Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Teeth Whitening

Teeth Whitening


Teeth whitening uses a bleaching product or an abrasive to make teeth whiter. Teeth whitening isn't a medical procedure—it doesn't result in healthier teeth. But it can result in a brighter smile. This in turn can make people feel better about themselves. Teeth whitening works better for some types of stains than others.

There are two types of teeth whitening.


Bleaching your teeth changes the color of the tooth enamel and removes both surface stains and those deeper in the teeth. Your dentist can bleach your teeth at their office. Or you can do it yourself with a kit your dentist gives you or with a kit you buy at a store. The chemical used to bleach teeth is generally carbamide peroxide. Different products use different concentrations of this chemical.

Whitening toothpaste.

Whitening toothpastes use a rough (abrasive) material that "scrapes" off surface stains and polishes the teeth.


Teeth bleaching is a type of teeth whitening. It can be done by a dentist or at home.

For in-office bleaching, the dentist often combines bleach with a laser or light to speed up the process. A visit usually takes from 30 minutes to 1 hour. You may need more than one treatment. Your dentist will protect your gums with a gel or shield and then put the bleaching agent on your teeth. The bleach concentrate used for the in-office process is generally stronger than that used in other methods. That's because the dentist can watch how it is used.

Your dentist may also give you a kit with a mouthpiece and gel containing the bleach. Your dentist may make a custom mouthpiece to fit your teeth. These kits usually use a lower concentration of bleach than an in-office process. Your dentist will tell you how often to wear the mouthpiece and for how long.

An over-the-counter kit is similar to what your dentist gives you. The bleach concentration, how you use it, and how long you use it vary between products. For example, some products use a mouthpiece. Others use strips you lay across your teeth.

All of these methods have different costs, and insurance usually won't pay for them. You choose the method that works best for you and that fits your budget.

Teeth can become sensitive when you are using the bleaching solution. But this sensitivity usually goes away when you finish your treatment. A mouthpiece that doesn't fit well may hurt your gums.

Remember that whitening isn't permanent. Your teeth will slowly become discolored again. Some lifestyle choices, such as drinking coffee or using tobacco, will speed up how fast your teeth lose their new whiteness.

Always talk with your dentist before you use tooth whitening, especially if you have many fillings, crowns, or very dark stains.

How well whitening works

Talk to your dentist before whitening your teeth. Teeth bleaching works best on natural teeth.

Bleaching may not work if you've had bonding or have tooth-colored fillings in your teeth. The bleach won't change the color of these materials, so they will stand out if you whiten the rest of your teeth.

Teeth whitening in children and teens

Children and teens with discolored teeth may have a negative self-image that can result in unhealthy behavior. Teeth whitening may help them with their self-image.

In children and teens, stained or discolored teeth may be caused by:

  • An injury or infection.
  • Fluorosis, which means using too much fluoride. This can change the color of the teeth.
  • The antibiotic tetracycline. Using this antibiotic can cause stains on the teeth.

It's important to discuss teeth whitening with your dentist. If your child still has a mix of primary and permanent teeth, whitening all teeth may result in teeth being different shades of white. That's because the thickness of the tooth enamel is different in these two types of teeth. Colors may also change when the permanent teeth replace the primary teeth.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Basic Dental Care

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna


Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

The Cigna Group Information

About The Cigna Group Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers The Cigna Group Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap


Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Georgia, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of South Carolina, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of Texas, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details