Why Tooth Whitening? What Causes Tooth Discoloration?

Tooth discoloration can be caused by millions of different factors, be it genetics, antibiotics or food. Often, teeth simply grow darker as we age!

There are two main types of tooth discoloration, internal and external.

Internal discoloration is a change to the enamel and dentin of the teeth. It is typically caused by exposure to childhood antibiotics, high levels of fluoride or tetracycline, developmental disorders, restorations, root canal issues, tooth decay or trauma etc.

External discoloration results from factors external to the body, particularly foods, tannins found in tea and coffee, carrots, oranges, smoking and tobacco etc.

Should I have professional treatment or use an at-home bleaching system?

Whitening can either be performed by your dentist in office or done at home using over-the-counter products. There are pros and cons to both options, and ultimately, the choice comes down to what makes you comfortable.

To aid in your decision, here are some comparative differences between the two options:


Over-the-counter (at-home) treatment

  • less expensive
  • longer treatment period
  • higher risk of gum irritation or damage to prior dental work


In-office treatment

  • quicker
  • more reliable, longer lasting results
  • may require multiple visits to the dentist’s office

Are there other ways to keep my teeth looking brighter?

If you decide not to whiten your teeth, the best way to keep teeth looking healthy and bright is to maintain good daily oral health habits. Brushing, flossing and having regular clearings are essential to a bright smile.

Keep in mind however, that brushing and flossing can’t remove tooth stains or discoloration.

How should I prepare for whitening?

It’s always a good idea to discuss potential risks of whitening with your dentist – especially if you plan to bleach your teeth at home. The most common risks include tooth sensitivity and damage to the roots of teeth, but are not always a problem among those who whiten their teeth.

The presence of other dental problems tends to raise the risk of sensitivities as a result of whitening. In addition, untreated cavities actually prevent whitening solution from passing through decay, making it difficult for the whitening process to work. Receded gums expose the roots of your teeth, and whitening does not cure this.

Your dentist will be able to help predict whether you will experience such sensitivities, and can even recommend treatment to alleviate sensitivity.