Whitening vs. Bleaching

Teeth whitening/bleaching procedures are on the rise and are among the most common procedures our patients are interested in.  These procedures can knock years off your appearance, boost confidence, and make a stronger first impression.  At Dental Health of Fianna, we love helping people smile like never before! This blog serves to discuss the differences between teeth whitening and bleaching and to help you decide which is best for you!


The FDA states that the term dental “bleaching” can be used to describe products that can whiten teeth beyond their natural color.  This description applies to professional dental bleaching products that contain active ingredients such as carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide.  The term dental “whitening” is used much more loosely and can be described as the process of restoring teeth to their natural color by removing stains and debris from the tooth surface.  Guess what, simply brushing your teeth with water and a toothbrush could technically be considered “whitening” under this description!  Whiteners include cleaning agents like mouth rinses, toothpastes, and other over-the-counter products that rarely have actual bleaching active ingredients.


Bleaching products contain an active ingredient called hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Bleaching activates the peroxides to release oxygen molecules that enter the enamel micro-fractures to break down stain pigmentation. This release of oxygen can occur over time or rapidly. Custom take home bleaching treatments stimulate the release of oxygen over a period of hours. In office bleaching treatments like LumiBrite cause the rapid release of oxygen within a few minutes.  Both forms of bleaching are great and are offered in our office!

Most of our patients want to know if either treatment causes damage to their enamel, the answer is NO! The main side effect of bleaching is temporary tooth sensitivity to cold. This is because the micro-fractures and your natural enamel pores are open during treatment. These micro-fractures and pores will re-mineralize over time. Special toothpastes can help reduce sensitivity by accelerating this re-mineralization process.

Our Professional Recommendations

We are advocates of daily flossing, twice daily brushing, and using a mouth rinse recommended specifically for you by your dental professionals. If you enjoy using over-the-counter whitening toothpastes and rinses for color maintenance of your teeth, we think that is great (unless it is contraindicated by another tooth/gum condition).  If you are interested in having a bright white smile, we think professional bleaching is best, most cost efficient, and safest for you.  Ask at your next visit what we think would work best for you!