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Teeth darken over time for a variety of reasons: coffee, tea or tobacco consumption, antibiotic use, excessive fluoride, or simply age. Should you find yourself unsatisfied with the colour of yours, several options are available to whiten your smile:

  • In-office bleaching
  •  At-home bleaching
  •  Whitening toothpastes

In-office bleaching (also called chairside bleaching) requires two or more visits to your dentist. He or she will apply a bleaching agent to your teeth, and may use extra light or heat to quicken the work of the agent. Your gums will be protected from the bleach by either a gel or a rubber shield. Each visit can last anywhere from half an hour to an hour.

At-home bleaching requires purchasing a peroxide-based bleaching solution from your dentist or pharmacist. These solutions bleach the tooth enamel. They usually come in a gel form along with a mouthguard. Place the gel into the mouthguard and use as directed. The duration and frequency of the treatment varies. Some solutions require overnight use for a shorter period of time; others require twice-daily treatment for a longer period. Your dentist will help you decide on the duration and intensity of treatment best suited to your needs.

Whitening toothpastes differ from bleaching because they do not permanently alter the colour of the teeth. They simply contain polishing agents that remove deeper stains from the teeth than regular toothpaste.

Teeth whitening is a safe and popular form of cosmetic dentistry. According to the American Dental Association, 96% of users report a whiter smile. Dentists warn, though, that teeth whitening is not for everyone. Tooth-coloured fillings, for example, do not respond to bleach and will stand out against a newly whitened smile. Before you begin a treatment, talk to your dentist about your specific needs. Together, you will determine if teeth whitening is the best option for you.