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How To Whiten Your Teeth (Home & Professional Options)

How Do You Get Whiter Teeth?

whitened teeth before and afterLike most of us, you probably want some good information on how to whiten teeth, before taking action. There are basically 6 ways to whiten your teeth (click to jump straight to that option):


Why do my teeth need whitening in the first place?

Over time, the enamel on your teeth changes in mineral structure and becomes more porous, allowing teeth to look less white. Teeth also pick up stains from smoking, drinking coffee and red wine and even from the fluoride that’s in most of the water you drink. If this discoloration bothers you and you want to restore a whiter, more youthful appearance, there are a number of things you can do yourself to whiten your teeth, including whitening toothpaste, trays, pens and strips.

If these methods don’t work well enough for you or you want faster results, you can have your teeth professionally whitened at the dentist’s office. But which methods are best? And which are easiest? If you don’t understand how to get whiter teeth effectively, keep reading.

After all, your smile is one of the first things people see when they meet you for the first time. And in many people’s minds, a bright, flawless smile is a sign of health, vitality and beauty.

In general, teeth get one or two shades darker with each decade of life. The color pigment inside your teeth becomes more visible as the dentin below the enamel ages. The dentin gives your teeth their color. Think of enamel like semitransparent glass with a darker structure on the other side. Your genetic makeup plays a role in how dark your dentin is and how much more visible it becomes over time — and so does oral hygiene, nutrition and even environmental factors.

How to get whiter teeth

When white strips and professional whitening services came on the market, suddenly everyone was interested in having whiter teeth. Since that time over a decade ago, more than 100 million people in America have chosen to whiten their teeth in one way or another.

And people want teeth that are whiter than ever before. What was considered a relatively light shade a decade or two ago is now considered yellow. Fortunately, we’ve also gained a greater understanding of the factors that impact whitening and have more choices for how to whiten teeth than ever before.

How To Whiten Teeth From Home

If you want to have whiter teeth without damaging your oral health in any way, what are the best choices? Here’s a look at the most common methods.

Option 1

Whitening toothpaste. If you’re on a restricted budget, this is the first place to start. Costing less than $10 per tube, whitening toothpaste is available at any drugstore, grocery store or discount store. Choose one that has the American Dental Association Seal of Approval, as most do. These toothpastes have abrasives in them that polish your teeth and also chemically remove stains. Research indicates that they aren’t any harder on your tooth enamel than any other kind of toothpaste.

Look especially for blue covarine in your whitening toothpaste. This substance binds to your teeth and makes them look less yellow even when the actual aren’t, and whitening is all about appearance.

whitened teeth
If you brush twice a day, you will likely see results in two to four weeks. Follow brushing with a whitening mouthwash for even better results.
The biggest problem with whitening toothpaste is actually the toothpaste, as most are made with harmful substances (Dr. Vinograd’s article on the ‘best toothpaste‘ contains a free recipe to make your own, healthy toothpaste from home).

Option 2

Whitening trays. Choose the best kit you can afford. Those purchased at drugstores and discount stores are usually in the $20 to $50 range and contain one-size-fits-all trays that mold to your teeth. Professional kits from a dentist are usually in the $300 range, and the dentist makes trays for you that are molded to your teeth. Either way, you could see results in one to two weeks.

To use them, first brush and floss your teeth, then make sure the trays are completely dry. Apply a teardrop-sized amount of the peroxide gel onto the trays. Some excess gel may squeeze out into your mouth as you apply the trays. Spit out the excess as it can upset your stomach. Wipe away gel that gets on your gums with a paper towel. How long you wear the trays depends on the gel you’re using.

For carbamide peroxide gel, wear 10, 15 or 16 percent gels for two to four hours twice a day. You can even wear it overnight if it doesn’t cause sensitivity for you. For 20 to 22 percent gel, wear the trays 30 minutes to an hour twice a day, but don’t wear the trays overnight. If you’re using hydrogen peroxide gel, use the trays for 30 minutes to an hour twice a day.

When finished with a treatment, remove the trays and brush your teeth. You may want to use a toothpaste designed for sensitivity if the gel causes sensitivity for you. Clean the trays carefully with a cotton swab and cold running water, then store them in their holders and allow to air dry. Be careful not to let the gel get hot.

