What should I know about tooth bleaching?

Tooth bleaching is one option for whitening your smile. You should discuss your tooth bleaching options with your dentist. He or she can tell you whether the whitening procedure will be effective for you. If you are a candidate for tooth bleaching, some options are:
  • In-office bleaching. This procedure is called chairside bleaching and usually requires only one office visit. The dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect the oral soft tissues. A bleaching agent is then applied to the teeth, and a special light may be used. Lasers have been used during tooth whitening procedures to enhance the action of the whitening agent.
  • At-home bleaching. Peroxide-containing whiteners actually bleach the tooth enamel. They typically come in a gel and are placed in a mouthguard. Usage regimens vary. There are potential side effects, such as increased sensitivity or gum irritation. Speak with your dentist if you have any concerns.
Remember when selecting a whitener or any dental product, be sure to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance -- your assurance that they have met ADA standards of safety and effectiveness.
Tooth bleaching or whitening means any process that will result in whiter teeth. Before you have your teeth bleached, it's important to know the following facts:
  • Whitening products can include bleach that changes the natural color of your teeth.
  • Whitening products may contain peroxide that removes deep stains and surface discolorations.
  • Non-bleaching products work by eliminating surface stains from the teeth.
  • Teeth whitening can be done at the dentist office or at home with over-the-counter (OTC) teeth whiteners. 
  • Teeth whitening will not change the shade of crowns, dentures, or bridges.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), you should only use a bleaching product after you have consulted with a dentist. The dentist will perform a complete oral exam to determine if you will benefit from teeth whitening. The dentist might recommend the type of teeth whitener that is best suited for you. If you choose to use a whitening toothpaste at home, make sure the paste has an ADA Seal of Acceptance and contains only polishing agents, and no bleaches.

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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.