How Long does Teeth Whitening Last?

There are many different teeth whitening methods to get a brighter smile. In this article, we'll tell you about the most common ones and how long their results last.
How Long does Teeth Whitening Last?

Last update: 20 June, 2021

Who hasn’t ever looked into teeth whitening? Having a beautiful and radiant smile is an increasingly common concern for many people. Having shiny teeth is a quite accessible possibility with the teeth whitening treatments that exist today.

There are more and more options to improve the appearance of our mouth. Teeth whitening is a procedure that uses chemical substances capable of removing pigments and stains from tooth surfaces. The ones performed in dental offices are a good alternative, but there are also products that you can use at home.

The results and duration of these products vary. In this article, we’ll tell you about the most commonly used methods and how long teeth whitening lasts. We’ll also give you some tips to make the effects last longer.

Types of teeth whitening and their duration

We’ve already mentioned that teeth whitening removes stains from tooth surfaces and thus gives a more attractive appearance to the smile. The types of stains, the products and methods used and the patient’s habits will determine the duration of the results.

Although the effects of teeth whitening are long-lasting, they aren’t permanent. The following are some of the most commonly used treatments and how long they usually last.

At-home options

This includes those products that the patient can buy in pharmacies and apply by themselves. These are whitening gels or pastes that generally have a limited effect.

It doesn’t include professional tooth whitening treatments that the patient does at home but under the dentist’s indications and follow-up. Natural methods or homemade recipes with everyday products aren’t described either, since it’s not advisable to use them because they aren’t effective or because they pose a risk of damage to the dental structures.

Whitening toothpaste

This is toothpaste for daily brushing, but with added ingredients that provide whitening effects. They usually contain abrasive substances, hydrogen peroxide, and carbamide peroxide.

The ones that only contain abrasives act on superficial stains, without modifying the color of the teeth. Those containing peroxides can whiten teeth and remove stains.

Manufacturers recommend daily use, twice a day, for several weeks. However, results may only appear after 2 to 6 weeks of use and last for 3 to 4 months.

Its effects can be prolonged by continuing to use the whitening paste, but this isn’t recommended. The ingredients they contain aren’t designed for frequent use and cause irreversible damage to the enamel. In addition, they can irritate soft tissues, such as gums, and cause tooth sensitivity.

In cases where the patient chooses to use these pastes on a regular and prolonged basis, combining them with pastes that protect and strengthen the enamel is necessary to avoid damage.

Whitening mouthwash

This type of tooth whiteners are mouthwashes containing hydrogen peroxide. The recommendation is to perform a daily rinse to remove surface stains.

The results usually appear after 3 months of use and aren’t as noticeable or long-lasting. In general, their usefulness is to prolong or maintain results obtained with professional methods.

A man getting mouthwash
Whitening mouthwashes are used to maintain the effect of other treatments performed in the dental office.

Whitening pens

These are small plastic tubes containing the whitening gel and an applicator to place it on the tooth surface. The product is used by rubbing it for a few seconds on the stains, as if painting the tooth. You should leave it to act for the indicated time without eating or rinsing the mouth.

Its effects take from 2 days to a week to appear, but they’re minimal. In addition, they aren’t long-lasting.

Whitening strips

These are one of the most effective and longest-lasting at-home teeth whitening methods. The effects may require several applications before they appear and last up to 6 months.

These are adhesive strips that contain a peroxide gel to remove stains and whiten teeth. The patient removes them from the wrapping and, using a mirror to guide them, places them on their teeth. You must leave them to act for the time indicated by the manufacturer and then discard them.

The recommendation is to use them 30 minutes a day for at least 14 days. There are many brands available; some are more effective and easier to use than others.

Using them incorrectly or for longer than recommended can be harmful. Damage to the enamel, gum irritation, and sensitivity are some of the consequences associated with misuse of the product.

Teeth whitening at the dentist

Teeth whitening treatments performed by the professional in the dentist’s office usually have a more immediate and lasting effect than at-home treatments. In addition, a previous diagnosis evaluating the causes and types of stains allows one to choose the most appropriate method for each particular case.

The previous professional cleaning and the subsequent application of fluoride are usually part of the therapy, improving the results and reducing the risk of sensitivity and post-treatment complications.

The following are some of the tooth whitening alternatives that can be professionally performed.

Cold light lamp whitening

Dentists perform this type of procedure in their offices. The professional isolates the oral mucous membranes with a special material to avoid damaging them.

The dentist places this whitening gel on the tooth surfaces and exposes it to a cold light or laser that activates and accelerates the product. Whitening agents such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide are used at high concentrations.

The session can last between 30 and 90 minutes, depending on the needs of the clinical case. A single intervention is usually sufficient, although some require a second exposure.

The results obtained are very effective and are immediately noticeable.

In addition, the effects can last from 1 to 3 years in patients with good oral hygiene.

At-home whitening gel trays

In this case, the dentist guides the treatment and the patient performs it at home. The professional gives the person an outpatient kit with a special tray made to fit the patient’s mouth and the whitening gel to be placed in the tray for use at home.

The product used in these cases is much more powerful than the over-the-counter product. That’s why the dentist will indicate how to use it properly, how long and how often.

In some cases, patients must use it several hours or even overnight, for a few days or several weeks. There are presentations with different concentrations of peroxide which allow you to choose the best option for each case.

