With so many whitening options, which one is best for me?

With so many whitening options, which one is best for me?

If you spend enough time watching tv or browsing the internet, you are bound to see some sort of advertisement for teeth bleaching. With such a huge demand and emphasis on facial esthetics, many companies and organizations are trying to win your business with the promise of a whiter smile. At Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry, we wanted to take a moment to inform you on the hows and whys of whitening so that you can make the best decision for your personal needs. Take a look at our home whitening frequently asked questions:


1. How does whitening work?

Whitening, whether done at a dental office or in your own home with over the counter products, is all based on the oxidation powers of hydrogen peroxide (or a peroxide derivative). Deep tooth stains penetrate past the outer enamel into an inner layer called the dentin. This is the part of the tooth that locks in stains and becomes discolored. During whitening, the peroxide is conducted to the dentin via tubules in the teeth and reaches the stained tissue. The peroxide then removes color by oxidizing the pigments, which effectively removes their ability to absorb light. This reaction is a function of peroxide concentration and time. The longer you can keep a higher concentration of peroxide on the teeth, the more drastic and enduring your results will be.

Whitening adresses pigmentation in the tooth dentin. This layer is situated between the outer enamel and the inner pulp chamber. 

Whitening adresses pigmentation in the tooth dentin. This layer is situated between the outer enamel and the inner pulp chamber. 

2. Do all whitening procedures work this way?

Any whitening procedure that addresses the root cause of deep staining will rely on some sort of peroxide therapy. The dental profession does not recognize an other/better way to remove discoloration from tooth dentin.

3. My toothpaste/floss/mouthwash says “whitening” on it, but does not have any peroxide content. What does this mean?

Many products marketed by mainstream dental companies promise a whiter, brighter smile with their use. Again, if the product does not contain a form of hydrogen peroxide it will not be able to remove deep stains within the teeth. On the backs of many of these products, the “whitening” properties are clarified: the scope of their effectiveness is limited to surface stains. This makes sense too; the abrasive properties of these products would make them excellent candidates for removing pigmentation at the outermost layer of the teeth. However, they will not address staining in the same fashion as a peroxide based treatment.

4. Are there any “all natural” whitening techniques that work as good as commercial products (i.e. strawberries and baking soda)?


The internet is full of articles on whitening your teeth via strawberries and baking soda or other “natural” techniques. Unfortunately, modern scientific research does not confirm any of these treatments and actually provides good reasons to avoid them. Strawberries, while delicious and full of great nutrients, are highly pigmented, acidic and sugary. This combination makes them horrible candidates for brushing with/leaving on your teeth. While the color may lead to further staining, the sugar and acid can actually lead to tooth decay. However, fear not!

Hydrogen peroxide is a perfectly healthy and safe way to whiten your smile and will not cause damage to your teeth.

5. How do home whitening solutions differ from those provided at Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry.

The only difference between a whitening service you would receive at our office and one you would purchase at a store is concentration of peroxide. The higher the peroxide concentration, the quicker the results. However, more peroxide necessitates more precise methods of delivery. This is done to prevent excess material from coming into contact with your gums/tongue and bleaching or irritating them.  When performing in office Zoom! treatments, we take about 20 minutes to block out all of your gum tissue with a special material to avoid any extra bleaching. With this level of precision, we can use a 35% bleach. Trays can be provided with a concentration up to 20%, as they “lock in” the peroxide around the tooth. Whitening strips and other take home products can only be sold with about 10% peroxide, as they are not custom made and are almost guaranteed to touch the gum tissue.

6. How long does whitening last?

The great news about whitening is that once you achieve a tooth shade you are happy with, it will remain stable for quite some time. We recommend you follow the manufacturer’s instructions until you reach your desired shade. Beyond that, you can use the product once a month (usually, varies product to product) as a means of “touching up” your smile. You can keep the whitening product in your fridge for longer shelf life, and remove it an hour before application.

7. Will my teeth be sensitive?

Peroxide causes sensitivity as it has to open tubules within the teeth to enter the inner dentin. Once these tubules are open, they are more sensitive to movement, air and cold temperatures. It is hard to predict sensitivity in patients who have never whitened before. However, many over the counter pain medicines are great at minimizing whitening pain. If you have questions about whitening sensitivity and how to minimize it, feel free to call our office.

We hope this information will help you better choose a whitening system that is best for your unique circumstances. If you want any more information on home whitening or would like to know about the whitening services offered at our office, please give us a call. We are always happy and eager to inform our patients on the best products and services available!