A bright, healthy-looking smile is generally an attractive feature. Teeth whitening is one of the most common dental treatments that helps achieve this. Teeth whitening is the process of lightening the color of your teeth. It involves using bleaching agents, usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide and LED accelerator lights, to break stains into smaller pieces, which makes the color less concentrated and your teeth brighter.
But how long does teeth whitening last?
Why Do Our Teeth Get Discolored?
- Food and drink. Certain foods and drinks, including coffee, tea, red wine, and dark-colored fruits like berries, have strong color pigments that can adhere to your teeth and cause staining over time.
- Tobacco use. The nicotine and tar in tobacco can create stubborn stains on the surface of the teeth.
- Poor oral hygiene habits. Not brushing or flossing regularly can allow plaque and tartar to build up, leading to discoloration.
- Age. As you age, the outer layer of enamel on your teeth gets thinner, revealing the yellowish dentin beneath.
- Medication. Certain medications, such as certain types of antibiotics (tetracycline, doxycycline), antipsychotics, antihypertensives, and chemotherapy drugs, can darken teeth.
- Trauma. If a tooth has been damaged by physical impact, it may change color as a reaction to injury.
- Genetics. Some people naturally have thicker or brighter enamel, thanks to their genes.
- Disease. Certain diseases or treatments can also affect tooth color. For example, head and neck radiation and chemotherapy can cause teeth discoloration.
2 Types of Teeth Stains
There are two types of teeth discolorations: extrinsic and intrinsic stains.
1. Extrinsic Stains
Extrinsic stains occur on the surface of the tooth or the tooth enamel. They are typically caused by various lifestyle factors, such as the consumption of staining foods and drinks (like coffee, tea, red wine, and certain fruits like berries), tobacco use, and poor oral hygiene.
Extrinsic stains are generally yellow or brown in color. They can often be removed or significantly reduced with regular professional cleanings and good oral hygiene practices at home, including brushing, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash.
2. Intrinsic Stains
Intrinsic stains occur within the tooth itself, in the dentin, which is the layer beneath the enamel. They can be caused by factors, including certain medications (like tetracycline), excessive fluoride exposure during early childhood, trauma to the teeth, aging, and certain diseases.
These stains can range in color from yellow to dark brown or gray, and they are more difficult to remove than extrinsic stains. While some intrinsic stains can be improved with professional tooth whitening treatments, others may require more extensive procedures like bonding or veneers to improve the appearance of the teeth.
Types of Teeth Whitening
In-Office Teeth Whitening or Professional Whitening Treatment
This dental procedure is done by a dentist or other dental professionals, typically giving the most dramatic and longest-lasting results. The effects of professional teeth whitening can last up to a year, depending on the severity of the stains.
At-Home Teeth Whitening Kits
These kits, like Crest Whitening Strips or Snow Teeth Whitening, offer a convenient way to lighten your teeth at home. The effects can last for several months, depending on the product and your adherence to the instructions.
Over-the-Counter Whitening Products
Over-the-counter (OTC) teeth whitening products are dental care products you can buy without a prescription to whiten teeth. These products are typically less potent than the professional-grade treatments used by dentists, but they can still be effective for lightening stains and brightening smiles.
Here are some common types of OTC teeth whitening products:
- Whitening toothpaste. It contains mild abrasives or chemicals that can remove surface stains on your teeth.
- Whitening strips and gels. Applied directly to the surface of your teeth, these thin, flexible strips or gels contain a peroxide-based whitening agent.
- Whitening rinses. Like regular mouthwashes, they freshen your breath and help reduce gum disease. They also contain ingredients like hydrogen peroxide that whiten teeth.
- Gel tray-based teeth whiteners. These involve filling a mouth guard-like tray with a gel whitening solution containing a peroxide-bleaching agent and then wearing the tray for a period of time.
