Pros and cons of teeth whitening – is it healthy?

Teeth whitening is an increasingly popular dental treatment but with so many ways to achieve a whiter smile, it can be difficult to know which treatment is best for you. This article aims to make that choice a little easier.

What is tooth whitening and how does it work?

Tooth whitening is the process of removing stains and lightening the colour of your teeth either using bleach or an abrasive. Each method is effective in its own way against certain types of stains, however if you choose the wrong type of teeth whitening product you could be left with disappointing results.


Bleaching is most effective against intrinsic stains. These are stains that reside inside your teeth, under the outer shell of enamel. Stains to this part of the tooth can be caused by a number of things including medical problems, however the gradual yellowing they cause is most often associated with age.

While stains to this part of your teeth may look no different to tea stains to the untrained eye, no amount of brushing will remove them. Bleach on the other hand is able to seep through the enamel to get to the affected area beneath.


Abrasives are most effective against extrinsic stains which are on the surface of the tooth. These are usually caused by substances like tea, coffee, and red wine. The abrasive works as you might expect by scrubbing the enamel of your teeth with a rough surface provided by tiny abrasive particles.

You can find out more about different teeth whitening methods at Teeth whitening report.

How effective is tooth whitening?

The effectiveness of tooth whitening will depend greatly on the type of stain you are battling and the cause.

While bleach and abrasives can both be highly effective under the right circumstances, neither are foolproof and you may need a combination of both to get the best results. It is also worth noting that teeth whitening products do not work on crowns, veneers, or fillings. If you have any of these in a highly visible area, you will want to consult a dentist before attempting any form of teeth whitening.

What are the different ways to whiten your teeth?

Professional dental treatments

Dental professionals are highly skilled in teeth whitening and bleaching and will be able to advise the best type of teeth whitening treatment and create a highly personalised plan.

Depending on the type of whitening you require a dentist may take a mold of your teeth to create a personalised applicator, provide you with a home treatment kit, or use cutting edge technology to provide you with a whiter smile in a fraction of the time it take for a regular treatment to work.

The biggest advantage of a dentist lead treatment plan is the expert advice you will receive, which will ensure you have the best chance of success while reducing the risks associated with teeth whitening.

To find your nearest dentist visit The Australian Dental Association.


  • Professional advice to ensure you’re using the best product for your teeth
  • Lower risk of complications compared to “over the counter” products
  • Personalised treatment plan


  • Expense

At home bleaching kits

If you decide not to consult a dentist before bleaching your teeth, there many teeth whitening kits available over the counter. While essentially the same as a basic takeaway kit your dentist might give you, they have two main differences. Firstly the amount of bleach used may be incorrect, either failing to get results or causing gum irritation. Secondly, if a tray is used for application it will likely be ill fitting which could also cause gum irritation.

Despite the risks many people use over the counter kits and succeed in whitening their teeth at a fraction of the cost of dental treatment.


  • Cheaper than a dentist lead treatment
  • Easily available over the counter


  • The risks of teeth whitening are higher using a over the counter kit
  • Results may be poor compared to a dentist lead treatment

Abrasive toothpastes and powders

There are a huge array of teeth whitening toothpastes easily available on the shelf to help deal with the stains left by dark coloured foods, and while each claim a unique formula to whiten your smile most simply contain a mild abrasive. This abrasive helps to remove dirt from your teeth in much the same way that a scouring pad helps you to remove baked on food from a cooking pot.

In addition to mainstream teeth whitening toothpaste, active charcoal pastes and powders have recently become remarkably popular with those looking whiten their teeth.

While abrasives are effective against surface stains they should be used with care and sparingly as incorrect or overuse can erode your teeth’s enamel.


  • Cheap and easily available
  • Easy to use and some can be used daily instead of regular toothpaste


  • Misuse of abrasive pastes and powders can harm your tooth’s enamel
  • Use of abrasives can cause bleeding gums and tooth sensitivity


There are a wide array of teeth whitening products and choosing the correct one can mean the difference between a much whiter smile or money down the drain. In making your choice you should always consider the risks and consult a dentist if you have any concerns or experience any side effects.