Can All Teeth Be Whitened?
Teeth that are yellow respond best to bleaching. Brown teeth may not respond as well, and teeth with gray tones may not bleach at all. Whitening will not work on caps, veneers, crowns, or fillings. Bleach will not change the color of these materials, so you may want to investigate other options with your dentist. Whitening also won’t be effective if your tooth discoloration is caused by medications or a tooth injury.
Who Is Not a Good Candidate for Tooth Whitening?
People with periodontal disease or especially sensitive teeth may want to avoid chemical whitening techniques that can irritate tender gums.
Tooth sensitivity is one side effect that some people who use tooth whiteners may experience. This occurs when peroxide in the whitener gets through the enamel to the soft layer of dentin and irritates the nerve of your tooth. Because the sensitivity is temporary in most cases, you may be able to delay treatment and try again.
It’s important to keep in mind that overuse of whiteners can damage the tooth enamel or gums, so be sure to follow the directions and talk to your dentist.
Many DIY tooth whiteners are advertised on television, online, and in print magazines. The MDS and the ADA recommend that if you choose to have your teeth whitened or use a bleaching product, you should do so only after consulting with a licensed dentist. If chemicals used to whiten teeth are not applied properly, they could damage soft and hard tissues in your mouth.
Consumers also should be wary of tooth-whitening kiosks in places like malls or salons. Staff running the kiosk may have no health care training or licensing to provide health care services, yet they are dispensing chemicals that could permanently impact your teeth and gums. And, unlike dental office staff members, the kiosk staff may not have any training in infection control techniques that follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.
If your dentist indicates that tooth whitening will work for you, there are several options to consider:
- Stain Removal Toothpastes – Look for whitening toothpastes that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance for stain removal. These toothpastes have polishing agents that are safe for your teeth and provide effective stain removal. Unlike bleaches, these types of ADA-Accepted products do not change the color of teeth because they only remove stains on the surface.
- In-Office Bleaching – Known as chairside bleaching, this procedure usually requires just one office visit. Your dentist will apply a gel or a rubber shield to protect your gums, then bleach is applied to your teeth.
- At-Home Bleaching from Your Dentist – Your dentist can provide a custom-made tray for at-home whitening, along with specific guidance on how to apply the bleaching solution and for what length of time. This process can take a few days to a few weeks.
- Over-the-Counter Bleaching Products – Discuss these options with your dentist and look for products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance to determine if they have been tested to be safe and effective for tooth whitening.