- Teeth whitening pens. These are a type of over-the-counter teeth whitening product. They are small, portable devices that resemble a pen or marker. The “pen” is filled with a whitening gel, typically containing a peroxide-based bleaching agent, such as hydrogen or carbamide peroxide.
- Whitening chewing gums and candies. These products claim to act as teeth whiteners, but their effectiveness is often limited and temporary.
How Long Do the Results of Teeth Whitening Last?
The longevity of teeth whitening results can vary widely depending on the method used and other factors.
Here’s a general timeline:
- Over-the-counter products. These use lower concentrations of whitening agents and can take around 2-3 weeks to achieve the desired results. Once achieved, the results generally last about 4 to 6 months.
- Professional, in-office whitening. This method typically produces the most dramatic results in just one appointment. Depending on the severity of the stains, most patients experience results lasting 1-3 years. The whitening effects may only last for a short time for those with extremely severe stains.
- At-home teeth whitening kit. The effects of this method should last 6-8 months, up to one year, depending on maintenance.
Factors Affecting How Long Teeth Whitening Lasts
Teeth whitening isn’t a one-time procedure, and its effects don’t last forever. Several factors influence how long teeth whitening can last:
- The type of whitening process. The longevity of teeth whitening effects depends significantly on whether you opt for a professional treatment or use at-home products.
- Your dental hygiene habits. If you brush your teeth twice daily, floss regularly, and keep up with your dental check-ups, your teeth whitening results can last longer.
- Your diet. Consuming foods and drinks that cause staining can reduce the duration of your teeth whitening results. These include coffee, tea, red wine, and highly pigmented foods like berries.
- Age. Teeth tend to darken with age, so older individuals may find teeth whitening results don’t last as long.
- Initial tooth color. Teeth that are yellowish in color typically respond better to whitening treatments than those that are brown or gray. Therefore, the whitening effects may not last as long if your teeth are naturally darker.
- Genetics. Some people are genetically predisposed to have brighter or darker teeth. If you’re one of the latter, the effects of teeth whitening may be less noticeable or short-lived.
Are There Side Effects of Teeth Whitening?
While teeth whitening is generally safe, some people may experience side effects, such as:
- Tooth sensitivity. The bleaching agents used in teeth whitening can cause temporary tooth sensitivity during or after the treatment. This is particularly true for individuals with already sensitive teeth.
- Gum irritation. Strong chemicals in bleaching ingredients may cause gum irritation and sometimes even pain. This is more likely if the whitening agent comes into contact with the gums.
- Uneven whitening: This can occur especially when fillings, crowns, or veneers are present, as these do not respond to whitening treatments the same way natural teeth do.
- Damage to tooth enamel. Overusing whitening products or using a too abrasive product can potentially damage the outer tooth enamel layer.
- Allergic reaction. Allergic reactions to teeth whitening products are rare but can occur. Hydrogen peroxide, a common ingredient in many teeth whitening products, has been linked to allergic reactions in some cases. A study published in the journal Trials noted that products containing hydrogen peroxide that are freely commercialized without professional supervision could expose individuals to potential allergic reactions.
- Inflammation in the pulp of your teeth. This is more likely if the teeth are compromised with cracks or breakage. A study found that in-office bleaching with 38% hydrogen peroxide resulted in more intense inflammation, higher macrophage migration, and greater pulp damage than at-home treatments.
Schedule an Appointment With Us for a Brighter Smile
The effects of teeth whitening can vary widely, from a few months to a few years, based on the method used and individual factors such as dental hygiene and diet. Despite the potential side effects, teeth whitening is a popular and effective way to enhance your smile. Remember, proper care, like maintaining good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups, can help you achieve longer-lasting results.
Ready to get white teeth? Consider professional teeth whitening. Call us today to book an initial consultation. One of our dentists will evaluate your situation and determine the right teeth whitening treatment for you. During your appointment, our dentist will explain the benefits and risks of each option so you can make an informed decision about your oral health.