Ronald L. Cooper DDS, FAGD

Perhaps tooth whitening is something you’ve been thinking about for a long time. Or you may consider tooth whitening before a wedding, family photoshoot, or speaking engagement. Our dental team is trained to help you choose the products that will leave you with a brighter smile.

More than 38 million Americans are projected to use tooth whiteners this year. Americans are particular about teeth: when it comes to tooth color, most believe the whiter and brighter, the better.

A Bright Smile Matters

If you’ve found yourself attracted to someone because of their smile, you’re not alone. Studies have found that nearly all (99.7%) of Americans believe a beautiful smile is a valuable social asset. And it’s not just your social life that can be affected: 74% said an unattractive smile could hurt your career. A recent German study even noted that damaged or yellow teeth make us seem older.

It’s no wonder that whiter teeth are what most people say they would love to change about their smile. 

Why Do Your Teeth Change Color?

Where your tooth enamel falls on the white-to-yellow tooth color spectrum is determined before you’re born. Genetics also determines how prone you are to tooth staining.

Internal and external factors can discolor your teeth over time. Some causes of teeth discoloration are within your control while others, such as trauma, are not. 

Your dentist can determine which internal or external factors caused your teeth to discolor. Then, you’ll know whether tooth whitening will work for you, and which products are your best options.

Internal Factors

As we age, our teeth naturally change color. Illness and the side effects of some medications are other internal factors that cause internal stains or enamel defects. For example, tetracycline used to treat severe acne and many bacterial infections, may change the color of your teeth. 

If internal factors have discolored your teeth, tooth whitening products are unlikely to brighten those teeth.

External Factors

Many external factors can change the color of your teeth. Knowing which are factors in your tooth discoloration will help your dentist understand how to whiten your teeth.

Poor oral hygiene

If you don’t brush and floss regularly and you skip regular dental visits, your teeth won’t be as clean as they should be. Dirty teeth are less likely to be the brighter color you desire.


Smoking causes your teeth to be yellow.

Food and beverages

The dark pigment in food and drinks can discolor your teeth when the color pigments attach to your tooth enamel.

Black coffee, dark teas, red wine, dark carbonated drinks and colas, and candies and gum that changes the color of your tongue can all change the color of your teeth. Sports drinks, soy sauce, and curry also cause discoloration. The more you eat and drink these, the more your teeth change.

Beets, tomato sauce, berries, and grapes are among the healthier foods that can also stain your teeth.

Tooth Whitening Options

Effective tooth whitening products either contain a polishing agent or bleach. Both approved polishing agents and dental bleaches are considered safe. Always follow package directions when using tooth whitening products.

— Polishing agents work to remove stains as you brush. 

— Bleaching tooth whitening products either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. 

Bleaches act to break up the stains on your teeth, making the discoloration appear less concentrated, or whiter. Hydrogen peroxide, the primary substance used in hair bleaches, is used in tooth-whitening strips. Whitening products used by dentists contain carbamide peroxide.


Your least expensive option for removing stains are toothpastes with added polishing agents. It can take two to six weeks of twice-a-day brushing before you’ll notice any improvement in the color of your teeth. 

Look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance on the packaging to find products approved for stain removal by the American Dental Association. 

Tooth-whitening strips

Tooth whitening strips work faster than toothpastes to improve the color of your teeth. Over-the-counter tooth whitening strips are popular because they are easy to find in stores or online, are relatively inexpensive, and easy to apply. Again, look for packaging with the ADA Seal of Acceptance and follow the directions carefully.

Tooth whitening strips use a lower concentration of peroxide than is available through your dentist. These strips will take two weeks to a month to whiten your teeth. These strips may improve the color of your teeth but won’t brighten as much as in-office applications. Cost is about $50 for a two-week supply. 

Whitening strips use hydrogen peroxide, which can lead to tooth sensitivity. A recent study found that misuse of tooth-whitening strips can damage dentin. This damage happens when the bleach gets through to the first layer of your teeth (enamel) to the middle layer (dentin) and irritates the nerves in your teeth. This sensitivity is usually temporary, but you should avoid overuse of whitening strips.

Check with our dental team before using whitening strips to learn if you have receding gums or other issues with your teeth that will increase the likelihood of tooth sensitivity.

Whitening options on our office

There are many reasons to choose in-office or at-home whitening products from a dentist rather than choosing over-the-counter products.

— We can determine the most likely cause of discoloration to determine if bleaching will brighten your tooth color.

— Our dental team is trained to help you choose the shade of white that looks most natural with your skin tone and whites of your eyes.

— In-office, we can better control the color of the whitening process.

— We can tell you if you have any issues that can’t be bleached, such as dead tooth or teeth discolored by medication.

— Sensitivity to the bleaching agent is minimized in-office because your dentist will protect the rest of your mouth with a rubber shield before applying the bleaching agent.

When you want a brighter smile in a hurry, our dental team can perform in-office or chairside whitening. In the office, our dental team can use stronger, faster-acting tooth whitening agents that can dramatically improve your smile in as little a single one-hour visit.

Our office offers GLO Science patented tooth whitening process. GLO Professional Treatments uses warming heat and LED lights to activate the hydrogen-peroxide concentrated professional whitening gel. The formulation is sensitivity-free. This system is only available through GLO partner dental practices like ours.


We offer in-home whitening kits if you’d like a more affordable tooth whitening option and you’re in less off a hurry. These kits can whiten your teeth in 7 to 10 days.  We’ll let you know how long you need to insert the tray into your mouth – usually 30 minutes- and for how many days. It’s up to you to be compliant with these instructions to get the best results.

Some patients report more soft tissue irritation with at-home whitening. This irritation may be due to an ill-fitting tray or improper application of the gel bleach. We can answer any questions you have throughout the process.

We can help you select a tooth whitening system that works best for your budget and time.  Contact us today to make an appointment.