Fact Checked

How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?

Written by Fernanda Elizalde

July 29, 2022

Medically Reviewed

By Dr. James Younan, DDS

If you're looking to whiten your smile, there are plenty of ways to whiten your teeth. You can opt for professional teeth whitening or at-home treatments to keep your pearly whites bright.

Drinking coffee and sugary foods can make your teeth discolored. Even certain medications or your favorite pasta sauce can cause your teeth to turn yellow.

There are many at-home whitening products that you can try if you don't wish to get professional teeth whitening done.

It's easier to get dental office procedures that will brighten your teeth and reduce surface stains from drinking coffee or smoking. You can choose from gels, strips, and rinses that will let you flaunt a beautiful smile. The results are temporary with over-the-counter products.  

snow teeth whitening kit

 

After a whitening procedure, you will notice a whiter smile that is nearly eight shades lighter than the original color of your teeth.

No matter what kind of tooth whitening treatment you choose to undergo, the results will not last forever, and you will need repeat sessions.

At-home products will give you results that could last for a few months. Professional whitening treatments can last as long as three years.

This article rounds up the whitening treatments and the products to consider. We will also let you know how long does teeth whitening last and some handy tips to follow to prolong the results.

How long does teeth whitening last?

One of the most common questions that most people ask is, how long does teeth whitening last? The answer is straightforward.

The length of time you can expect your teeth whitening results to last depends on the type of whitener or bleaching agents you use.

Your lifestyle habits can also play a significant role in how well the whitening kits will work.

Tooth whitening treatments such as whitening strips or those used by your dentist are all designed to reduce stains.

If you follow good oral habits, you can keep discolored teeth at bay. You can even use at-home products combined with dental cleanings to enjoy results that will last longer. 

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic stains

We all love those pearly whites and hope that an in-office treatment can help improve the color of our teeth by several shades.

However, it is crucial to remember that even the best whitening options can only do so much. The degree and type of tooth discoloration can make a huge difference.

Intrinsic stains

Intrinsic or internal teeth stains are caused by trauma, aging, infection, and certain medications. These internal stains are relatively deep and can be hard to eliminate but can certainly be removed via cosmetic dentistry.

Extrinsic stains

Extrinsic or external stains are generally caused by food, smoking, and sugary drinks. Most whiteners such as mouth rinses and peroxide gel work well on extrinsic stains.

Popular whitening treatments

Whitening toothpaste

An effective way to keep teeth bright is using whitening toothpaste at least twice a day. Whitening toothpaste is one of the best at-home treatments that even your dentist will recommend.

You have to be diligent to see results, it can take six weeks before you see any noticeable results.

Whitening toothpaste may be used every day and contains polishing agents that have ingredients such as carbamide peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, and mild abrasives.

If you use whitening toothpaste twice daily, it may take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks before you see any results.

Users say these results can last for up to 3 or 4 months. According to American Dental Association, toothpaste, which only contain abrasives, tackle stains on the surface but do not change the teeth' interior color.

Products containing only peroxide can whiten your teeth and remove stains to varying degrees.

Prolonged use of such whitening toothpastes can thin tooth enamel. Alternate whitening toothpaste and regular toothpaste to keep teeth healthy.

Whitening mouthwash

Using mouthwash is yet another mild way to whiten your teeth. It may take as long as three months before you see any results. Good name brands contain hydrogen peroxide and can help remove minor stains on the surface of your teeth.

Use this in conjunction with in-house whitening strips for more dramatic results.

Whitening strips

Whitening strips vary in the number of treatments needed. Some strips provide superior results, lasting for up to 6 months.

Whitening strips are very effective at-home treatments. You may need repeat treatments before you see any noticeable results.

Certain brands may be more effective and easier to use than others. Many brands also come with LED accelerator lights that provide intense stain removal and help you get a brighter smile.  

When used correctly, they can work on extrinsic stains.