You will begin to notice the results after a week, reaching the maximum expression after 2 to 4 weeks. In cooperative patients and with good hygiene habits, they last a year or more.

Combined dental whitening

Here, we combine the two previous treatments. It consists of three phases:

  • First outpatient kit: The professional will instruct the patient to perform whitening with trays at home. The patient must use them at least 4 hours a day for about 15 days.
  • In-office whitening: After 15 days of using the outpatient whitening, the patient must go to the dentist for the cold light treatment. The treatment lasts approximately 45 minutes.
  • Second outpatient kit: The outpatient process is repeated for 15 more days.

This type of combined treatment is the one that obtains the best and most lasting results. In a cooperative patient, the effects are noticeable up to 3 years later.

Habits that can harm teeth whitening

Certain habits and customs can affect the results obtained with teeth whitening. In some cases, even more noticeable pigmentations or stains are generated than those that existed previously:

  • Certain food and beverages: Consuming foods with artificial coloring, coffee, tea, mate, red wine, chocolates, tomato, or blueberry sauces, for example, can affect the whiteness of the teeth.
  • Tobacco: The use of tobacco, in any of its forms, stains the teeth yellow and brown.
  • Poor dental hygiene: Not performing an adequate dental cleaning and favoring the accumulation of bacterial plaque in the mouth is a factor that affects the appearance of the smile. The formation of tartar, inflamed gums, and the appearance of cavities are consequences of neglect of hygiene that alter the color of the teeth.
  • Trauma or infections: Suffering a blow or having an infection in a tooth can cause a change in the color of the crown. Yellow, bluish, gray, and even black tones can appear in the whole dental element.
  • Age and genetics: We can’t control these factors, but you must be aware that they also influence the appearance of the smile. The color of the teeth and the passage of time that generates a more yellowish tone to the teeth are aspects to consider.

Tips for prolonging teeth whitening

Whether you’ve opted for an at-home method or professional teeth whitening, aftercare is essential to preserve the results. Putting them into practice can extend the time of the effects achieved.

Oral hygiene

We’ve already mentioned that the accumulation of bacterial plaque favors the appearance of new stains, the deposit of tartar, and the formation of caries. For this reason, keeping teeth clean is vital to avoid these complications and preserve a white smile.

The recommendation is to brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day, especially after meals. Especially if you ingest any colored food.

Flossing once a day is also necessary. Some dentists may recommend special toothpaste or mouthwashes to preserve the results from the whitening.

Diet and habits

Paying attention to the consumption of certain foods can help prolong the effects of whitening. Avoiding or reducing the consumption of foods and beverages that favor pigmentation, such as curry, saffron, cola, coffee, tea, wine, or mate is the most advisable thing to do. If you can’t avoid them, we suggest you drink them through a straw to reduce contact with the dental surface.

Reducing the consumption of acidic foods that damage the enamel, such as citrus fruits or vinegar, is also favorable.

Patients should avoid tobacco because, as we’ve already mentioned, it pigments the teeth with a characteristic brown or yellow color. You quickly lose the effectiveness of whitening if you continue smoking.

Dental visits

It’s ideal to have a follow-up check-up after the treatment. It’s normal to have some complications related to teeth whitening treatments, such as sensitivity after the treatment. These are usually temporary and can be easily treated.

Regular visits to the dentist every six months are also advisable. Checking the general condition of the mouth helps to prevent further complications.

A woman holding coffee
Beverages such as coffee can stain teeth and ruin a teeth whitening treatment.

Pre-assessment is important

When looking for a more attractive smile there are some considerations to take into account before opting for this type of product. The ingredients used may cause sensitivity in teeth and gums. This uncomfortable sensation in the cold and heat is usually temporary and disappears after a few days.

But there are other complications that you should consider, and they’re the following:

  • Irritation of the gums and soft tissues: usually happens when using home methods or buckets at home. They’re mild and transitory.
  • Gum whitening: the agent can act on the gingival tissue and discolor the area. With time, they restore their normal color.
  • Damage to tooth tissues: if there are fissures, cracks, or cavities in the teeth or the enamel is very worn and thinned, the bleaching agent may damage the tissues. It can even irritate the pulp tissue and cause pain.

For these reasons and because of the risk involved in handling these products on body structures, a dentist should perform the treatment. Before performing the treatment, the professional evaluate the general condition of the mouth and chooses the most appropriate options for each case. Sometimes, patients believe that they need whitening and a simple cleaning solves their esthetic problems.

On the other hand, if the mouth has some health issues and other approaches are necessary, the dentist must solve these first. The dentist will restore health to the mouth before exposing the teeth to these substances that could aggravate other situations.

Patient care is fundamental

You already know that you don’t have to stop smiling to hide yellow or stained teeth because there are many options when looking for a whiter smile.

The effects that this achieves and how long they last depend on many factors. The stains and pigmentations that exist, the coloration of the teeth, the age of the patient, the shades of white that the patient wants, and the type of treatment influence the results. But also, the patient’s habits and care during and after the applications have a lot to do with it.

The recommendation is always to consult a dentist before performing this type of approach. There are some risks that, with the advice of a professional, can be avoided. And remember that for teeth whitening to work, oral health care is essential.

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