whiten teeth

How do I whiten my teeth and prevent discoloration?

Written by: WellCome Care Editorial Team

In A Nutshell

  • Teeth whitening is the process of using bleaching agents to make your smile appear brighter
  • At-home DIY teeth whitening is increasingly popular to lighten stains
  • At-home DIY whitening systems usually require the application of a peroxide-based gel directly on the teeth.

Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dental procedure that has gained immense popularity in the last decade or so. When performed at the clinic, by licensed hygienists and dentists, the procedure can make the smile appear several shades lighter than before – but this depends entirely upon the nature and extent of discoloration present on the teeth.

There are a number of factors that can be responsible for causing staining and discoloration of the teeth. These can be divided into extrinsic factors, and intrinsic factors.

Extrinsic factors affect the enamel. The stains or discoloration in this case may be caused due to excessive consumption of highly pigmented food and beverages such as tea, coffee, wine, and sports drinks. Nicotine deposits from tobacco products can also make the teeth appear dull and pale.

Intrinsic factors on the other hand are those that affect the inner layer of the tooth, also known as Dentin. Dentin is less mineralized than Enamel, and factors that can cause the discoloration of this layer include:

  • Dentinogenesis Imperfecta
  • Fluorosis
  • Tooth demineralization
  • Exposure to a drug called Tetracycline during dental formative stages (in utero)
  • Age related changes
  • Some anti-bacterial agents

Because teeth whitening is a relatively expensive procedure that is not often covered by insurance policies, people tend to try at-home bleaching options such as:

  • Brushing with baking soda
  • Using activated charcoal
  • Using apple cider vinegar
  • Whitening toothpastes
  • DIY bleaching kits
  • Whitening dental strips
  • Peroxide gels
  • Whitening rinses

According to research whereby participants were divided into two groups, from which the first group used OTC whitening solutions and the other was given placebos, it was concluded that the DIY bleaching treatments did not show any superiority over the placebos in terms of results.

For effective ‘whitening’ of the teeth, it is first important to determine the cause of discoloration, allow a professional to select the right bleaching products and quantities accordingly, getting the teeth professionally cleaned via Ultrasonic Scaling in-office, and finally, making lifestyle or dietary changes to retain the effects of the procedure. Apart from the cause of staining, the age of the patient also plays a vital part in determining the results of the treatment.


The evidence suggests that patients who wish to keep teeth discoloration at bay, must:

- Limit daily consumption of tea, coffee, and soft/sports drinks that contain heavy pigments
- Maintain a healthy daily dental hygiene routine at home
- Refrain from excessive use of tobacco (smoking and chewing)
- Limit alcohol intake; Red wine can cause staining. To prevent this, brush and floss your teeth BEFORE indulging.
- Visit the dentist’s office for regular check-up and clean appointments at least twice a year

According to experts, stains and discoloration need to be treated according to their cause. For instance, intrinsic staining may not respond to whitening procedure at all unless a well-planned Root Canal Therapy is performed on the tooth.

Similarly, even the effects of in-office bleaching may be short lived in the absence of a proper maintenance and hygiene regime. It is for this reason that one cannot predict the results or efficacy of OTC bleaching products such as gels, gums, and strips.


Experts agree that teeth whitening is an aesthetic procedure that works best when performed by professionals using quality products, while OTC solutions do not guarantee results.


DIY home teeth whitening treatments should be avoided because while they may or may not make your smile appear brighter, some of them may has abrasive tooth wear and gum damage if used incorrectly.


  1. Dental Update: Overview of tooth discoloration
  2. Journal of Dentisry: Bleaching & tooth discoloration
  3. NHS and Teeth Whitening
  4. Clinical Trials: In-office teeth bleaching
  5. Journal of Dentistry: Literature Review of Bleeching
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