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How can I whiten my teeth if I have stains on them?

You might be pleasantly surprised by how much brighter your teeth can be when cleaned by a hygienist. You'll never know if it's the internal color of the teeth that's the problem, or if it's something superficial that can be easily cleaned by a professional.

Then you can discuss how to keep stains off your teeth, or what might be the best approach to lightening them with at-home or in-office whitening materials.

Be careful of high-potency whitening toothpastes. Many of them are quite abrasive, and can damage your teeth with prolonged use. If you get tough stains on your teeth from smoking or tea, or similar, occasional use of polishing toothpaste can keep your teeth brighter in between hygiene visits.

If you want whiter teeth, the first thing you need to do is talk to your dentist. Your dentist will examine your mouth to make sure your teeth are healthy. If they are, your dentist may discuss in-office bleaching with you or you may decide to whiten your teeth yourself at home. If you choose to do it yourself, look for whitening products that carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance so you know they have been thoroughly evaluated for safety and effectiveness.

Peggy Rosen
Dentist
To whiten your teeth that has stain; the best and quickest way is to have the stain removed by the dentist or dental hygiene first. Then you will consider whether you want the dentist to bleach your teeth or you want to do it yourself at home.

One advantage of having the dentist bleaching your teeth is that the dentist can use higher strength bleaching solution: your teeth can be whiter within a short period of time. 
There are a few basic options if you want to whiten stained teeth. They include:
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) whiteners. Tooth whiteners sold without a prescription contain a mild bleach solution that change the color of your teeth to a lighter shade. Most products include a gel that's applied to a tooth tray, which you insert into your mouth for a few minutes at a time. You can purchase OTC tooth whiteners in a pharmacy or obtain them from your dentist You can also buy "whitening" toothpaste, though these products primarily remove stains and don't change the color of a tooth.
  • Professionally applied whiteners. Dentists can apply tooth whiteners that contain a higher concentration of bleach. A big advantage having a dentist-applied tooth whitener is time: The procedure takes about an hour, while you need to use at-home kits daily for several weeks. Some dentists use lasers as part of the procedure, which may increase a whitener's effectiveness.
Regardless of which type of whitener you choose, talk to your dentist first.
Safe whitening options vary in price and how well they work:

Chairside bleaching or "power bleaching." In your dentist's office, he or she applies a gel or rubber shield to protect your gums and oral tissues. Then bleach is put on your teeth. Ask if the bleaching agents have the ADA seal. A special light or a laser may be used to help the bleach work better. But no products that use lasers are accepted right now by the ADA. With this method you may have to go for more than one visit. It works well on a range of stains.Dentist-dispensed and over-the-counter bleaching products. These products are for home use. They contain peroxide(s), which bleach the tooth enamel. Most come in a gel and are placed in a mouth guard or tray that fits inside your mouth. How long you use them depends on the results you're looking for and if you are sensitive to the bleach. Some products are used twice a day for 2 weeks, and others are used overnight for 1 to 2 weeks. They help many types of staining. Your teeth turn about six shades brighter with long-lasting results. But only the dentist-dispensed solutions have the ADA seal.

Over-the-counter whitening products. These products are for home use and include whitening strips, paint-on products, gels, and trays. They have a low amount of peroxide. You wear some during the day and apply some at night before bedtime. They can help staining due to age and certain foods. Your teeth turn about two shades brighter for up to 6 months. For better results, have a cleaning at the dentist before you use these products. These gels and trays do not have the ADA seal.

Whitening toothpastes. All toothpastes help remove surface stain through mild abrasives. "Whitening" toothpastes that have the ADA seal have special polishing agents that remove even more stains. Unlike bleaches, these products do not change the actual color of teeth. They help surface stains only.

Products used to whiten teeth can make teeth more sensitive. They can also bother your gums. These side effects most often go away after you stop using the product.

Before using whitening products, talk with your dentist. He or she can help you decide which method is best for the type of stains on your teeth. Not all products work on all people.

The answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.