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Teeth Whitening

Whitening teeth

Many products currently on the market promise whiter, brighter teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) says that if you are a candidate for a whitening procedure, your dentist may suggest a procedure that can be done in a dental office. Other options include at-home products, which your dentist may give you or you can purchase over the counter. But dental professionals and the ADA caution you about the incorrect use of such over-the-counter products. They are sometimes too abrasive and can damage the teeth with extended use.

The ADA describes "whitening" as any process that will make teeth appear whiter, using one of two ways. A product can bleach the tooth, changing the natural tooth color. Most teeth whitening products use carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide.

Who may benefit from teeth whitening?

Most helpful

Somewhat helpful

Not advised


  • Darkening of teeth with age

  • Age spots

  • Yellow or orange spotting on teeth caused by coffees, teas, berries and other foods, or smoking

  • Teeth with healthy tooth enamel


  • Gray or brown stains caused by getting too much fluoridated water (fluorosis)

  • Dark stains caused by smoking and brown or gray stains from certain medicines


  • Overly sensitive teeth

  • People with a gum or mouth disease (periodontal disease or oral cancer)

  • People with worn tooth enamel

  • People with tooth decay (until the decay is treated)

  • Use on caps, crowns, veneers, or fillings

What are some different teeth-whitening methods?

Your dentist can recommend the best whitening option for you. Options may include:

  • In-office bleaching. The dentist will use a whitening product on your teeth. It usually needs one visit.

  • At-home bleaching products provided by your dentist. This option involves using a custom-made tray from your dentist that can be worn comfortably while you are awake or sleeping. The tray is so thin that you should even be able to talk and work while wearing it.

  • Over-the-counter bleaching. Recently, more over-the-counter products are available that offer simple whitening solutions. However, they may not provide the dramatic improvement that a professional treatment option offers. Talk with your dentist about which types may be best for you.

Side effects and health risks

The ADA (American Dental Association) has granted its seal of approval on some teeth whitening products. Talk to your dentist about which products are most effective and safe to use.

Gum irritation and increased tooth sensitivity are the most common side effects of teeth bleaching with peroxide solutions.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Michael Kapner MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tennille Dozier RN BSN RDMS
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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