Does Bleaching Your Teeth work? – What To Use, And Knowing Your Options

Whether your a man or women, whiter teeth and a brighter smile is sort out by many.

This subject comes up all the time as people try to figure out if they should whiten.

There are few main questions I get when discussing teeth whitening with my patients or people in general.

  • Does bleaching your teeth work?
  • How effective is it?
  • Is it safe?
  • What’s the downside?
  • What’s the cost?
  • What method is best?

These are some of the things we will be considering today when discussing whitening and bleaching your teeth.

The great thing to know is that most everyone that decides to whiten sees a noticeable difference. The results range from mild to moderate and for a number of people significant improvement in the color of their teeth.

First Off, What Is Whitening And Where Does Bleaching Come In?

According to the ADA Statement on the Safety and Effectiveness of Tooth Whitening Products, whitening is defined as anything that makes the teeth look whiter.

This can happen in two ways.

  1. Bleaching – Which will actually changes the natural color of the tooth. It deals with intrinsic stain (stains within the tooth)
  2. Whitening without bleaching – Which uses a mechanical or chemical means to remove extrinsic stain (surface stains on the outside of the tooth)

Generally in office whitening or custom trays and over the counter (OTC) methods are examples of products that use bleach that changes the natural color of the teeth.

Whereas whitening toothpastes are examples of whitening with non bleaching methods that remove surface stains.

Before We Continue… Is Bleaching For You?

There are a few things to consider before getting further along in our discussion.

The first being, if to bleach at all, then considering what type of bleaching is right for you.

This should only be done after consulting with your dentist!

This is particularly important if you have fillings or crowns on your front teeth that show in your smile. Your teeth will bleach, but fillings and crowns will not.

When your restorative work was initially done it would have been made to match the existing shade of your teeth. Bleaching without taking this into consideration could lead to mismatched color shades which would defeat the whole purpose of having a better looking smile.

It’s also important to note that you may have bigger fish to fry then getting your teeth bleached. I’ve had many patients inquire about bleaching when bigger issues such as large amounts of decay, or periodontal disease needed to be cared for.

It doesn’t mean you can’t bleach after the disease process is taken care of. We want a solid healthy mouth first, then we can deal with the aesthetics. I just don’t want you to put the cart before the horse so to speak.

What You And Others See

There are some other things that needs to be considered before deciding to bleach.

Such as the fact, that the natural color of your teeth have yellow and gray tones. Some people have a naturally lighter shade and some more yellow.

I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years that are very concerned about the shade of their teeth when in fact, they have pretty light teeth to begin with.

Realize that when you plunge your face right up to the mirror and your looking at your teeth just inches from your eyes it’s way closer than anyone will see you at a conversation distance (about 3 feet)

Step back and see what others will see.

Also, look at your smile, some of us have a big toothy grin, some of us barely see our teeth.

You might find that you are perfectly happy with how things look when taking these things into consideration. You might decide the cost and effort to bleach is not worth it.

Factors That Causes Staining?

  • Age – Wear and tear makes the enamel thinner, the core of the tooth, made up of dentin, which is a natural amber color shows through more.
  • Smoking, coffee, wine, tea, cola among other things all stain.
  • Grinding is also a factor – This also causes wear at an accelerate rate over what aging alone will do.
  • Certain medications – tetracycline or fluorosis (the ingestion of too much fluoride while the teeth are developing that causes intrinsic staining of your teeth)

When dealing with tetracycline or fluorosis it is not likely that you will see a large difference with whitening.

Again make sure to consult with your dentist before bleaching.

What Method Is Best For You?

Over The Counter

I generally like people to start with over the counter products first, and that’s for a couple of reasons.

One is cost, and two convince. The OTC products range in price from $20 to $75, once you have made the choice to move forward with bleaching you can use them right away.

OCT products generally have the same active ingredient as in office bleaching but in a weaker concentration.

After using an OTC bleaching product you may be happy with the shade of your teeth and decide to stop.

If you still want to go whiter, it’s time to get with your dentist and talk about in office bleaching or custom trays.

In Office Bleaching

I tend to steer people away from the in office methods because of price.

