Teeth whitening can remove stains and lead to a brighter, more attractive smile. Use this guide to find out more about teeth whitening, including why you'll want to speak with a dentist before taking the plunge with a procedure.
Teeth whitening is a type of cosmetic dental procedure that lightens the colour of your teeth.
There are a range of ways to help whiten your teeth, from professional cosmetic services that are done by a dentist or beauty specialist, to a host of different whiteners available to buy at home that come in the form of toothpaste, strips, pens or other kits.
Many at-home products such as teeth whitening toothpastes, teeth-whitening kits and teeth whitening pens also feature bleach as their active ingredient.
Bleaching is also offered by dentists and beauty specialists. Professional services and kits involve applying a peroxide-based solution to the teeth which is either activated using an LED or UV light or left to sit for a few hours, held in place with a whitening tray.
Teeth whitening pens are applied directly to the teeth with no waiting time required. They are used more for everyday touch-ups rather than more long-term whitening.
Whitening toothpastes can also include bleaching agents as ingredients.
If you have sensitive teeth or prefer to avoid bleaching, which may cause tooth sensitivity, there are abrasive options to remove surface stains which can be done at home.For example, charcoal whitening products are available as powders and pastes which you can use as part of your daily dental routine. They're a much more affordable option to professional whitening however the Australian Dentist Association warns that they can strip your tooth enamel.
While the abrasive agent won't lighten your actual tooth colour, it can remove stains to make your smile appear that much brighter.
Which brands offer peroxide-free teeth whitening?
Safety regulations limit the strength of DIY teeth whitening kits to 6% hydrogen due to concerns that excessive use of bleach can damage enamel, cause sensitivity in teeth or gums and may even cause oral cancer.
If you're looking to avoid peroxide altogether, the following brands offer peroxide-free teeth whitening treatments:
Will whitening my teeth damage my enamel or gums?
As with any dental or medical procedure, side effects can occur when getting your teeth whitened.
The most common concerns are teeth sensitivity and mild gum irritation and not damage to enamel or gums.
Will whitening my teeth cause sensitivity?
Some people may experience sensitivity after getting their teeth whitened, especially if using a product with a high percentage of peroxide or extending the application time past the recommended duration.
If you do experience sensitivity, stay away from extremely hot or cold beverages to minimise discomfort.
If you already have sensitive teeth, you may want to speak with your dentist prior to trying an at-home teeth whitening kit.
Professional teeth whitening procedures
These dental cosmetic treatments are delivered 'in-chair' at practices. Typically, a bleaching solution is applied to the teeth and this is activated by laser, light or heat. While some laser-based procedures can be completed in one session, others will require multiple visits to your dentist.
Pros and cons
- Considered to be the safest, most effective treatment.
- Professionals can tailor the level of whitening for your personal needs.
- Instant results may be available.
- Expect to pay considerably more for in-chair procedures
Teeth whitening toothpaste, strips or kits
These use-at-home whitening products – many of which contain peroxide – include whitening toothpaste, mouthwash, gels and strips. They can be bought online or over-the-counter from the supermarket or chemist. You'll need to carefully administer these treatments yourself.
We'd encourage you to speak with your dentist before using any teeth whitening products. You may have a pre-existing problem with your teeth that makes you unsuited to a teeth whitening course.
Pros and cons
- Inexpensive – we found teeth whitening kits for as little as $68.09.
- Some products may offer fast results.
- They can be a lot less effective than professional whitening procedures.
- Less safe.
Which brands let me whiten my teeth at home?
Consider the following factors when shopping online for teeth whitening products:
- Safety considerations. Under Australian law, there's a limit to how strong certain teeth whitening products can be when sold online or over-the-counter; or performed by non-dentists. For example, teeth whitening pens can't contain more than 6% hydrogen peroxide. Teeth whitening procedures are usually not recommended if you're pregnant or breastfeeding or have weak or sensitive teeth or gum problems. Keep in mind there are common side effects of teeth whitening too, such as sensitivity and gum irritation.
- Cost. Be clear on exactly what's included in the cost you see advertised. For example, do you have to buy a replacement whitening pen separately once your gel runs out? Also, if you're ordering from overseas then you may be forced to pay extra for express delivery if a supplier says it can't use a standard mail carrier due to legal transportation regulations.
- Reviews. What do past users have to say? One negative review may not mean a lot, but regular complaints could mean you may want to stay clear. Generally, you'll want to be careful with reviews for these products – some paid-for product placements may be presented as unbiased reviews.
- Sign up offers. Teeth whitening is a competitive market and there are often flash sales and other discounts to be found. At the time of writing, Advance Whitening was offering a free Bonus Enamel Booster Pen (worth $39.95) with every order.
Latest teeth whitening deals
The effectiveness of teeth whitening products and services will vary based on personal circumstances and there's no guarantee that one product will work for you. Again, it's important to check in with your dentist before settling on any type of teeth whitening.
- Maintain a daily oral care routine that includes twice-daily brushing and flossing once a day
- Avoid food and drink that can stain your teeth including red wine, tea, coffee, soft drinks, dark berries and beetroot or use a straw when you do choose to indulge
- Eliminate tobacco products as these can also cause stains
- Whitening toothpaste can help remove any surface stains that have accumulated
- See your dentist for checkups twice a year
Can I claim any medicare benefits for teeth whitening?
No, Medicare doesn't typically cover teeth whitening, but your health insurance may provide additional cover depending on your plan. Read our guide for more on this topic.
Does insurance pay for teeth whitening?
While Medicare doesn't cover teeth whitening, some private health insurance providers will cover a percentage of the cost of treatment.
These providers are in the minority, though, so if this is important to you, make sure to compare your dental insurance options thoroughly to try to find one that will cover your whitening treatment.
Are there ways I can make my teeth whiter naturally?
There may be natural remedies to consider, such as coconut oil. Also, some enzymes that occur in fruits such as pineapple and papayas may improve the whiteness of teeth.
Is teeth whitening permanent? How long does teeth whitening last?
Teeth whitening isn't permanent, but can last between six months and two years depending on how well you maintain your teeth.
Brushing your teeth twice a day, avoiding smoking and staying away from food that's likely to stain your teeth such as tea, coffee, red wine, beetroot and dark berries can help keep your smile bright.
How can I keep my teeth looking white?
Try to limit food or drinks which cause stains. These may include tomato-based sauces, coffee and red wine. Also, floss and brush your teeth regularly and make sure you visit your dental practice every six months.
Does blue LED light make your teeth whiter?
Results vary on this one. While some studies have shown an improvement in peroxide-only treatments when compared to using both peroxide and blue LED light, the results were largely insignificant.
It hasn't been shown to have a negative impact, however, so if you're keen to try it out for yourself, here are some brands that use LED in their treatment: