Teeth Whitening and Teeth Bleaching: The Difference

Teeth Whitening and Teeth Bleaching: The Difference

Teeth Whitening and Teeth Bleaching

When our permanent teeth first come into our mouths, they are nice and white.  Not quite as white as our baby teeth were, but they are still a respectable shade of white.

Over time, as we eat different foods our teeth begin to lose their bright white luster.  Eventually our teeth’s enamel, the outermost layer of our teeth, develops little tiny cracks in it.  These cracks make the tooth more susceptible to becoming a more yellow-brown dark shade.

Darker teeth are generally viewed as less attractive than white teeth.  This simple fact often leads many people to try to make their teeth whiter.

The Difference Between Teeth Whitening & Teeth Bleaching

Teeth Whitening or Bleaching?Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, and I confess that I use them interchangeably when explaining the concept of teeth whitening to patients, there is a subtle difference in the way that the FDA defines them that can help you choose the best product for your needs.

Teeth whiteningrefers to whitening teeth back to their natural, white color.  Toothpastes are advertised as teeth whitening because they contain abrasives that remove stain from teeth, but most teeth whitening toothpastes do not contain any chemicals that bleach the teeth.

Teeth bleaching refers to whitening teeth beyond their natural white color so that they appear whiter than normal.  This is usually accomplished through gels or strips that are applied to the teeth at home or in the dental office.

If you were wondering, the young woman pictured above has undergone teeth bleaching, as her teeth are much whiter than natural and in my opinion they are too white!


If a product claims to whiten your teeth, it may only be able to restore your teeth to their original shade of white.  However, if a product claims to bleach your teeth, then it is capable of making your teeth whiter than they originally were when they first came into your mouth.

A product that bleaches the teeth is allowed to use the phrase whitening, but a product that only removes stain from your teeth is notallowed to use the phrase bleaching when referring to their product.

Do you have any questions or comments about teeth whitening or teeth bleaching?  I’d love to read them in the comments section below!  Thanks for reading!


    • Hi Kash – I think there are some toothpastes that contain peroxide, but since most people don’t brush for very long, I’m not sure it has much of an effect.

      I hope that helps, Kash. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for your comment!

      • Hi Tom,

        There are indeed some toothpastes that contain peroxide, i know one from Colgate that gives good results. But like you mentioned, you have to brush everyday for atleast 2/3 weeks to see some result. Great website you have!


        • Thanks, Tanden. It seems like the peroxide would have a hard time doing much to bleach teeth during brushing since people don’t brush for very long. Most teeth whitening products want at least 1/2 hour in direct contact with the teeth to bleach them.

  1. We are getting the best results with White Light which is a product with which you can bleach your teeth in the comfort of your own home. Probably a dentist can do it better but that will not be as economic as purchasing a bleach set.

  2. Hi my name is Betsy and I have a dilemma I’ve had braces for 10 years now and my top teeth are yellow my bottom teeth are whiter than my top teeth I want to get my teeth whitened will my teeth look normal after I get them whitened what do you think of course this is after I remove my braces

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