There is a big range in price when it comes to in office bleaching, I’ve heard anywhere from $500 to $1000. The cost varies greatly depending on where you live, so talk to your local dentist about price.

Unless you need immediate results, like for an unexpected wedding that requires you being in a lot of pictures I don’t see the need to spend that kind of money.

Custom Trays

Custom trays are a great option. An impression is done of your teeth and trays are made specifically for your mouth which will do a great job covering all surfaces. This does a superior job to OTC products which are a one size fits all.

The cost runs from $150 to $400, again this depends on where you live. Not pocket change, but not break the bank either when considering you can keep using the trays for maintaining at the shade you like.

How often you need to maintain depends on whether you smoke or how often you’re consuming food or drink that stains.

Tubes of bleach can be purchased from your dental office or online as needed.

What’s The Downside? Common Side Effects

Sensitivity – This happens especially the first week of bleaching, but some are particularly sensitive when using bleach and I have heard people report sensitivity that lasts a month or more.

If you have sensitive teeth to begin with, this may be a big deal. Definitely not something to overlook when thinking about bleaching in the first place.

Sensitivity toothpaste can help, but for the most part, they take 3 weeks of continuous use before that makes a difference in the sensitivity.

Inflamed gums – Inflammation of the gums is common from the bleaching solution. This in particular with “in office” whitening due to the higher concentration of bleach.

Although all bleaching at any concentration can cause inflammation, and usual does to some degree for most people.

Custom trays themselves can also be a problem at first as often they need some trimming for a comfortable fit.

Inflammation of the gum tissue usually subsides quickly when your’re done bleaching.

Mismatched shades – We talked about this earlier. Fillings, crowns, veneers are not affected by the bleach. Unless your going to have the work redone to match your new shade, it may mean your not a good candidate for bleaching.

Bottom Line

Does bleaching your teeth work? It certainly does!!… and can do amazing things for your smile and confidence.

One last word, know when to say when. Don’t go for the toilet bowl white color it just looks phony. Your goal should be a bright but natural shade for your smile.

It’s my hope that this discussion helps you make an informed decision that has you comfortable with the if, how and at what price, and drawbacks involved in bleaching.

As always your comments and question are welcomed.

To your health!!

Walt RDH

Click For Bleaching Recommendations










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8 thoughts on “Does Bleaching Your Teeth work? – What To Use, And Knowing Your Options

  1. Thanks for a very factual review of teeth bleaching. I have tried a few of the methods that you mentioned above, and more recently I have been using a bleaching pen which is very effective and doesn’t cause any sensitivity. I am also happy with the results so far.

    • I think it depends on whether or not your happy with what shade your teeth are. If you’ve been getting great results with what you are using, I’m a big believer in sticking with what works. If you feel you want to be a lighter shade and the product your using is not getting the job done going with a stronger product makes sense.
      Thanks for the question Marketa I hope it’s an answer that helped.

  2. Walt, This is awesome. I definitely will check your recommendations of ordering tubes of beach online. I’ve bleached my teeth once at the dentist – it’s expensive. But I loved the results. I just wasn’t sure which product really works. Thanks! – JB

    • Glad this was helpful JB. There are many different price points when it comes to bleaching products. Bleach with higher concentrations usually cost more. One of my goals was to give good choices for all budgets. Thanks for taking the time to visit!!

  3. I have used teeth bleach to make my teeth whiter. However, it makes my teeth very sensitive. Do you happen to know why this happens? Are there any products that are for people with sensitive teeth?

    • There are a couple of reasons bleaching causes sensitivity. One is, bleaching products can get on the gum tissue and chemically burn the tissue.
      Two, is the bleach can interact with the dentinal tubules which are small holes in the dentin (the layer of tooth under the enamel) The dentinal tubules connect to the pulp chamber of the tooth which is where your nerve and blood vessels reside.
      Sorry to say sensitivity is common for most people when bleaching.
      Your best way to help combat the sensitivity would be to use a sensitivity toothpaste for a good 3 weeks before bleaching. Results will vary, but will likely help to some degree.
      Thanks for such a great question Garen. Hope this helps!

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