Whitening pens

Whitening pens are another excellent option for those who do not want to go for an in-office whitening treatment. These pens render fast results. It may take anything from two days to as long as a week to whiten teeth.

They may be effective on external stains caused by food or red wine. These pens are typically small plastic tubes filled with whitening gel and can be carried in your purse.

The gel washes away pretty quick, so try not to eat or drink for about an hour after application.

At-home whitening gel trays

Whitening gel trays are suitable for cleaning sensitive teeth. They work great on teeth stained by red wine and coffee.

You can see results in about two weeks.

A simple stain will be easily tackled using whitening gel trays. The level of whitening will depend on the strength of peroxide in the gel. Another factor is the amount of time the tray is kept in the mouth.

Coupled with proper dental hygiene recommended by your cosmetic dentist, tooth stains can be eliminated. You will be surprised your teeth look as good as teeth professionally whitened.

You may also opt to get your teeth whitened at your dentist's office. Your dentist will fit your mouth with a custom-made tray.

You'll see your teeth are whiter and brighter at the end of the procedure. Just be careful and isolate the teeth area only. Avoid the gums and try to minimize salivating. At-home treatments are also great for precise spot treatment.

Your dentist may also allow you to take the tray home or supervise it at the clinic. You will be asked to keep the tray on your teeth for several hours or even overnight.

In-office professional teeth whitening

Want your teeth whitening permanent? Then in-office tooth whitening is your best bet. In the office is great the dentist uses higher concentrations of the bleaching agents, isolates the teeth, and has saliva control to avoid affecting the gums and minimize your chances of swallowing the bleaching gel.

This is, in fact, the best route for you if you maintain good dental hygiene and a bright white smile, as the results can last for as long as three years.

The teeth whitening procedure is done at your dentist's office. In most cases, it only requires one visit. Teeth whitening at the clinic is done using a potent bleaching agent.

Your dentist may also use heat and light to accelerate the process of whitening teeth.

Are there side effects from teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening generally does not have any significant side effects. The active ingredients in the whiteners can cause sensitivity in your gums and teeth, but this will not persist for long.

Certain people, however, say prolonged use can cause sensitivity. Some people complain of burning gums or gum irritation due to bleaching agents in whiteners, while others state that teeth whitening procedures may also cause gum whitening.

Some others also complain of gastrointestinal discomfort when using teeth whitening aides. In case of extreme sensitivity or pain while using treatments to whiten teeth, be sure to contact your dental professional.

If the whitening agent goes in between your permanent teeth, it may cause discomfort that may need to be addressed.

Prevention is better than a cure. Follow good oral hygiene, and steer clear of teeth staining foods and drinks such as wine for your treatment to be effective.

Using over-the-counter products can help with teeth whitening.

Potential side effects:

Gum irritation

Irritation is more likely to occur from at-home gel tray use or chair-side whitening but can be avoided by covering the gums completely before treatment and custom-fitted trays.

Gum burns and irritations are usually mild and temporary if they do occur.

Gum whitening

The gums may become bleached, losing their color for a short period.

Gastrointestinal irritation or distress

If you swallow a whitening product, you may feel a burning sensation in your throat or a mild stomach ache.

Damage to tooth enamel or dentin

Research trusted sources on this is inconclusive. Surface grooves on teeth and thinning enamel may occur from any whitener with strong bleaching solutions or abrasives.

Some users report tooth pain during or after whitening. Call your dentist if you experience pain, burning, or extreme sensitivity. 

The whitener may get into a cavity or cracked tooth, causing significant pain and a necessary dentist visit. 

snow teeth whitening kit

 

Is teeth whitening permanent?

Unfortunately, teeth whitening is not permanent. Over time, results will fade, and tooth color can change. Genetic factors, oral hygiene, and lifestyle determine how long a whitening treatment may last.

If you plan on getting veneers or a crown, get the shade matched after you've whitened your teeth since these treatments do not work on artificial teeth.