Research shows that nearly everyone is unhappy with the appearance of their teeth. The primary complaint that people have is the color. Everyone longs for the Hollywood-white smile, but very few people actually have it.

Tooth whitening treatments can help resolve some stains, but the results are not permanent. Typically, at-home methods must be repeated every few months, while professional whitening must be repeated every 2 to 3 years.

Dr. Subha Yerabollu at Prime Family Dentistry in Stone Ridge, VA offers the Opalescence whitening system. In this article, we’ll explain more about tooth stains, as well as the most common treatment options and how long they last.

How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last

Types of Tooth Stains

There are two types of tooth stains:

  • Intrinsic: internal stains typically caused by certain medications, aging, infection, and trauma.
  • Extrinsic: external stains typically caused by environmental factors

The type and severity of your tooth stains have an impact on the effectiveness of your chosen whitening method.

Tooth Whitening Options

There are several types of tooth whitening treatments available, from at-home OTC to in-office, professional treatments:

Whitening Toothpaste

One of the most popular at-home whitening options is whitening toothpaste. Typically, these products contain mild abrasives and/or hydrogen/carbamide peroxide. However, it is important to note that in order to see results, you must use it twice daily and it can take up to 6 weeks to see a noticeable difference. Results can last up to 4 months but can be extended with continued use.

Unfortunately, some people find that they are sensitive to the ingredients and may develop tooth/gum sensitivity with prolonged use. It is important to note that prolonged use of these products can cause thinning of the enamel, which can be helped by alternating with an enamel strengthening toothpaste.

Whitening Mouthwash

Another popular at-home whitening product is whitening mouthwash, which may take up to 3 months to show noticeable results. Typically these products contain hydrogen peroxide and is most effective for maintaining results from other methods. When used alone, the effects are not dramatic or long-lasting.

Whitening Strips

One of the most effective OTC tooth whitening treatments are whitening strips. The number of treatments/length of time before results are visible vary, but may last up to 6 months.

The active ingredient is whitening strips is peroxide and, if used improperly, may cause discomfort or harm teeth.

Whitening Pens

Typically, results from whitening pens can be seen within a few days. However, results are minimal and don’t last very long. This treatment option is best for maintaining results from other treatments or for spot treatments.

At-Home Gel Trays

There are two options for at-home gel trays: OTC and professional. Professional gel trays offer more dramatic, quicker, longer-lasting results. In fact, when combined with proper oral hygiene, results can last a year or more. Your dentist will supervise your at-home professional gel tray treatment.

Chairside/In-Office Whitening

On average, results from chairside/in-office whitening treatments should last for 1 to 3 years with proper oral hygiene. Typically, results are visible after only one treatment, but stubborn stains may need more.

Tooth Whitening Side Effects

While generally safe, tooth whitening does have a few side effects:

  • Temporary tooth and gum sensitivity, resolves shortly after stopping use of the product
  • Gum burns/irritation, most likely to occur with at-home gel trays or in-office whitening, but may be avoided by using custom-fitted trays or covering the gums prior to applying the whitener, usually temporary
  • Gum bleaching, may occur when the whitener gets on the gums, usually temporary
  • Gastrointestinal distress, if you ingest the whitening solution, you may experience nausea and/or vomiting
  • Burning sensation in throat, if you swallow the whitening solution, you may have a burning sensation in your throat
  • Damage to tooth enamel or dentin, usually happens when enamel is already thin and can occur with any type of whitening treatment

Most of these side effects are mild and temporary. If you have excessive tooth pain, burning, or sensitivity following whitening treatment, stop treatment. Discuss your symptoms with your dentist and consider other options for improving the appearance of your teeth.



$1,200 to $8,000

Traditional Braces

$3.000 to $7,000

Insurance Coverage


Some dental insurance providers will cover Invisalign, some consider it cosmetic

Traditional Braces

Most dental insurance provers will cover treatment with traditional braces



Virtually invisible, most people don’t notice the aligners, even close up

Traditional Braces

Wires and brackets are visible, even from a distance



Effective for mild to moderate malocclusions alone

May also be effective for severe malocclusion when used with attachments

Traditional Braces

Proven effective for all types and severities of dental malocclusions

Treatment time


12 to 18-month treatment window on average

Mild malocclusions may take 6 months, while more severe cases may take up to 24

Traditional Braces

12 to 24-month treatment window, may take up to 36 months for more severe cases



The dentist will perform a comprehensive exam

Digital images are taken of the bite and sent to a dental lab for the fabrication of the aligners

Once aligners are sent to the clinic, the first one will be placed, and the treatment plan discussed

You will be sent home with the remaining aligners and will check in with the clinic every so often to check your progress

Traditional Braces

The dentist will perform a comprehensive exam, including x-rays and other necessary imaging

Metal brackets will be cemented to affected teeth and an archwire run through connecting them.

Every few weeks, you will need to come back in to have the archwire tightened.

Food restrictions


None, aligners are removed for eating

Traditional Braces

Nothing sticky, hard, chewy, tough, or crunchy

Oral hygiene


Easy, aligners are removed for brushing/flossing

Traditional Braces

Complicated, can be difficult to clean around the brackets and wires- requires the use of an interdental brush

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