A regular occurrence for me at the office is people smiling wide with lips as far apart from their teeth as possible to show me something. Often, the comment is “Can yellow teeth be whitened?” or “Do you think these look too yellow?” or “This is hopeless, isn’t it?”

My response is generally a smile and a giggle and then some reassurance that everything to do with teeth is modifiable or fixable. That is why I love working on teeth so much…I can do almost anything!

Why Are My Teeth Yellow?

Teeth can be yellow for a number of reasons. The most common is simply that this is the natural colour of your teeth. The inner layer (dentin) of your tooth determines the shade that you project. This shade can be white, yellow, brown or gray. Whitening products can lighten all of these colours but is most effective on white and yellow base colours.

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Above is a nice photo of a slice through a tooth. The outer layer is enamel and it tends to be quite translucent. The next layer (depicted in yellow here) is the dentin and this determines the colour of your teeth. The innermost layer is the nerve and blood vessel of the tooth and this is never visible unless a tooth has been broken or cut-into.

Whitening Products On The Market

A quick search of teeth whitening will overwhelm you with possibilities. All at-home whitening products fall into the following broad categories:

Crest Whitestrips

Whitening Toothpastes

Whitening Blue Lights

Whitening Mouthwash

Whitening gels and trays

Crest Whitestrips

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I have already posted about the long list of Crest 3D White Whitestrips available for purchase. Please check that out to get the details about all the different systems.

The long and short of it is that Crest Whitestrips are simple, effective and affordable. They are often my first recommendation to someone that wants to start whitening for the first time. It is hard to do it wrong and most people are quite content to lighten their teeth a few shades.

Crest Whitestrips are also very easy to find and purchase. Many online retailers as well as local grocery and drug stores carry a variety of them at all times.

Whitening Toothpastes

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I stated earlier that natural tooth colour is often the reason for them being yellow. Whitening toothpastes do not help with this issue. Whitening toothpastes are generally very good at removing stain from teeth. This stain can be from coffee, tea, wine, smoking, etc.

Whitening toothpastes are more abrasive than non-whitening toothpastes and they also contain ingredients that help to break-down stains. If your teeth are discoloured due to all the yummy things you are consuming, this would be an excellent choice to incorporate into your daily routine.

Whitening toothpastes are very affordable and since you are brushing your teeth twice a day (the dentist in me is wagging my finger in your direction) anyways, your routine and habits don’t have to change to see a nice result.

One note of warning here though. Using a whitening toothpaste that is VERY abrasive can damage your teeth irreversibly. Please stick to trusted brands and not fads.

Whitening Blue Light Systems

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A system that has been around for decades in dental offices is Zoom Whitening. With this system you lay in a comfy dental chair, have a gel applied to your teeth and a blue light positioned over you until the process is complete. It only takes one appointment and is pretty powerful stuff.

It is no surprise that a do-it-yourself product has arisen on the marketplace to save people some money and make it convenient to whiten at home.

All of these systems use some form of gel or paste that you apply to your teeth and then a device with a light in it that you usually insert and wrap your lips around. This is often a slightly more expensive option to those listed above but results are very quick. Instant gratification comes at a premium!

Whitening Mouthwash

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I had to do a little research on whitening toothpaste as I was writing this. I have the least experience with this type of product and I was curious what the claims and methods were.

My research led me to the conclusion that it works much the same as a whitening toothpaste would. The goal with this product is to remove surface stains from your teeth. Many of the companies that sell whitening mouthwash encourage their customers to pair it with a whitening toothpaste for maximum results.

Whitening Gels and Trays

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This product also mimics what you may receive at a dental office if you went in asking for professional whitening. You can often purchase only the gel (great if you have trays you can use already) or an entire kit. I even came across several that included a blue light too.

These products require use for a number of days to get maximum results. It is important that you closely follow all directions as leaving this solution for too long or using it for too many days in a row can result in very painful teeth.

Surface stain is not the target of this product. The gel is targeting the internal colour of your teeth to lighten and brighten them.

Pick The Product That Is Right For You

With so many amazing options in the marketplace these days, you just have to decide which one is right for you. It has never been easier to turn those yellow teeth white from the comfort of your own home.

As a professional, I will add one more warning here (in case you missed the first one). Although trusted companies use safe and tested ingredients, you can permanently damage your teeth if you do not follow instructions as written.

All the best to you on your journey to a brighter, whiter smile!

Dr. Jen


  1. Reply

    Thanks for sharing this post. It actually gave me an idea on some points about teeth whitening. What about those whitening teeth from the dental office? I know they are more expensive than the commercial ones, but do you think they are better?

    • Reply

      Hi Hanna,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I think that whitening from the dental office is fantastic. There are products there that you can not get anywhere else. I have seen over the years that most people are happy with their teeth being 1-4 shades lighter than they currently are. There are many at-home products that do this exceptionally well and have the added benefit of convenience and easy affordability. I often let my patients know that if they try an at-home product and did not get as white as they had hoped, they should speak to their family dentist about a more powerful alternative.

  2. Dave


    Dr. Jen, my wife has had professional whitening done at the dentist office and it was pretty good, but it wasn’t the blue light type. It was the whitening gel and trays at the end. My question for you is I’ve used some of the home products but they tend to have a lot of peroxide in them and I found it would bother my gums over time. Does the Blue Gel type use a peroxide solution as well?

  3. Reply

    Hi Dave,
    I have heard of several people having issues with gum irritation with many whitening products. Every product is different as to what they are using for whitening. Check the labels to see what the active ingredient is. Peroxide is the most common and, in general, the safest. Were you using the trays and gel as well? Or possibly a whitestrip? If using the trays, less solution may be helpful. You could also try to get a protective layer over your gums before using the gel. Regular toothpaste works well for this, as does vaseline.
    I am planning on diving deeper into each of the products that I have listed so far. I will keep my eyes peeled for anything else that may help you. Check back regularly and hopefully we can find you a good fit!

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