Considering whitening your teeth? Here are some things to know.

Many of us wish we had whiter teeth. They can become dull and yellower than we like for many reasons, including smoking, use of certain medications, a blow to the mouth, drinking coffee and red wine and simple aging.

In an effort to reverse these effects, many people seek to whiten their teeth. Whitening products contain one of two kinds of tooth bleaches. These bleaches break stains into smaller pieces, diffusing discoloration and making your teeth brighter.

Whitening options

Talk to your dentist about your options. If you are a candidate for whitening, here are three techniques you may try:

  • Whitening toothpastes – All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives that scrub the teeth.  Look for the ADA Seal for safe whitening toothpastes that have special chemical or polishing agents to provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these types of ADA-Accepted products do not change the color of teeth because they can only remove stains on the surface.
  • In-office bleaching – In this procedure, which usually requires just one office visit, the dentist will apply protection to your gums, then bleach to your teeth. A special light or laser might be used to enhance the action of the bleach.
  • At-home bleaching – Peroxide-containing whiteners typically come in a gel, which is placed in a tray that fits on your teeth. You may also use a whitening strip that sticks to your teeth. The concentration of the bleaching agent is lower than what your dentist would use in the office.

As you embark on a teeth-whitening regimen, you may notice side effects, such increased tooth sensitivity. In most cases, it is temporary, meaning you can delay treatment and try again. But overuse of whiteners can also damage the tooth enamel or gums, so be sure to follow directions and talk to your dentist.