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Six Reasons Why You Should Visit Your Dentist Before Trying to Whiten Your Teeth

Everyone wants white teeth.  Let’s face it, a beautiful smile makes almost everyone more attractive!

Beautiful White SmileBut before you call the number on the latest infomercial at visit the teeth whitening kiosk at your local mall, you may want to visit your dentist.

Here are six reasons why:

1. You may have dental problems that you don’t know about. It is best not to whiten your teeth until your mouth is healthy.  Whitening a tooth that has reversible pulpitis (a reversible irritation of the dental pulp), for example, could irritate the dental pulp sufficiently to push that tooth over the edge requiring a costly root canal treatment. Your dentist can diagnose and repair your teeth before you begin your teeth whitening procedure.

2. Your dentist can advise you about the several different methods available to whiten your teeth. As consumers, we get bombarded with advertisements telling us which teeth whitening product  to use.  The companies selling them have a financial interest in us purchasing their specific product.  I don’t know of any dentists that manufacture their own teeth whitening products.  A dentist can be a trusted source when selecting a teeth whitening product that will work best for you.

3. A dentist can tell you the cause of your teeth discoloration. In order to treat a problem, it is necessary understand the real cause of the problem.  Teeth can become discolored for a variety of reasons:

  • Teeth can be stained by certain drugs and antibiotics, such as tetracycline.
  • Tobacco from chewing tobacco and cigarettes can stain the teeth.
  • Certain foods and drinks, such as coffee can stain teeth.
  • An injury to the tooth can cause it to become discolored.
  • Silver fillings can discolor the teeth.
  • Root canal treatments can cause the teeth to become discolored.

You don’t want to waste a bunch of money trying to whiten a tooth that has been discolored due to an injury of the dental pulp.   Sometimes the only way to whiten certain teeth that have had root canal treatment is to have the dentist drill into the tooth and put a special bleach inside the tooth.  This is known as internal bleaching.

4. Teeth whitening products only work on natural tooth enamel, not restorations such as crowns, veneers, and fillings. Let’s say you want to whiten your upper front teeth because those are the ones that most people see when you smile.  Suppose you have a crown on one of the teeth, and a composite filling on one of the other teeth.  If you try to whiten your teeth, you will only whiten the tooth enamel.  The dental work you’ve had will stay the same color.  This could make you look a bit awkward when you smile.  Your dentist can let you know if you have any dental work that will compromise the effectiveness of a teeth whitening treatment.

5. Your dentist can create a custom whitening tray to fit your teeth. If not applied correctly, tooth whitening agents can burn your gums or damage the hard tissues in your oral cavity.  Your dentist can provide instructions on how to best apply teeth whitening gel.  Many gels come with a plastic mold that you heat up in some water and push onto your teeth.  These “whitening trays” don’t do a good job of keeping whitening agents off of your gums, and may even hold the teeth whitening gel on your gums, resulting in a burn.  A custom whitening tray will provide you with a healthy way to apply whitening gel to your teeth.

6. Your dentist understands your individual needs; teeth whitening companies do not. Your dentist will be aware of factors that affect your unique situation.  If you have sensitive teeth, your dentist can help you choose the best teeth whitening method.  Your dentist can also guide you in selecting the best shade for your skin tone and coloring.

As one example of this, many of the workers at local mall teeth whitening kiosks have no health training at all (even though they deviously wear medical scrubs.)  In fact, one such kiosk has been shut down in South Carolina.  Here’s a quote from WYFF Channel 4’s report on the story:

The South Carolina Board of Dentistry issued Laser Bright a cease-and-desist order on Wednesday night.The business operated in a kiosk in the corridor of the mall. In issuing the order, the state regulators said that the light the business uses for teeth whitening is is so strong it is only allowed to be used by a licensed dentist.

Can you see why it might be important to have someone with four years of training in oral health be the person supervising your teeth whitening?


While not imperative, I do recommend that you see your dentist before attempting to whiten your teeth.  Involving your dentist in the process will help you to achieve your desired results without wasting time or money on the wrong products.

If you have any questions or comments about dentists and teeth whitening, type them below in the comments area.



  1. I never thought about this. I’ve only had one cavity in the very back of my mouth though so I don’t think I really would need to visit the dentist. Don’t the whitening strips work pretty good?

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  2. Hi Tom,
    I’ve been whitening my teeth for the last 3 nights, using Polanight 10% Carbamide Peroxide. I have also been using Sensodyne toothpaste and have not had any tooth or gum sensitivity (yet). My dentist made me a custom tray however it is not “scalloped” around the tops of my teeth (like the top of a cartoon cloud), instead it is straight along the top. It fits really comfortably, but I am worried that maybe it should be scalloped so that the amount of bleach touching my gums is minimised. However I am also worried that if it was scalloped around the top that either it wouldn’t stay on as tight, or that saliva would get in and dilute the bleach. Would you recommend that I trim it down a little so that it is scalloped and less touches my gums, or leave it as it is?
    Thanks for any suggestions, TJ.

    • Hi TJ – You can talk to your dentist about this one. At my school, they require us to make the trays scalloped to minimize the contact with the gums. I’m sure a side-effect of this is that it does dilute the bleach a little bit. The tray I made for myself is scalloped and fits pretty tight and it worked to whiten my teeth when I tried it a couple of years ago. I hope that helps – Good luck getting whiter teeth!

  3. Thanks for this article. It’s a simple, but thorough explanation that I will share with my patients. Many people don’t understand the need for healthy gums and teeth before using whitening products.

  4. Thanks for sharing this article and great information on teeth whitening. I have learnt a lot of new things from this article. I have seen that most of the people are not aware of consequences of teeth whitening at home. It is very important to visit a dentist before trying teeth whitening at home. A dentist examines the condition of teeth & then provide the accurate solution. I would like to add one more point in this article that a dentist uses whitening product of high strength where as these are not prescribed at home.


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