The foundation for having whiter, brighter teeth is an oral health regime that includes brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between your teeth once a day, regular checkups and cleanings at your dentist, and limiting stain-causing foods or habits.

Teeth naturally darken with age. Staining can be caused by various foods and beverages (such as coffee, red wine, tea and berries), some drugs (such as tetracycline), smoking, or a trauma to a tooth.

Before purchasing any tooth whitener, you can likely save yourself some time and money by consulting the expert on these products — your dentist. Taking into account your unique oral health conditions, your dentist will be able to determine what, if any, tooth whitener is the right one for you.

The appearance of new “whitening” options for consumers has matched the growing public interest in cosmetic and aesthetic procedures, fitness and wellness.

The most common options are:

In-office bleaching usually takes about 30 to 90 minutes and one to three visits to the dental office. A protective gel, shield or rubber dam is used to protect your gums from the bleaching agent which is usually a form of hydrogen peroxide. A bleaching agent is then applied or "painted" onto your teeth and heat or high-intensity lights may be used to enhance the whitening process.

At-home bleaching is usually done by applying a bleaching solution to a custom-formed mouthguard that is left in the mouth for about 30 minutes. The process is repeated until the desired result is obtained.

Some patients may find that the soft tissue of the gums can become sensitive or irritated by the mouthguard or the solution. If you have concerns, it is important that you bring these to the attention of your dentist.

All toothpastes remove surface stains through the action of mild abrasives. Whitening toothpastes contain special chemicals or polishing agents that have additional surface-stain removing properties, but don’t alter the intrinsic colour of the teeth.

It's important to know that not everyone’s teeth will “whiten” to the same degree. It depends on the number of teeth involved, the severity of discolouration and the natural colour of your teeth. The perception of the colour of your teeth is also influenced by skin tone.