Skip to main content

Types of teeth whitening: All the ways you can make your pearly whites shinier

teeth whitening
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Over time, our teeth become yellow and stained, even with good oral health and regular care. Why? Because everything from food to liquids to everyday wear can cause discoloration. It's completely normal! If you want whiter and brighter teeth, you might be thinking about investing in teeth-whitening solutions. Here are all the ways you can keep your pearly whites brighter, longer. 

Teeth-whitening toothpaste: Does it work?

Teeth-whitening toothpaste may be marketed as a product that can whiten your teeth in a matter of weeks, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly how effective teeth-whitening toothpaste really is. 

Whitening toothpaste, like many non-whitening toothpastes, contain lightly abrasive chemicals that polish teeth, as well as peroxide (or a similar substance) to reduce the appearance of stains. 

This combination of chemicals helps whiten teeth by somewhat erasing stains on the surface of the enamel, caused by everyday staining agents like coffee, wine, or tobacco. However, these whitening toothpastes don't penetrate the surface of the enamel to erase the deeply set stains there. 

Generally, toothpastes will reduce the appearance of surface-level stains in two to six weeks if used twice a day, but if you want to get below the surface of the enamel, you'll need something stronger than whitening toothpaste.

Over-the-counter teeth whitening products: A quick guide

There are a number of teeth-whitening products on the market that you can invest in to get those pearly whites you've been dreaming of. Of course, shopping for teeth whiteners is about finding the right fit for you and your lifestyle, while keeping your teeth comfortable and healthy. 

Teeth whiteners aren't for everyone, as some people may suffer from tooth sensitivity to the bleaching agents in these products. But if you're preparing for a special event or just want to give strangers a great first impression of you, here are the main types of teeth-whitening products you can buy.

  • Whitening strips: Whitening strips are easy to use and allow people to go about their day without worrying that the strip is visible. Often, the time of application is around 30 minutes. After this time, you can remove the strip and discard it. Simply place the peroxide gel side of the strip on your teeth, and you may see results after just a few days of use
  • Tray and gel products: These at-home kits usually require a bit more assembly, and usually demand a greater financial investment. A mouth guard is required, but may or may not be included in the kit. If it is, a mold with instructions is provided, so that the guard fits the shape of your mouth. These kits will also have gel in syringes, which is applied to the inside of the guard. In some cases, an LED light will be provided – it is believed this light accelerates the bleaching process
  • Whitening ampoules: These ampoules are filled with a peroxide-based gel which can be painted directly onto your teeth
  • Powders: Activated charcoal is all the rage right now, and there are products on the market that contain activated charcoal and claim to whiten your teeth. These products work no differently than toothpaste, but do not replace toothpaste. All you need to do is to brush your teeth with this product, after brushing your teeth with regular toothpaste. However, if you brush carelessly, the product can get stuck in your gums, with the accompanying discomfort

Teeth whitening at home: A DIY guide

If you're concerned about the possible side effects of over-the-counter teeth whiteners, such as tooth and gum sensitivity, you can try whitening your teeth with some common household products and ingredients. However, before starting, you'll want to make sure that anything you put in your mouth is safe for consumption, if swallowed. 

Here are some ways you can try to whiten your teeth using DIY methods:

  • Baking soda: Brush your teeth with some baking soda. Baking soda is already a popular ingredient in toothpaste brand you'll find in stores, and it has been shown that it can buff away surface stains
  • Apple cider vinegar: Rising in popularity, apple cider vinegar is being marketed as a health drink. But did you know that it can help whiten your teeth too? Acetic acid, the main active ingredient in apple cider vinegar, has been proven to kill bacteria and have a bleaching effect on teeth. All you need to do is dilute it in some water and use it as a mouthwash (don't forget to rinse out your mouth afterward)

Teeth whitening at the dentist

If you're not interested in DIY treatments or over-the-counter teeth whitening solutions, you can ask your dentist for teeth whitening sessions. However, depending on your provider, your insurance may not cover the costs of teeth whitening, as this is largely considered to be a cosmetic procedure. 

For traditional teeth whitening, your dentist will recommend a number of sessions as well as the strength of the products they will use on your teeth before starting. At this time, you may want to alert your dentist about any discomfort you've experienced while using over-the-counter teeth whiteners, as the product your dentist will use may be chemically similar. 

Another option for teeth whitening, albeit pricey, is getting veneers. Veneers will set you back $1,000 to $2,500 a tooth, but will last 20 to 25 years. Veneers are usually recommended to those with severe discoloration or those who have the luxury to make such a tremendous investment. Alternatively, you can also ask for a "mixed media" solution: veneers for some teeth, and traditional teeth whitening for others. 

Also read: