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There are a number of methods currently available, some as simple as using a particular toothpaste, through to bleaching procedures. Some methods can be done at home while some must be done professionally.
Different methods fall into two general categories:
Methods involving bleaching endeavor to remove the color of the stains on the teeth and allow the natural white to be seen again. There are a number of treatments available, some are done in the dentist chair, and others can be done at home using several applications over a period of time.
This method uses abrasion to physically and sometimes chemically take away surface stains. This is generally what a dentist does when you have a clean and polish.
Yes. When whitening was in its infancy, high strengths of bleaches would sometimes cause the teeth to become very sensitive, but not permanently.
Today, after over a decade of research and clinical testing, bleaching methods have been refined and now lower concentrations allow the temporary sensitivity to be reduced. There is no more danger of tooth whitening than in drinking a cup of coffee.
Not necessarily. Staining of the teeth occurs over time and is a result primarily of drinks such as coffee, red wine, soft drinks, high sugar content foods, and chocolates. If after a whitening treatment you are able to avoid all stain-causing food and drink then you may not need whitening again. With proper care and dental hygiene, the whitening will last longer.