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How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

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A young woman is undergoing a teeth whitening procedure, the dentist is bleaching her teeth and uses a UV light

Many of us aspire to have a bright smile. Our teeth, however, can become discoloured and stained as we age due to certain foods and drinks and other factors.

Fortunately, teeth whitening methods from your dentist can help restore the brightness of your smile.

Teeth whitening works by using a bleaching agent to break down the stains on your teeth. The most common bleaching agents used in teeth whitening are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide.

What Causes Teeth Discolouration?

Before we understand how teeth whitening works, it’s essential to understand what causes teeth discolouration. Here are a few factors that can cause tooth yellowing or staining:


As we age, the enamel on our teeth thins out naturally, exposing more of the yellowish dentin beneath. Furthermore, our consumed foods and drinks can stain our teeth over time.


Some people are more prone to tooth discolouration than others due to genetic factors.


Certain foods and beverages, mainly those high in pigment, are known to cause tooth staining. Among the worst offenders are:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Red wine
  • Dark berries
  • Soda

Even healthy foods like beets and spinach can stain teeth when consumed in large quantities.


Tobacco use is one of the most common causes of tooth discolouration, as it can yellow or brown the teeth.


If you’ve had trauma to your teeth, such as a blow to the face, it can cause them to discolour.

Teeth Whitening Process

There are several methods for whitening your teeth, but the most common is to use a bleaching agent, such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Here’s a rundown of the procedure:

  • First, a protective barrier is placed over your gums to protect them from the bleaching agent.
  • Then, the bleaching agent is applied to your teeth using a tray or strip.
  • The agent is left on your teeth for a certain amount of time, depending on the strength of the product and the desired level of whitening.
  • Finally, the bleaching agent is removed, and your teeth are rinsed.

What’s Better: In-Office or At-Home Tooth Whitening?

In-office whitening is typically the most effective option because it uses a professional-strength bleaching agent applied to the teeth in the dentist’s office. The treatment usually takes about an hour and can result in up to 8 shades lighter teeth.

Phillips Zoom Whitening is a popular in-office teeth whitening treatment. During the procedure, a protective gel is applied to your gums to prevent irritation, and the whitening gel is applied to your teeth. The gel is then activated by a special light, which aids in breaking down and removing stains on your teeth.

Whitening toothpaste, strips, and gels are some of the many at-home ways to whiten teeth. These products may not be as effective and may take longer to produce results. Furthermore, over-the-counter whitening products may not be appropriate for people with sensitive teeth or gums. 

Consult with your dentist first to see which treatments are best for you.

A close-up of a woman in a mirror brushing her teeth with a whitening toothpaste

What to Eat After Teeth Whitening

After a teeth whitening treatment, you must be mindful of the foods you eat to maintain your new bright white smile.

Foods to Avoid

Here are some foods and drinks to avoid for the first 24-48 hours after whitening:

  • Coffee and tea
  • Red wine
  • Dark berries, such as blueberries or blackberries
  • Tomato sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Soda
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Vinegar-based dressings

Foods Safe to Eat

Here are some foods that are safe to eat after tooth whitening:

  • Soft, non-acidic Foods: Choose soft, non-acidic foods that are easy to chew and won’t irritate your gums or teeth.
  • Calcium-Rich Foods: Calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt can help protect your teeth and replenish any minerals lost during the whitening process.
  • Neutral-coloured Foods: Instead of eating brightly coloured foods that may stain your teeth, choose neutral-coloured foods such as white rice, chicken, or fish.

Whiten & Brighten Your Smile in Bond Head

Teeth whitening is a safe and effective way to improve your smile’s appearance and boost your confidence.

If you’re interested in teeth whitening, book an appointment with the team at Hill Top Dental Centre to go over your options and determine the best treatment plan for you.

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Written by Hill Top Dental Centre

Our clinic offers dental exams and cleanings for children and adultsemergency care when you need it, orthodontics to help align teeth or adjust a bad bite, crowns to restore the function and appearance of your teeth, and many other services to support your smile.

Book your family’s next dental appointments with Hill Top Dental Centre.

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