Dr. Michael Handler

Tooth Whitening vs. Tooth Cleaning – Which is Best?

By Dr. Michael Handler

It’s very easy to get confused between getting your teeth whitened and getting them cleaned. Even though most people realize there’s a difference, when it comes to booking your appointment it’s something we always have to confirm to make sure you’re booked for the right procedure. In case you aren’t 100% clear on the distinction, we’ve boiled it down to a few vital points that will help you know what to ask for to make sure you’re getting what you had in mind. 

Teeth Cleaning

The main goal of a  teeth cleaning appointment is to remove plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth. This helps to prevent tooth decay and avoid gum disease. The procedure is important for your ongoing oral health and the condition of your mouth, which should be a goal for everyone. 

Dentists usually recommend having a professional teeth cleaning every six months. The technical term for this procedure is dental prophylaxis, which means it’s a preventive treatment. During the process, our qualified dental hygienist will use special instruments to scrape the plaque and tartar off the surface of your teeth. It’s not possible to remove these just by daily brushing and flossing, no matter how diligent you are. The remaining accumulation creates a breeding ground for bacteria and acids that erode the enamel of teeth, causing cavities to form. 

Tooth Whitening

As positive as regular teeth cleaning is for your oral health, it doesn’t usually produce a major change in your tooth colour. The purpose of tooth whitening is to remove stains, which is mainly a cosmetic function. Your teeth can become discoloured by various kinds of food and drink, smoking, medications and health problems. Plaque usually has a yellowish tint, so after its removal you might see some improvement in your tooth colour, but most dental patients want a brighter smile than a cleaning can deliver. 

1. In-Office Whitening

An in-office  tooth whitening procedure uses chemical bleaching agents. Most whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide or other substances, which are activated by heat or a blue light. The process usually takes about an hour, and—depending on the shade of whiteness you’re after—might require several visits to achieve the look you want. You can opt to make your teeth 6 to 8 shades lighter, and dentists typically take photos of the various stages of the process so you can see the results at the end. 

2. In-Home Touch-Ups

In-office whitening lasts until your teeth start to get stained again, but you can make this take longer by doing in-home touch-ups. To do this, you’ll need to have your dentist take an impression of your teeth and manufacture custom dental trays to fit your mouth. You’ll purchase a supply of the bleaching gel and given instructions on how to use it at home. 

Both types of  whitening procedures can occasionally cause tooth sensitivity to develop. This is nothing to worry about and will probably disappear after a couple of days. 

A Place for Both Procedures

Although tooth whitening is popular, it is not a necessity for good health. Its importance depends entirely on your personal preferences. If you feel embarrassed about your stained teeth, or are in the public eye a lot, tooth whitening can give your self-confidence a boost. If maintaining a particular image is a priority for you, a dazzling smile may be very important. 

Teeth cleaning, however, is an important part of your oral hygiene program, and something you should budget to have done regularly whether you opt for tooth whitening or not. Stains themselves aren’t harmful and don’t damage your health, and often you can prevent deep-seated stains from forming in the first place by brushing and flossing correctly and having frequent professional cleanings. 

Good oral hygiene is especially important for people with  compromised immune systems, as well as pregnant women who shouldn’t have tooth whitening until after the baby’s birth. 

For more information on getting your teeth cleaned or whitened, please call  our dentists in Scarborough at 416-267-4661 to schedule an appointment, or  click here to book online

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