Teeth Whitening FAQ

Are you embarrassed to smile because your teeth look yellow and dull?

Is Teeth Bleaching the Same as Teeth Whitening?

Are you embarrassed to smile because your teeth look yellow and dull? Many people are self conscious of their teeth due to discoloration that has occurred over the years. This had led to a boom in the cosmetic dentistry area of teeth whitening. Americans spend over a billion dollars each year on over-the-counter whitening products, which doesn’t even count the people who seek whiter teeth through professional treatment.

It is likely that you have heard two terms related to brightening your smile: teeth bleaching and teeth whitening. Are these the same thing? Although their goals are similar, these terms refer to different processes for whitening your teeth.


The FDA requires that the word “bleaching” be used only in cases where the teeth are able to be whitened more than their natural color. This occurs only with products containing bleach, usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.

Teeth Whitening

“Whitening” is the term used when the surface color of a tooth is restored by removing debris and dirt. For example, a cleaning product such as toothpaste is considered a whitening product instead of bleaching.

Which one is better?

Teeth whitening is a subjective procedure, meaning that it varies with each person. Before deciding how to brighten your smile, consult with your dentist to get a realistic idea of potential results for your teeth. That way you can choose the best process for you personally, and set your expectations about how long it might take and how your teeth may appear when complete. Whether you choose to bleach them or whiten them, it is likely that you will be dazzling your friends with your new, improved smile!

What are Pros and Cons of Dental Veneers vs. Teeth Whitening?

Are you dissatisfied with your smile? Did you once love your bright white smile but now cringe when you see your dull or stained teeth? As we age, our teeth naturally discolor, whether from smoking, the buildup of the foods we eat or the liquids we drink, or from a thinning of the enamel over time.

Changing the color of your teeth can take years off of your appearance. With that desire in mind, you may be looking at utilizing professional teeth whitening, or you may be interested in taking it a step further and getting dental veneers.

Both dental veneers and professional teeth whitening can change your smile for the better, but do you know which one you should choose? Both can lighten your teeth by many shades of white, and both can appear and feel like your natural teeth; however, there are some things to keep in mind.

Teeth whitening pros:
  • Easy and fast – you’ll see a difference after only one appointment
  • Gentle and safe for teeth – your natural teeth are not permanently altered
Teeth whitening cons:
  • Not a permanent lightening – you’ll have to repeat the procedure over time
  • Not a fix for any tooth imperfections – only the color will change, not the shape or length of the tooth or chips or cracks
Dental veneer pros:
  • Extremely stain-resistant – the materials used for dental veneers won’t discolor or stain
  • Can correct gaps and shape issues – dental veneers can correct crooked or gapped teeth by changing the size, shape, length and more of your tooth
Dental veneer cons:
  • Alters your natural tooth permanently – because dental veneers must be applied after a tooth has been shaped or shaved down, some of your tooth’s enamel is permanently removed to accommodate the veneer
  • Can pop off, break or necessitate replacement – dental veneers may dislodge or have issues with placement that require replacement by a dentist

Before you make a decision regarding your smile, talk to Sarasota cosmetic dentist Dr. Back and get all the information you need to make the decision that’s right for you and your smile.

What are Teeth Whitening Risks and Potential Issues?

Even though teeth whitening is considered very safe, there are some risks of temporary side effects, even when the treatment is considered to have been successful. Gum irritation and sensitivity to very hot or to very cold foods and liquids are the top two reported side effects to teeth whitening, at home or in the dentist office.

Between 30 to 50 percent of patients who use teeth whitening products can expect some tooth sensitivity or irritated gums during the course of their teeth whitening therapies. In some unusual cases, a dentist might recommend that all whitening be stopped for the comfort and safety of the patient.

The greater the concentration of the whitening agent and the longer the duration the product is used, the higher the likelihood of side effects. These effects can occur during or immediately following the bleaching treatment and should abate within two to three days.

Fillings, crowns or other dental restorations will not whiten in the same way that your natural teeth will. Teeth that are whitened inexpertly may be blotchy and produce an overall negative aesthetic that is worse than the original stained teeth.

Sometimes our natural teeth are so darkly stained that they cannot be whitened completely. Some stains are caused by medications such as tetracycline and cannot be altered by whitening. These teeth may require a cosmetic dentistry procedure such as dental veneers.

It is possible to whiten your teeth too much. The super bright white color looks artificial and can look blue. Overuse can also lead to the degradation and erosion of your enamel, a process that cannot be reversed and can lead to tooth decay or gum disease.

Visit your dentist for an exam to determine if teeth whitening is safe for you. Use only products your dentist feels are safe, and use them only for their recommended periods of time. Don’t overuse any whitening product, and follow all of the instructions. The best, safest, most effective teeth whitening is found in your dentist’s office. Talk to your dentist today to see what whitening options are available to you.