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Tooth Whitening Versus Tooth Bleaching: What Is the Difference?

Posted on February 07 2020

Don't be disappointed with your teeth whitening results.
According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry nearly 20% of people hide their teeth in photos! Teeth Whitening is all the rage on social media, in this blog we are going to help you understand the difference between tooth whitening and tooth bleaching so you know what results to expect and how to get the results you want.

What you may not realize is that teeth whitening and tooth bleaching are two different things. Many people use these terms interchangeably and due to the negative baggage that “bleaching” carries many bleaching products now call themselves “tooth whitening” instead of bleaching. The American Dental Association (ADA) defines tooth whitening and bleaching as two different things.

Teeth Whitening: What does it mean?
According to the ADA tooth whitening is defined as: restoring teeth to their natural color by removing stains from the surface of teeth. Whiteners are ingredients found in many toothpastes and powders whose purpose is to remove plaque, tartar and microfilm stuck on the tooth surface that can become discolored by food drink and smoke.

Whiteners can work in two ways:

1. By the mechanical scrubbing of the teeth with abrasives like bentonite clay, silica, calcium or charcoal.

2. From ph reactions with saliva that break down the proteins that stick to teeth and stains, things like baking soda, essential oils and salt can help to break apart stains. Your toothbrush itself can be a whitener because of the scrubbing action of the bristles breaks up stains, this is why many people see a big difference when they switch to a mechanical toothbrush.

Tooth Bleaching: What does it mean?
The ADA defines tooth bleaching as: lightening the teeth beyond their natural color. Bleaching makes teeth unnaturally white, many people think that bleached teeth are what teeth should look like but it is not true. Teeth are naturally off-white. Perfectly white teeth are not natural and are often false veneers, bleached teeth or photoshopped. If you desire snow white teeth you need to use a chemical bleach like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Using a natural tooth whitener will not give you paper white teeth. While it is impossible to completely avoid damaging the teeth by bleaching, going to a professional dentist will reduce your risk of excessive damage.

What is the natural color of teeth?
Teeth are naturally off white and the shade depends on your ethnicity, family genetics, developmental nutrition and medical history.

Teeth are made up of three layers: Enamel, Dentin and Pulp, each of these layers have a natural color. Enamel is bluish white to translucent, Dentin is various shades of yellow, and pulp is pinkish to red. The natural color of your teeth depends on the color and transparency of your particular enamel and dentin.

Your age also affects the natural color of your teeth. As you age the composition of your teeth changes, children have milk white teeth because their enamel is thicker and more concentrated with minerals, this hides the yellow color of their dentin. As you age your enamel becomes more dispersed and thinner, it becomes more transparent and the color of your dentin shows through.
This does not mean your teeth are unhealthy, nor does whiteness mean your teeth are healthy. Color can be a sign of tooth health but is not always a sign of tooth health.

Eating acidic food or drink or putting unnatural wear on your teeth can thin your enamel faster than normal. It is good practice to rinse your mouth with plain water or salt water after eating acidic food. This will neutralize your saliva and reduce mineral loss.

Medication can also change the color of your teeth, some medications cause temporary color change while others cause permanent color change. This can only be affected by bleaching or veneers.

Teeth also come in shades, reddish brown, reddish yellow, grey or reddish grey. You cannot change the shade of your teeth. It is genetic.

The most common natural tooth color is shade A3 according to Superb dental, this is considered the average natural adult tooth color with the whitest natural tooth color being B1. How do your teeth compare?

“Hollywood White” - Tooth Bleaching and Veneers
If you desire teeth whiter then B1 you want what is called a “Hollywood shade” this means a color that is unnaturally white. This can be achieved through chemical bleaching or veneers. Many celebrities get full veneers to achieve that perfect movie smile. Veneers can be made more white than possible by bleaching natural teeth.

Celebrities before and after veneers:




Everyone has their own expectation of what they want their teeth to look like. By getting clear on what shade of teeth you want you can avoid being disappointed by pursuing the wrong method of tooth whitening. We see many people who buy natural products for whitening but expect unnaturally white teeth.

How to successfully whiten or bleach your teeth:

1. Figure out what shade your teeth are currently at.
The internet has thousands of shade guides and there is no standard guide to go by. If you use this guide you can establish that the average tooth is shade A3 and the brightest possible natural tooth is B1.

Where does your tooth stand on this scale?

2. Set realistic expectations.
A small change of two or three shades can make a huge difference in how your smile looks! If your ideal smile is only two to three shades lighter than your natural teeth, whitening may be for you. Using a natural negatively charged Toothpaste, like our Trace Mineral Toothpowder, can be a great solution. If you desire five to nine shades lighter or teeth whiter than B1, then seeing a professional for bleaching will get you where you want to be. Remember natural whitening will take weeks or months, bleaching can take as few as one visit to the dentist.

3. Adjust your diet for whiter teeth.
Whether you take the natural tooth whitening route or go for bleaching, what you eat and drink will affect the brightness of your smile. We need to both ‘feed’ our teeth with nutrition to keep them strong as well as cut back on damaging food and drink. Reducing coffee, wine and soda will help to avoid enamel wear as well as staining. If you just can't skip that morning coffee, brush your teeth afterwards or at least rinse your mouth with salt water which is a base and will neutralize acid. Yogi’s may not realize their daily kombucha is very acidic especially if it has lemon in it, brush or rinse after kombucha also. One of our customers once had brown pits on his teeth from drinking too much kombucha and not rinsing afterwards, he fixed those pit by cutting his kombucha with sparkling water and brushing with our sweet spice trace mineral tooth powder twice a day.

Eat nutrient dense foods full of magnesium, potassium calcium and fats to feed your teeth. Our teeth are like bones and have tiny pores that move minerals from the pulp to the dentin out to the enamel. By eating foods rich in the minerals that make up our teeth we build whiteness from the inside out. Remember to pair good fats with these foods as many of these minerals are fat soluble which means they need fat to be absorbed. Hard cheese, raw milk, red meat, eggs, organ meats and fermented dark vegetables are excellent for tooth and bone health.

In Conclusion:
We all want a beautiful bright smile but we may not know how to get one. By getting clear on your expectations of how bright you would like your teeth to be, you can determine the correct path to get that smile you desire. Many people want “Hollywood White” unnaturally bright teeth without realizing what they need to do to get them. If you want that veneer look but buy natural whitening products you will be disappointed. On the other hand if you love the look of a naturally beautiful, graceful smile with all of its unique qualities and charm then using a natural whitening product that helps you get a few shades brighter will bring you satisfaction without the chemical damage of bleach.

Our founder and CEO with naturally white B1 shade teeth.