What is teeth whitening?

Teeth Whitening

Teeth bleaching: Overview

Teeth bleaching is a type of teeth whitening. It can be done by a dentist or at home.

For in-office bleaching, the dentist often combines bleach with a laser or light to speed up the process. A visit usually takes from 30 minutes to 1 hour. You may need more than one treatment. Your dentist will protect your gums with a gel or shield and then put the bleaching agent on your teeth. The bleach concentrate used for the in-office process is generally stronger than that used in other methods. That's because the dentist can watch how it is used.

Your dentist may also give you a kit with a mouthpiece and gel containing the bleach. Your dentist may make a custom mouthpiece to fit your teeth. These kits usually use a lower concentration of bleach than an in-office process. Your dentist will tell you how often to wear the mouthpiece and for how long.

An over-the-counter kit is similar to what your dentist gives you. The bleach concentration, how you use it, and how long you use it vary between products. For example, some products use a mouthpiece. Others use strips you lay across your teeth.

All of these methods have different costs, and insurance usually won't pay for them. You choose the method that works best for you and that fits your budget.

Teeth can become sensitive when you are using the bleaching solution. But this sensitivity usually goes away when you finish your treatment. A mouthpiece that doesn't fit well may hurt your gums.

Remember that whitening isn't permanent. Your teeth will slowly become discolored again. Some lifestyle choices, such as drinking coffee or using tobacco, will speed up how fast your teeth lose their new whiteness.

Always talk with your dentist before you use tooth whitening, especially if you have many fillings, crowns, or very dark stains.

What are the types of teeth whitening?

There are two types of teeth whitening.


Bleaching your teeth changes the color of the tooth enamel and removes both surface stains and those deeper in the teeth. Your dentist can bleach your teeth at their office. Or you can do it yourself with a kit your dentist gives you or with a kit you buy at a store. The chemical used to bleach teeth is generally carbamide peroxide. Different products use different concentrations of this chemical.

Whitening toothpaste.

Whitening toothpastes use a rough (abrasive) material that "scrapes" off surface stains and polishes the teeth.

How well does teeth bleaching work?

Talk to your dentist before whitening your teeth. Teeth bleaching works best on natural teeth.

Bleaching may not work if you've had bonding or have tooth-colored fillings in your teeth. The bleach won't change the color of these materials, so they will stand out if you whiten the rest of your teeth.

What is teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening uses a bleaching product or an abrasive to make teeth whiter. Teeth whitening isn't a medical procedure—it doesn't result in healthier teeth. But it can result in a brighter smile. This in turn can make people feel better about themselves. Teeth whitening works better for some types of stains than others.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.