral tissues. Itwill also do little to improve the color of your smile.

Are my teeth more susceptible to stains after whitening treatment?
Yes, your teeth will be more sensitive to stain-causing foods and drinks for the first few days after your treatment. Teeth whitening dehydrates your teethfor 24 to 48 hours, making them more porous. If you must consume coffee, tea, or wine, it is best to do so through a straw.

What can I do to lighten my implants, crowns, or bridge?
Although restorative materials are not typically susceptible to stains, smoking and other factors can cause discoloration. Unfortunately, whiteningtreatment will not remove these stains. Your dentist may be able to eliminate discoloration by buffing the restorations with a non-abrasive cleaningsolution. To correct severe discoloration, your dentist may recommend an entirely new restoration.

[1] ADA Council on Scientific Affairs. Tooth Whitening/Bleaching: Treatment Considerations for Dentists and Their Patients. (American DentalAssociation, 2009)


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