Option 3

Whitening strips. Whitening strips are available for about $35 at drugstores and discount stores and are made of polyethylene. Peroxide gel serves as the whitener and adheres to the plastic. To use the strips, start by brushing and flossing your teeth. Then, follow the directions on the package. In most cases, you apply strips to your upper and lower teeth and leave them on for about 30 minutes twice a day. Some strips have to be removed while others slowly dissolve as you wear them and simply disappear.

How to whiten teeth with strips - applicationHow to whiten teeth with strips - placement
images courtesy of wiki how (see their article here for detailed instructions on applying the whitening strips)

After use, rinse your mouth of any remaining gel. You can expect to get results in about two weeks. And it’s easy. You can do a great job even if you don’t really know how to whiten teeth.

Check the ingredients on the brand you choose, however, and choose again if the whitening strips contain chlorine dioxide. This chemical — the same one used for swimming pools — can damage your tooth enamel.

Option 4

Whitening pens. A whitening pen usually costs $20 to $30 at drugstores, discount stores and some grocery stores. To use one, start by brushing and flossing your teeth. After removing the cap of the pen, twist counterclockwise to release some of the gel. Then, smile widely as you stand in front of a mirror and paint the gel onto the teeth you want to whiten.

Be sure to keep your mouth open for at least 30 seconds after application so the gel can properly cure. And don’t eat or drink anything for at least 30 to 45 minutes to avoid washing the whitener away.

You can repeat the process up to three times a day with most pens, and you should notice a difference in two to four weeks. The pens don’t do a good job whitening between your teeth, but they do have a breath-freshening effect you may find pleasing. They also kill harmful mouth bacteria.

How To Whiten Teeth At The Dentist’s Office

whiten teeth at the dentist
When you choose to have your teeth whitened at the dentist’s office, you leave the work to your dentist and the staff, but you have to use care after the treatment to maintain the good results. For in-office teeth whitening, you have two primary choices:

Option 1

Professional bleaching. During this simple procedure, the dentist puts a rubber guard or a protective gel over your gums and then uses peroxide gel and a custom-made tray to whiten your teeth while you sit comfortably.

Option 2

teeth whitening laser
Laser teeth whitening. During this very effective procedure, your dentist applies a guard or gel over your gums and then a bleaching gel on your teeth. Then, the dentist places your teeth under a bright laser light that activates the chemicals in the gel, whitening your teeth quicker than without the help of the laser.

Either way, the dentist will likely recommend following up with a whitening product at home, and following directions is essential to maintain good results. While in-office treatments can be expensive, the results can last for as long as three years.

Teeth Whitening Maintenance

Just as important as how to whiten teeth is how to keep them that way. To maintain sparkling white teeth after any kind of whitening treatment:

  • Adjust your lifestyle and dietary choices. That means you’ll need to completely avoid tobacco, forget about coffee, black tea, dark fruit juices and red wine — or drink these beverages through a straw so most of the liquid doesn’t come in contact with your teeth. Even curry can stain your teeth, so make wise dietary choices.
  • Brush your teeth after every meal or staining beverage. That means brushing at least three times a day and after drinking any beverage that’s darker than your teeth. Using a whitening toothpaste and a whitening mouthwash is important to maintaining good results too.
  • Have your teeth cleaned every six month. There’s no substitute for a professional cleaning, especially when white teeth are important to you. You’ll remove stains before they worsen and prevent other dental problems too.

The Biocompatible (Non-Toxic) Perspective To Teeth Whitening

Of the available options, most are actually fairly safe. One exception is are the toothpastes – as finding ones without chemical can be difficult (see homemade toothpaste article for details). In our practice, we use a concentrated hydrogen peroxide (not a problem from a biocompatible perspective), coupled with a Zoom lamp, which activates and allows the peroxide to permeate to a greater extent (which allows for several shades of improvement in a single sitting). We then send our patients home with trays, so as to maintain that bright smile, even after some time has passed (and food etc would otherwise begin to stain the teeth again).

Being fully informed about your teeth whitening options, means you can take the actions that are appropriate for you and your teeth – and always look your best.


If you live in San Diego and are considering having your teeth whitened professionally, visit San Diego Dentist, or Call (619) 630-7174 for a free consultation with Dr. .


About Dr. Vinograd and San Diego Dentist

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