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Whitening Before and after woman's teeth

Teeth Whitening: Exploring the Benefits and Risks of Different Methods

When we think of strong, healthy teeth, odds are we are also envisioning teeth that are pearly white. It does add a little something extra to your teeth to have them as bright and cheery as your smile.

This can be a rather difficult task. Many foods and drinks stain teeth, and tend to harm their all over health. Teas, coffee, red wine, tomato sauces, fruit juices, and sodas— just to name a few. All of these are things that we love, so how do we counteract their tooth staining?

Teeth Whitening Options

Teeth whitening can be completely harmless and a great way to perk up your smile. Many brands have kinds of toothpaste that are known to create a healthy balance in your mouth while also whitening enamel. There are pens, gels, strips, and blue light treatments that can all be done conveniently from your home. But are they safe?

The simple answer— Yes. Tooth whitening treatments made from accredited sources are designed to be easy on the tooth’s enamel and to scrub off left-behind stains. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of each method to know which one is right for you.

Woman brushing teeth


A lot of toothpastes have a bit of grit in them. Everyday toothpaste, charcoal active toothpaste, and even regular ol’ baking soda. All are great methods. The bit of grit can help scrub off the stains and leftover food to leave the teeth feeling clean and looking cleaner. Because of the grit, you won’t want to scrub too hard. It would take some serious work to file down on your actual teeth, however, if you have sensitive teeth or cavities, this method of whitening could irritate them. Also, if you are going to go with the scrubbing method, consider using regular whitening toothpaste. Baking soda can scrub off stains, however, it does not have the fluoride added to it, and will leave your teeth less protected. Charcoal tubes of toothpaste are not recommended by the American Dental Association, so pick something else ADA-approved.

Bleaching with Chemical

We are talking whitening strips or brush-on gels. These chemicals are safe for use and are not going to harm the health of your teeth. Because they are not something you scrub your teeth in, how long this may take to start to change the color of your teeth will depend on your teeth themselves. Some enamel is more porous than others and will take to the chemical treatments faster. Eventually, the chemicals will set in, and the stains will lift. Keep in mind that some teeth are genetically darker than others, so don’t be upset if you can’t get that white smile.

Man preparing silicon tray for teeth whitening.

Woman doing tooth whitening treatment

LED Light

Blue light and LED lighteners are funny things. No evidence supports that heat or light helps these chemicals in whitening your teeth. They may still whiten! But it is most likely because of the chemical itself and less about the light. If you’ve got an LED lighting kit, experiment with the products and put the gel on, but leave the light off, and see if you can find a difference between when the light was “activating”. Like many other dentists, you are most likely not going to notice much change.

Where does that leave us?

If white teeth are something you want, you will have to keep at it. What we eat and how teeth age are always going to darken teeth, so there will never be a permanent fix. If you are looking for longer-lasting treatments, what you can get in your dental office is most likely going to be stronger than anything you can get over the counter. Ask your dentist about what they recommend for a teeth whitening strategy, and start there. If you want to do at-home products, they should have a couple of recommendations for you. If you’re wanting a professional whitening, your dentist and insurance can tell you if it will be covered, and all the specifics of that treatment.

As always, keep clear communication with your dentist about your oral health goals. We want you to have strong healthy teeth too, and want you to feel confident with your smile!