March 22, 2023

Teeth Whitening vs Bleaching: Which is Right for You?

Teeth Whitening vs Bleaching

A bright and sparkling smile is often considered a sign of good health and hygiene.

But, over time, teeth may become stained or discolored due to various reasons and make people feel self-conscious while smiling.

In such cases, teeth whitening or bleaching can be a good option to restore the natural color of the teeth.

But, what’s the difference between the two? Let’s take a closer look.

Teeth Whitening: What is it?

Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dental procedure that involves removing surface stains and discoloration from the teeth.

It is a simple and non-invasive process that can be done at home or in a dental office. There are various types of teeth whitening procedures available, including:


Whitening toothpaste contains mild abrasives that help remove surface stains from the teeth. They are the least expensive option and can be easily found in drugstores or supermarkets. However, they are not very effective in removing deep stains.

Over-the-counter whitening products:

These include whitening strips, gels, and trays that can be easily bought at drug stores or online. They contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide that penetrates the enamel and breaks down stains.

They are easy to use and relatively affordable. However, they may not be suitable for people with sensitive teeth and can cause gum irritation if not used properly.

In-office teeth whitening:

This is the most effective and quickest way to whiten teeth. It involves a dentist applying a highly concentrated bleaching gel to the teeth and using a special light to activate the bleaching agent.

The procedure takes about an hour and can lighten teeth up to eight shades. However, it is more expensive than over-the-counter products and can cause temporary tooth sensitivity.

Teeth Bleaching: What is it?

Teeth bleaching is a dental procedure that involves using a bleaching agent, usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, to remove deep stains and discoloration from the teeth.

It is a more invasive and aggressive procedure than teeth whitening and is usually done in a dental office. There are two types of teeth bleaching procedures:

Non-vital bleaching:

This is done on teeth that have undergone a root canal treatment and have become discolored from within. The bleaching agent is placed inside the tooth and left for a few days to lighten the color. This procedure is highly effective and can restore the natural color of the tooth.

Vital bleaching:

This is done on live teeth that have become discolored due to various reasons. It involves applying the bleaching agent directly to the teeth and using a special light to activate the agent.

This procedure can be done in-office or at home using customized trays. It is highly effective in removing deep stains but can cause temporary tooth sensitivity and gum irritation.

What’s the Difference between Teeth Whitening and Bleaching?

The main difference between teeth whitening and bleaching is the level of intensity and the type of stains they can remove.

Teeth whitening is a surface-level treatment that can remove mild to moderate stains and discoloration from the enamel.

On the other hand, teeth bleaching is a more invasive treatment that can remove deep stains and discoloration from within the tooth. It is usually recommended for people with severe staining or discoloration.

Another difference between teeth whitening and bleaching is the level of effectiveness and the time it takes to see results.

Teeth whitening can lighten teeth up to eight shades in just one hour, while teeth bleaching can achieve even more dramatic results but may take multiple appointments or weeks of at-home treatment to see significant changes.

Additionally, teeth whitening is a less invasive and less expensive option compared to teeth bleaching. Whitening toothpaste and over-the-counter products are affordable and can be used at home without the need for professional assistance.

In-office teeth whitening, while more expensive, is still less invasive than teeth bleaching and can be done in just one appointment.

However, teeth bleaching is a more effective option for people with severe staining or discoloration that cannot be removed with teeth whitening. It is also a better option for people who want to achieve dramatic results quickly.

Overall, the choice between teeth whitening and bleaching depends on the individual’s needs and the severity of the staining or discoloration. Consulting with a dental professional can help determine which treatment option is best for achieving the desired results.

Risks and Side Effects

While teeth whitening and bleaching are generally considered safe procedures, there are some risks and side effects to be aware of.

The most common side effect is tooth sensitivity, which can be temporary or permanent depending on the individual’s sensitivity level and the strength of the bleaching agent used.

Gum irritation, especially with in-office bleaching, can also occur but is usually temporary and mild.

Another potential risk of teeth bleaching is the risk of tooth enamel damage. Overuse or misuse of bleaching agents can cause the enamel to become thin and weak, leading to increased sensitivity and susceptibility to decay.

This is why it’s important to follow the instructions provided by a dental professional and avoid using over-the-counter products without supervision.


Teeth whitening and bleaching are both effective options for restoring the natural color of teeth and achieving a brighter, more confident smile.

Additionally, maintaining good oral hygiene practices and avoiding staining beverages can help prolong the effects of teeth whitening or bleaching treatments.