Pros and Cons of Teeth Whitening Procedures

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Close up of young woman using a teeth whitening strip

Teeth whitening has become a popular way to improve your appearance. It’s a cosmetic procedure. You can try do-it-yourself kits. Or, you can have your dentist do the whitening for you. Either way, it involves bleaching your teeth to make them whiter. The dentist's procedure uses stronger bleach. It works faster and better.

Whitening toothpastes only remove stains. They do not change the color of your teeth. There's also a new procedure that uses a laser to whiten your teeth. This is not widely used yet. For most people who want whiter teeth, bleaching at the dentist's office is the best bet.

Why Teeth Might Need Whitening

Some people just have whiter teeth than others. That's because of their genes. Also, teeth tend to get darker with age. They also get stained. Tobacco, coffee, tea, red wine, and some foods can cause stains. If you took an antibiotic called tetracycline as a child, that may have discolored your teeth.

The Pros and Cons of Whitening

When a dentist whitens your teeth, the dentist will place a protective gel or shield on your gums. Then the dentist will apply a bleaching solution to your teeth. The dentist might use a special light to increase the effects of the bleaching.

Here are the pros:

  • Whitening done in a dental office is safer and more effective than any other type of whitening.
  • You will see the results after just one office visit.
  • Your teeth can get about 10 shades whiter in about an hour.
  • Whitening can last for a year or a bit longer.
  • Most people think a bright smile is important and makes them look younger.

Here are the cons:

  • Not all discolored teeth bleach well. Brown teeth do not bleach as well as yellow teeth. Gray teeth may not bleach at all.

  • Bondings and fillings will not bleach. They might look more obvious after your treatment.

  • If you have sensitive teeth, they might be more so after bleaching.

  • You may need to continue the process at home with a take-home whitening kit.

  • Teeth whitening is probably not covered by your insurance because it’s considered a cosmetic procedure. The cost depends on where you live and the dentist you use. An average cost is about $500.

  • Teeth whitening is not permanent. To maintain your desired color, you will need to repeat the procedure every year or so.

If a whiter smile is important to you, be sure to go over the pros and cons with your dentist. It’s also a good idea to discuss other dental needs you may need in the next year, before deciding to whiten your teeth.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jun 23

  1. Whitening. American Dental Association.

  2. Teeth Whitening. American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.

  3. Cosmetic Dentistry/Treatment. International Dental Foundation.

  4. A simple process for whitening your teeth. National Public Radio.

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