The hims Guide to Teeth Whitening

Mary Lucas, RN
Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 7/05/2020

People are rushing to make their teeth brighter and shinier. By the year 2024, the global teeth whitening industry is estimated to be worth over $7.4 billion. Tens of millions of people get some form of teeth whitening every year in the U.S. alone. 

Of course, if you know the statistics, none of this news is shocking. According to a survey conducted by American Association of Orthodontists, 48 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 have untagged a picture of themselves on Facebook because they didn't like their smile.” A 2012 study found that when someone’s smile is yellower and more spaced out, they are seen as a less attractive partner. 

The point is: people care about white teeth, and the burgeoning industry is taking note. But is teeth whitening worth it? Are there better, safer ways to keep your pearly whites pearly white?

Let’s dig in.

What Is Teeth Whitening?

There are two types of teeth whitening — the kind you get at a dentist’s office and the over-the-counter solutions that are sold at your local pharmacy. 

Teeth whitening is meant to combat staining. Everyday things like smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, eating food or consuming sugary liquids leads to staining. 

In dental terms, stains are referred to as a pellicle film that forms above the outer layer of your teeth. Teeth whitening is meant to turn back the clock on staining by breaking down the layers of pellicle film. 

During your chairside bleaching session, your dentist applies a bleaching paste that has hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These sessions are brief and generally take up less than an hour. If you’re pressed for time, your dentist could also set you up with a home procedure by molding your teeth, making you a customized mouth tray and giving you a gel that you’ll apply daily.

Though these procedures are popular, there’s also an abundance of over-the-counter products that contain bleaching pastes. These options include rinses, tooth-pastes, strips, gels and even LED lights. 

Despite usually being significantly less expensive than a chairside session, there’s no medical professional overlooking the process. In addition, over-the-counter options like whitening strips and special toothpastes have lower doses of bleaching agents, which generally makes them less effective.


Is Teeth Whitening Safe?

Although these bleaching pastes contain chemicals that could also be used to dye your hair, they are considered safe because of the relatively small doses. 

However, the American Dental Association recommends that people consult with their dentists before starting teeth whitening. They stress that people with “any fillings, crowns and extremely dark stains” should speak to a professional to see if bleaching is right for them. 

Occasional teeth whitening is safe and has been proven to work but it doesn’t necessarily get to the root of the problem of staining. Even if you’re using over-the-counter products, it can still get pretty expensive. Are there any alternatives to bleaching your teeth?

Dental Hygiene Alternatives

It’s important to remember that whether it's done at home or the dentist’s office,  teeth whitening is cosmetic and isn’t related to your overall dental hygiene. However, if you avoid things that stain your teeth and keep up with a proper dental hygiene regimen, teeth whitening sessions shouldn’t be necessary. Here are some dental hygiene tips:

Absolutely No Cigarettes

It’s common knowledge that cigarettes wreak havoc on your teeth and gums. When your teeth absorb tar and nicotine, the oxygen causes them to become discolored. Though they have been advertised as an alternative to cigarettes, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine. Teeth whitening might be able to mitigate the effects of smoking, but unless you quit altogether, you will be caught in a perpetual cycle of staining, cleaning and then re-staining.

Be Careful If You Drink Coffee

Unlike cigarettes, a moderate amount of coffee is perfectly healthy. Although coffee can stain your teeth, there are ways to reduce the possibility of staining. You should brush your teeth after every meal you have it and try your best to drink from a straw. Drinking excessive amounts of coffee will certainly increase your risk of stains, but it doesn't necessarily call for quitting coffee cold turkey or altogether. 

Watch What You Eat and Drink

There’s a plethora of information out there about how specific foods and drinks can affect your weight and overall health. But what you eat and drink also has a notable impact on your teeth. If you’re worried about the coloration of your teeth, here are a few of the foods you should watch out for:

  • Sugary candy
  • Acidic food and juices (pickled food, oranges, lemons, limes)
  • Soda and sugary drinks
  • Wine
  • Tea
  • Salty snacks

Keep up with Basic Hygiene

At the end of the day, the color of your teeth reflects your overall dental hygiene. If you’re careless and not keeping up with brushing and flossing, then your teeth could build up plaque that leads to staining. Since teeth whitening can be prohibitively expensive and is far from a long-lasting solution, you should view your dental hygiene as a worthy investment. Look into purchasing kits or sonic toothbrushes and visit your dentist on a yearly basis. For those who concerned about chemicals, there’s also a myriad of organic toothpastes and mouthwashes out there, too. 

Having a bright smile is one part to having an overall healthy lifestyle. Check out the hims blog for more tips and guides on being your healthiest and happiest self.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.