Teeth whitening

Have your teeth been appearing more dull and yellow lately? Teeth whitening could probably help you with that! Let’s take a look at how it works

What is teeth whitening

Teeth whitening is a non-invasive process that lightens the color of the tooth and restores the original color. Although whitening and bleaching are used interchangeably, whitening refers to anything that restores the original color of the tooth while bleaching usually indicates making the shade of the tooth lighter than the existing one.

What causes tooth discoloration

Your teeth can discolor overtime due to plenty of reasons. The most common culprits are beverages like coffee, tea and wine. They have a high amount of chromogens that easily get attached to the enamel and stain the teeth. Excessive use of tobacco and smoking is another cause for discoloration. Certain systemic medications are also known to cause staining of the teeth. Other than the external factors, there could be some intrinsic causes like trauma to the teeth or aging process which may make the teeth appear darker. Fortunately, most of these stains can be taken care with the teeth whitening process.

How does teeth whitening work

Most professional teeth whitening kits consist of certain bleaching chemicals like carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. These chemicals release oxygen onto the enamel surface, which in turn breaks down the debris and stains, thus making the tooth lighter in shade.

Types of teeth whitening systems

There are a variety of teeth whitening agents that are currently available in the market. Some of them are outlined below:


  1. Whitening toothpastes


These are toothpastes that contain more abrasives or chemicals like carbamide peroxide, that help in removing stains and making the teeth whiter. They can usually lighten the teeth up-to one or two shades.





  1. Whitening rinses


These are mouth rinses with bleaching agents like hydrogen peroxide in them. They bring about mild lightening in the teeth shade and the difference may be noticeable only after 3 months or so.


  1. Whitening strips and gels


These are thin plastic strips that are coated with carbamide peroxide. They are designed to fit over the outer surfaces of the teeth. They typically need to be applied for 30 minutes, twice a day for 2 weeks. These strips can lighten the teeth by one or two shades. There are also certain peroxide-based gels that are available in the market that can be applied directly onto the teeth.


  1. Tray based teeth whiteners


These are custom fitted trays that are filled with carbamide peroxide. They need to be worn for 2-4 hours or overnight, depending on the concentration of the bleaching agents. They are available both professionally and as over-the-counter systems. The teeth lightening may be visible in a few days with these systems.


  1. In-office bleaching


This is a quick and safe method of teeth whitening that is carried out at the dentist’s office. It is usually recommended in cases of severe discoloration. This involves the use of a high-concentration bleaching agent like 40% carbamide peroxide that is applied onto the teeth. The gums are usually protected with a barrier like rubber dam or gels. To increase the oxidation, the dentist may also use laser light activated systems or other forms of heat. The process may take up-to 60 minutes and may have to be repeated multiple times. The results are usually discernable with a single sitting.

Are there any risks involved

Since most teeth whitening systems are based on strong chemicals, they need to be used with utmost caution. Leaving them on for longer than the recommended duration may damage the teeth and the gums. Whitening the teeth can also cause some amount of sensitivity. However, the sensitivity experienced is usually temporary in nature.


To ensure a smooth teeth whitening process, be sure to follow these precautions:


  • Go through the manufacturer’s instructions if you’re using home based products

  • Do not leave the product on for longer than required

  • Avoid soft drinks, wine or caffeinated beverages immediately after whitening

  • Visit your dentist regularly for proper maintenance