Tooth whitening today

J Am Dent Assoc. 2002 Nov;133(11):1535-8; quiz 1541. doi: 10.14219/jada.archive.2002.0085.


Background: Methods to improve the esthetics of the dentition by tooth whitening are of interest to dentists, their patients and the public. In the past 20 years, research on bleaching and other methods of removing tooth discolorations has dramatically increased. Dentist-supervised and over-the-counter products now are available to solve a variety of tooth discoloration problems without restorative intervention. The indications for appropriate use of tooth-whitening methods and products are dependent on correct diagnosis of the discoloration.

Overview: Tooth-whitening methods include the use of peroxide bleaching agents to remove internal discolorations or abrasive products to remove external stains. Peroxide bleaching procedures are completed by the dentist in single or multiple appointments, or by the patient over a period of weeks to months using custom trays loaded with a bleaching agent. Both methods are safe and effective when supervised by the dentist. Microabrasion is indicated for the removal of isolated discolorations that often are associated with fluorosis. Whitening toothpastes remove surface stains only through the polishing effect of the abrasives they contain.

Conclusions and practice implications: Tooth whitening is a form of dental treatment and should be completed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan developed by a dentist after an oral examination. When used appropriately, tooth-whitening methods are safe and effective.

MeSH terms

  • Dental Devices, Home Care
  • Enamel Microabrasion
  • Humans
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Peroxides / therapeutic use
  • Tooth Bleaching / instrumentation
  • Tooth Bleaching / methods*
  • Tooth Discoloration / therapy
  • Tooth, Nonvital
  • Toothpastes / therapeutic use


  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Peroxides
  • Toothpastes