Teeth Whitening: How It Works, Types, and Side Effects

Teeth Whitening: How It Works, Types, and Side Effects

Feb 05, 2024

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

Teeth whitening in Oshawa, ON, is a popular cosmetic dental procedure to brighten your smile. At its core, teeth whitening involves applying a bleaching agent, usually containing hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, to the teeth. This process works by breaking down the stains into smaller pieces, diminishing the concentration of discoloration and making your teeth appear brighter. Teeth whitening treatments have gained significant popularity for their effectiveness in enhancing dental aesthetics.

This process is not a one-size-fits-all solution; the effectiveness can vary based on the type of staining and the individual’s tooth enamel. For instance, yellowish teeth typically respond well to whitening, whereas brownish or grayish hues might not bleach as effectively. Moreover, whitening treatments do not work on all types of teeth. For example, caps, veneers, crowns, and fillings will not lighten with bleaching agents, an important consideration for individuals with these dental restorations.

Types of Teeth Stains

Teeth stains are not just a cosmetic concern but can also indicate the health of your teeth. They fall into two main categories:

Extrinsic Stains: These stains reside on the surface of the tooth enamel, the outermost layer of your teeth. Common causes include:

Dietary Choices: Regularly consuming highly pigmented foods and beverages, such as coffee, tea, red wine, and certain fruits, like blueberries, can lead to surface staining.

Tobacco Use: Smoking or chewing tobacco is one of the main causes of extrinsic stains, resulting in a yellowish or brownish discoloration over time.

Poor Dental Hygiene: lack of brushing and flossing can allow plaque and food particles to build up, contributing to external staining.

It’s important to note that while these stains are visible, they are often easier to remove through professional cleaning, whitening toothpaste, and teeth-whitening treatments.

Intrinsic Stains: These are deeper stains that lie within the tooth structure. Intrinsic staining can be due to several factors:

Age-Related Changes: The outer enamel layer wears down as we age, revealing the naturally yellower dentin beneath.

Medication Use: Certain medications, especially tetracycline antibiotics taken during tooth formation, can lead to intrinsic discoloration.

Dental Trauma: Traumatic injuries to a tooth, especially through childhood when teeth are still developing, can disrupt enamel formation and cause internal staining.

Fluorosis: Excessive fluoride intake, particularly in children whose teeth are still developing, can cause fluorosis, leading to white spots or streaks on the teeth.

Intrinsic stains are more stubborn and challenging to treat than extrinsic stains. They often require more advanced dental treatments, such as veneers or bonding, to mask discoloration effectively.

Teeth Whitening Options

There are several teeth whitening options available, catering to different needs and preferences:

In-Office Whitening: This procedure is performed by a dental professional, typically using a higher concentration of bleaching agents for more significant and immediate results. It often involves using special lights or lasers to enrich the effectiveness of the whitening agents. In-office whitening is ideal for quick results, often achieved in just one or two visits.

Home Whitening Kits: These kits are custom-designed by dentists for individual use at home. They include lower-concentration bleaching agents than those used for in-office whitening but are still more effective than over-the-counter products. Home whitening kits usually consist of custom-fitted trays and a whitening gel, allowing for a more personalized and comfortable experience. The process takes longer, usually a few weeks, but is beneficial for those seeking a more gradual whitening effect or looking to maintain the results of an in-office whitening procedure.

Over-the-Counter Products: This category includes a wide range of products, such as whitening toothpaste, strips, and gels. These products contain the lowest concentration of bleaching agents and are best suited for minor surface stains. Whitening toothpastes help remove surface stains through mild abrasives and polishing agents, while whitening strips and gels are applied directly to the teeth. These options are more affordable and accessible, making them popular for daily dental care routines. However, professional treatments are recommended for more pronounced staining or those seeking dramatic results.

Whitening Products

The key products used in teeth whitening include:

Custom-Fitted Whitening Trays: Provided by dental professionals, these trays ensure the even application of the bleaching agent, minimizing gum irritation and enhancing the effectiveness of the treatment. They are designed to match the unique contours of your teeth, providing a personalized teeth-whitening experience.

LED Teeth Whitening Kits: These kits use LED light technology to accelerate bleaching, offering a more rapid whitening effect. The light activates the whitening agent, making it more efficient in breaking down stains.

Natural Whitening Methods: For those who opt for a more natural approach, options like baking soda, hydrogen peroxide mixtures, or activated charcoal are available. While these methods are gentler, they are typically less effective than professional treatments and may require more time to see noticeable results.

Maintenance Products: After undergoing teeth whitening treatment, maintenance becomes crucial. Whitening pens and touch-up kits are convenient for on-the-go use and help maintain the brightness of your teeth. They are particularly useful for quick fixes and are easy to apply.

Safety and Effectiveness: It’s important to note that while over-the-counter products are accessible, their safety and effectiveness can vary. Professional guidance is always recommended, especially for those with sensitive teeth or existing dental issues. Dentists can provide tailored advice on the most suitable products and usage frequency to avoid potential side effects like enamel erosion or gum damage.

Teeth Whitening Side Effects

While teeth whitening is generally safe, some side effects can occur, particularly with improper use:

Uneven Whitening: Sometimes, certain parts of the teeth may whiten unevenly, particularly if the whitening agent doesn’t cover each tooth uniformly. This can be more pronounced in individuals with crooked teeth or if the whitening tray doesn’t fit well.

Overuse Injuries: Overusing whitening products, especially over-the-counter kits, can damage enamel. This can make your teeth more susceptible to decay and cause them to appear translucent.

Allergic Reactions: Although rare, some individuals may have an allergic reaction to the whitening agents used. Symptoms might include itching or a rash in or around the mouth.

Temporary Discomfort: Some people may temporarily experience increased dental discomfort, especially when consuming hot or cold foods and beverages.

Following the product instructions and dentist in Oshawa, ON advice to minimize these risks is crucial. If you experience any severe or prolonged side effects, it’s important to contact your dentist immediately.

Who Should Get Their Teeth Whitened?

Teeth whitening is a sought-after procedure for many seeking a brighter, more attractive smile. It’s particularly beneficial for those who have maintained good oral hygiene but have seen their teeth lose luster over time. This can be due to everyday eating and drinking habits, such as consuming tea, coffee, or red wine, which are known to stain teeth over time.

However, it’s crucial to have realistic expectations. Not all types of discoloration can be effectively treated with whitening. For example, teeth that have turned grayish due to tetracycline or fluorosis might not bleach well. Similarly, whitening will not work on caps, veneers, crowns, or fillings. In cases where the discoloration is due to internal tooth damage or decay, other dental treatments may be more appropriate.

Those considering teeth whitening should also be committed to maintaining the results. This includes good oral hygiene practices like regular brushing and flossing and avoiding foods and drinks that stain teeth. Regular dental check-ups are also crucial to maintaining oral health and the longevity of the whitening results.

It’s also important to consider that overuse of whitening products can lead to chronic tooth sensitivity and enamel erosion. Therefore, it’s recommended to follow the guidance of dental professionals, like those at Conlin Dentistry, to ensure safe and effective treatment.


Teeth whitening treatments, including teeth bleaching and various in-office and home whitening kits, have become a go-to solution for those seeking a brighter smile. While Conlin Dentistry offers these services with professional expertise, it’s important to understand the types of stains, options available, and potential side effects. Always consult with a dentist in Oshawa, ON, to find out the best teeth whitening option for your unique dental needs. Remember, a radiant smile is just a treatment away!

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