Nothing defines a smile as the color of your teeth. If you have yellow teeth with tooth decay or old worn out fillings, you will not dazzle anyone. But a bright, beautiful healthy smile with clean white teeth, says a lot about you. To show off those beautiful white teeth, many opt for teeth whitening or bleaching, which is the easiest way for a brighter smile.

Besides what your dentist offers, over-the-counter teeth whitening types include gels, rinses, strips, trays and whitening toothpaste products. If your teeth aren’t sensitive, you don’t have any teeth that need to be restored and you have healthy gums, then you are the ideal candidate for teeth whitening.

Causes of Teeth Discoloration
As a child, your teeth are naturally whiter, while adult teeth tend to be a bit off-white. As you expose your teeth to certain foods as an adult, or medications, such as tetracyclines, during tooth development, you may get dark stains on teeth. Or you may have been born with certain conditions, such as enamel hypoplasia, which causes defective enamel.

Tobacco products, coffee, tea, red wine, and excessive cola drinks also contribute to tooth staining. This article will help you understand if you are a good candidate for teeth whitening and what type may work best for you.

Types of Teeth Whitening
  1. Whitening Strips—Strips are thin and coated with a peroxide-based gel. You apply the strip two times a day for approximately 30 minutes for two weeks. Within a few days you should see results.
  2. Whitening Gels—These are also peroxide-based but are applied with a brush directly to the surface of the teeth. To see results, you apply the gel two times a day for two weeks.
  3. Whitening Toothpaste—-There really is no “whitening toothpaste.” Just about all toothpaste help remove surface stains, because they contain some form of abrasive. Depending on how mild or strong the abrasive, some may even cause sensitivity but they will not bleach your teeth.
  4. Whitening Rinses—By swishing these products in your mouth for 60 seconds twice a day before brushing your teeth, you can see results of whiter teeth within 12 weeks. The whitening rinse contains hydrogen peroxide as the agent to bleach your teeth. However, swallowing any of the hydrogen peroxide or using it more frequently, may cause damage to your gums. Studies report long-term use of hydrogen peroxide may cause damage to the delicate gum tissues.
  5. Teeth Whiteners with Pre-made Trays (OTC)—The very thin trays are available with the hydrogen peroxide gel already in them. You fit the tray to your teeth and wear them from 15 minutes to two hours a day. You should see some results within 3–4 days.
  6. Teeth Whiteners with Custom Trays—Dentists can make you custom trays and supply you with a kit of whitening gel (usually in syringes) that you apply to the tray and place over your teeth. The whitening material is made of the active ingredient carbamide peroxide ranging between 10–15 percent in strength. Within a few days of wearing the trays for 2–4 hours a day, you should see results. Carbamide peroxide reacts with water to form hydrogen peroxide. However, carbamide peroxide has about a third of the strength and is less harsh for teeth than hydrogen peroxide.
  7. In-office Whitening—With the in-office whitening, your dentist will apply the gel to each tooth. This type of whitening uses the strongest form of carbamide peroxide, usually between 12–44 percent content. A high intensity light may be used to help with the setting process. Reports have not proven that the light actually makes your teeth whiter, but it does accelerate the process. Nevertheless, the in-office whitening does save time in results. You should see immediate results with this 60–90 minute procedure. Your dentist may ask you to return for an additional appointment for touch ups. This is the most expensive form of teeth whitening.
  8. Internal Bleaching—If a tooth dies from trauma, it slowly turns dark. Internal bleaching is a method that involves whitening the tooth internally. The dentist first treats the tooth for a root canal, followed by sealing peroxide gel within the tooth over a period of some days. You may be asked to return every 3–7 days to replace the chemical gel until the level of whiteness is achieved. Dentists must evaluate the degree of discoloration of the tooth to determine if this technique will be effective.

Are You a Good Candidate?
The best way to find out if teeth whitening will work for you is to see your dentist for an evaluation. Some guidelines for not whitening your teeth include:

  • If you have sensitive teeth: Receding gums, old defective fillings, or tooth decay are some of the causes of sensitive teeth. Your priority should be to find out the cause and get treatment, not to whiten your teeth.
  • Allergic to peroxide: Some form of peroxide is in all bleaching teeth whitening systems. If you know you have a sensitivity or allergy to peroxide ingredients, you are not a good candidate.
  • Crowns (cap) on your teeth: Crowns that are fabricated with porcelain types of material will not whiten. The reason being that they are made with porcelain baked on the surface of the cap. Once the dentist chooses the shade, and the laboratory bakes it on the framework of the crown, it cannot be changed by any whitening system.
  • Pregnancy: Teeth whitening is not recommended if you are breast-feeding or are pregnant.
  • Age: Children under the age of 16 are not to bleach their teeth. The teeth may still be developing and any strong whitening solutions can irritate the pulp that houses the nerve tissue, resulting in sensitivity and pain.
  • Type of stain in existing teeth: Some stains may have become incorporated into the enamel (outer surface of the tooth). Usually, yellow stains whiten with best results, brownish stains, not as well, with grayish stains whitening not at all or the least. Veneers or crowns may be the best option for improving the appearance of teeth with dark brown or gray stains.
  • Wanting a movie star smile: If you think whitening your teeth will give you a movie star smile, you may become addicted to the process, while never being satisfied. If you continue to whiten, thinking the next time will do the trick, you’ll be disappointed with how your teeth look and may end up with sensitive teeth.

How to Prevent Sensitive Teeth During Teeth Whitening
It’s not unusual to experience some sensitivity during teeth whitening. This can occur whether you use an OTC product or have it done by your dentist.

Either way, it’s best to start with a concentrated fluoride product. This can be a rinse or gel form. By using concentrated fluoride on your teeth for a few days prior to teeth whitening, the surface of the teeth can become remineralized and therefore less permeable to the peroxide ingredient used.

You can also wear the tray for a shorter period of time than recommended in the instructions. It may take a few days longer to reach the results, but you may experience less sensitivity.

How to Keep Your Teeth White Longer Typically your teeth will stay white for up to six months. The following are tips that will help you keep them whiter for a longer period versus getting stains quickly.

  • Red wine, tea, coffee, blueberries will stain teeth. Try to minimize these types of foods or drinks.
  • Use baking soda toothpaste. Baking soda tends to gently remove stains without being too abrasive.