Are teeth whiteners effective?
At-home teeth whitening kits can definitely be effective, depending on the severity of tooth stains and oral sensitivity. Teeth stains occur on both the surface and inside of the tooth, and can be caused by many things, including:
- Certain foods and drinks, including coffee, red wine, dark soda and specific fruits like blueberries
- Tobacco use
- Poor oral hygiene, including inadequate brushing and flossing
Teeth whitening products can remove some — but definitely not all — stains, said Matt Messina, DDS, a dentist based in Ohio and a spokesperson for the American Dentistry Association. Cavities or tooth decay may make teeth turn a dark gray color which won’t go away with at-home whitening, he noted. The same goes for other oral problems like plaque build-up or gum irritation.
“You need healthy teeth and gums before you even think about whitening,” said Messina. “It’s not all about color — that’s just one part of the overall picture.”
If you’re unsure about discoloration of your teeth, check with your dentist first to figure out the underlying problem and make sure you’re a candidate for teeth whitening. Some issues, like plaque, can be removed via regular professional cleanings at a dentist’s office. Others can be solved by whitening.
How teeth whitening works
Most teeth whiteners have an active ingredient, typically hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which penetrates the