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Teeth Whitening

Brighter, lighter, whiter...

By Dr. Bill Dorfman

This article is endorsed by the
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.


Questions and Answers

  1. How much does tooth whitening cost?

    Prices vary greatly depending on your individual situation and professional recommendations. The quickest professional teeth-whitening method will cost around $300 to $800. A slightly cheaper, but less convenient, teeth-whitening option is to purchase a home bleaching kit from your dentist, estimated at $300 to $600. All other OTC (over the counter) products can be found at your local drugstore.

  2. How do I know if I am a candidate for whitening?

    The best option is to visit your dentist to see if whitening is right for you. Almost anyone can benefit from tooth whitening. However, here are a few things to be aware of as some people are more susceptible to tooth sensitivity than others particularly:

    • Those with generalized gingival (gum) recession.
    • Younger individuals in whom dentin is thinner and the enamel more porous.
    • Individuals with enamel loss exposing sensitive dentin; this can be due to wear, caused by grinding habits, or from acid erosion.
  3. How long will the results last?

    Bleaching is not always a permanent solution; the effects may diminish with the passing of time. Optimally, this period lasts six months to two years — referred to by dentists as the “fade rate.” Some studies quote periods of anywhere from 6 months to 10 years. Although fading is inevitable, it is possible to slow down the process by avoiding foods and habits that cause staining. Some individuals may need a tooth-whitening “touch-up” professionally, or with the home bleaching technique for 1-2 days, once or twice a year.

  4. Is bleaching safe for my teeth?

    Yes, there are many studies supporting the overall safety of whitening by bleaching. Precautions are advised to protect surface enamel, for example by using calcium sulphate to prevent calcium loss and use of fluoride to promote surface hardness.

  5. What are the effects of whitening on my fillings, veneers or crowns?

    Not everyone is a good candidate for whitening depending upon if you have had cosmetic dentistry previously. Bleaching has little or no effect on most restorative materials. It may reduce the bond strength between enamel and composite restorations (tooth colored fillings), at least for a short time. Bleaching has no effect on porcelain or crowns. Ultimately, let your dental professional decide if you are a good candidate for whitening.

  6. Are the bleaches used to whiten teeth toxic?

    Both hydrogen peroxide and urea, a breakdown product of carbamide peroxide are found in every human cell; however it must be remembered that “it's the dosage that can cause a problem.” Concerns are generally only valid for individuals who ignore instructions/guidelines and overuse whiteners for months or years.

  7. Teeth whitening toothpastes.
  8. What about toothpastes: Do they whiten?

    The claims of whitening by toothpastes mostly relate to their ability to help remove plaque and extrinsic or surface stains. The “whitening” toothpastes merely clean surface stains, but cannot change the underlying tooth color. Abrasives that are added to toothpastes in varying degrees depending on the brand, are essential for helping to remove plaque, and are usually in the form of silica. All ADA-approved toothpastes contain mild abrasives.


  • Most teeth are possible to whiten by bleaching.
  • Whitening of teeth can be achieved either by an external approach, where vital teeth are bleached by direct contact with carbamide peroxide, or by an internal approach, for bleaching non-vital teeth.
  • During tooth bleaching, reactive oxygen produced from the peroxide causes the breakdown of highly colored organic compounds which leave the teeth looking whiter without changing the tooth structure. Increasing the concentration of peroxide provides a more rapid whitening effect.
  • There is a risk of sensitivity following bleaching which varies with the concentration and time of contact of the whitening gels used. If it does occur, it usually lasts no more than one to four days.
  • The stability of bleaching is related to many factors but should last from six months to two years.
  • Bleaching has little or no effect on most of the common restorative materials used for fillings.
  • Safety issues exist regarding use of peroxide containing products in very high doses. Do not exceed your dentist's or manufacturer's recommendations.

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