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Treatments & Procedures

Who Are&Are Not Good Candidates for Teeth Whitening Procedures

Tooth whitening is a procedure to lighten teeth and remove stains and discolorations.

How do teeth become stained?

There are many reasons why teeth become discolored. Among the reasons are the consumption of stain-causing beverages (colas, teas, coffees, red wines), consumption of dark-colored berries, tobacco use, excessive fluoride use, use of certain medications (for example, tetracycline), trauma to the teeth (such as when bumped in an accident), and simply the aging process itself (the enamel on your teeth becomes thin with age).

Who are the best candidates for teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening is ideal for patients who have healthy, unrestored teeth (no fillings) and healthy gums who would like a brighter smile. Patients with yellow tones to their teeth respond best.

Who are not good candidates for teeth whitening?

Circumstances under which teeth whitening is not recommended or will be less successful include:

Age and pregnancy issues.

Bleaching is not recommended in children under the age of 16. This is because the pulp chamber, or nerve of the tooth, is enlarged until this age. Teeth whitening under this condition could irritate the pulp or cause it to become sensitive. Teeth whitening is also not recommended in pregnant or lactating women.

Sensitive teeth and allergies to products.

Individuals with sensitive teeth and gums, receding gums and/or defective restorations should consult with their dentist prior to using a tooth whitening system. Anyone allergic to peroxide (the whitening agent) should not use a bleaching product.

Gum disease, worn enamel, cavities, and exposed roots.

Individuals with gum disease or teeth with worn enamel are generally discouraged from undergoing a tooth whitening procedure. Cavities need to be treated before undergoing any whitening procedure. This is because the whitening solutions penetrate into any existing decay and the inner areas of the tooth, which can cause sensitivity. Also, whitening procedures will not work on exposed tooth roots because roots do not have an enamel layer.

Fillings, crowns and other restorations.

Tooth-colored fillings and resin composite materials used in dental restorations (crowns, veneers, bonding, bridges) do not whiten. Therefore, using a whitening agent on teeth that do and do not contain restorations will results in uneven whitening–in this case, making the teeth without restorations appear lighter than those with restorations. Any whitening procedure should be done prior to the placement of composite fillings, bonding, veneers, crowns, dentures, or porcelain restorations in order to best match the degree of whitening to your new tooth color. A minimum of 2 weeks following a whitening procedure should be allowed before crowns, bondings, or veneers are completed. This will allow enough time for the enamel to remineralize and optimize the bonding strength. Tooth-colored fillings will need to be replaced after the bleaching process is complete. Individuals with numerous restorations that would result in uneven whitening may be better off considering bonding, veneers or crowns rather than a tooth whitening system. Ask your dentist what strategy may be best for you.

Unrealistic expectations.

Individuals who expect their teeth to be a new "blinding white" may be disappointed with their results. Smokers need to be aware that their results will be limited unless they refrain from continued smoking, particularly during the bleaching process. A healthy guide as to a reasonable degree of whiteness to achieve with a whitening process that would give a natural appearance to a person's teeth is a slightly whiter color than the whites of your eyes.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/25/2003…#10926