There are many choices for bleaching teeth at home, the most common include:
- Tooth whitening strips and gels. Applied directly to the teeth with a brush or a thin strip, these peroxide-based tooth bleaching products usually need to be applied once or twice a day for 10 to 14 days. Results last four or more months and may cost from $10 to $55.
- Tray-based tooth bleaching systems. With this teeth whitening option, a mouth guard-like tray is filled with a peroxide-based bleaching gel or paste and placed over the teeth for one to several hours a day for up to four weeks. You can buy tray-based tooth whitening systems over-the-counter or have one custom-fitted by your dentist. The cost can range from $150 to $600.
- Because they're mildly abrasive, every toothpaste helps remove stains from teeth. Whitening toothpastes, however, also contain chemicals or polishing agents that help scrub stains from teeth without the aid of a bleaching agent. Tooth-whitening toothpastes are relatively inexpensive and brighten teeth by about one shade. Some whitening toothpastes contain peroxides, but they aren't left on the teeth long enough to have a whitening benefit.
Tooth Bleaching: Keeping Teeth White
Whether you use an at-home tooth-whitening system, or have your teeth bleached by a dentist, you can help maintain the results by brushing, flossing, and rinsing daily. Also, avoid acidic and tannin-rich foods and beverages such as:
- Black teas and coffee
- White and red wine
- Sports drinks
- Carbonated beverages (dark and light-colored sodas)
- Berries and other strongly-colored foods
- Sauces (soy, tomato, curries)
Teeth Whitening: Why You Should Talk to Your Dentist
Tooth-whitening works best for people with yellow teeth and is less effective for people with brown teeth. If your teeth are gray or purple, tooth bleaching probably won't work at all.
To be sure tooth-whitening is worth your time and money, talk to your dentist before you use an over-the-counter tooth whitening kit.
American Dental Association: "Tooth Whitening."
British Society for Oral Medicine: "Oral Hygiene."
Harvard Medical School: "Tooth-Bleaching: Better Left Up to a Dentist."
Kimberly Herrig, registered dental hygienist, Los Angeles, Calif.
National Institutes of Health: "Discoloration Of Dental Pellicle By Tannic Acid."
National Institutes of Health: "Iron Staining Of The Acquired Enamel Pellicle After Exposure To Tannic Acid Or Chlorhexidine: Preliminary Report."