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We all want those beautiful Hollywood smiles -- glistening white teeth that are straight as can be, and you can almost bet there’s not even a trace of a cavity in sight! But the truth is that those Hollywood smiles aren’t without effort. Everyone has to keep up a good oral care routine and (say it with me) white teeth take work! But let’s ask the real question at hand: How much money is it going to take to get that perfect smile?

In this article, we will go over the available options for whitening your teeth, and let you know how to transform your smile, whatever your budget. Furthermore, we’ll let you know which options are best for your mouth.

It helps to understand the causes of discoloration before selecting a whitening treatment, so let’s get into it!

How Many Shades Lighter Can My Teeth Get?

Some types of discoloration are unable to be managed with traditional whitening treatments. You also have to take into consideration how bad your staining is. While many whitening treatments can help you achieve several levels of whitening, naturally white teeth will still contain subtle grays and browns. Teeth that look extremely white, without any blemish, are likely not natural, and crowns or veneers may be in place.

Why Have My Teeth Gotten Dull?

Our teeth can undergo intrinsic (inner surface) or extrinsic (outer surface) changes as a result of different factors. While extrinsic stains involve only the discoloration of outer enamel that will be most responsive to whitening treatments, treatment for intrinsic discoloration will require taking a more invasive approach. 

If your teeth have lost their luster, it could be due to one of many causes. Here are some possible reasons for discoloration to consider before looking into whitening treatments:

Coffee and Tea

Drinking these morning motivators regularly is one of the main causes for staining on teeth. As these beverages pass by your teeth, they can cling to the surface leaving stains. Usually coffee and tea stains will look brown in color. 

Wine, Berries and Beets

Like your morning cup of coffee, these colorful items can leave unwanted color on the surface of your teeth. Because wine, berries, and beets are highly saturated in color, you may see an immediate change in the color of your teeth to a purple or red color. Make sure to brush just after consuming these types of things to avoid major staining.


Smoking cigarettes, in addition to posing major health risks is also bad for your teeth. Long term smoking can leave your teeth looking very yellow with the possible addition of brown spotting.


Certain medications, when given to children at a young age, may cause discoloration of teeth through adulthood. Specifically, doxycycline and tetracycline have been known to affect the color of teeth, as well as antipsychotics and antihistamines.

Too Much Fluoride 

Yes, white teeth are beautiful. But if the white presents itself in uneven spots on your teeth, it’s likely not because you wanted it there. If you notice this type of discoloration on your teeth, it may be the result of too much fluoride exposure, especially as a child. While fluoride is recommended, you should use a trusted toothpaste containing a safe amount of fluoride each time you brush.

Tooth Decay or Trauma 

Remember that intrinsic discoloration we talked about - that inner tooth discoloration, that goes beyond enamel staining? This type of tooth discoloration may have been caused by trauma to the tooth. When a tooth is radically disturbed by movement, pressure, or other outside forces, it can cause damage to the pulp which discolors the tooth from the inside. Additionally, the inner workings of your teeth may become discolored from tooth decay, cavities that have allowed vulnerable parts of your teeth to become exposed. These types of discoloration cannot be managed with normal dental or at-home treatments. 

There are options for dealing with intrinsic stains, that may include the professional placement of bleach inside the tooth or in some cases, performing a root canal and clearing out any infected or damaged pulp. If you feel you may have intrinsic discoloration, it is best to contact your dentist for a professional opinion.

How to Prevent Stains

One great way to get rid of stains is to avoid them from happening in the first place. Here are a few simple ways to deter stains from setting up on your teeth.

  • Drinking Water: Wash those stain-makers away by drinking plenty of water, especially right after eating or drinking things that are known to cause discoloration.
  • Drink Through a Straw: If you want to enjoy your favorite beverages without the fear of staining, you can help alleviate it by drinking through a straw. This will help your drink to bypass your front teeth.
  • Brush Often: Avoid build-up that turns into stains and fight off tooth decay by brushing your teeth twice a day. Here is some quick and simple Smile Education to help make sure you’re getting the most from your daily oral hygiene routine.
  • Use a Whitening Toothpaste: Keep those stains away by using a toothpaste that has both whitening power and health promoting ingredients. This will help keep your teeth white and safe from cavities! Here is our favorite choice!

How Much Does Whitening Cost?

If you are experiencing a need for extrinsic whitening, there are options. Here is a list of whitening options and the costs associated with each:

Professional Whitening

The most expensive option for removing those enamel stains is to schedule a whitening treatment with a dental professional. In this case, a protective resin is painted onto the gums to protect against irritation. Next, a bleach is applied over the teeth to sit. This treatment can cost around $300 to $600.

Dentist Provided Home Bleaching

Next in order of cost is the option of purchasing a whitening treatment from the dentist’s office for self-application at home. This option often utilizes bleaching trays and, while similar to professional whitening, the cost is a bit lower, around $200 to $400 per kit. Also slower than the previous option, it can take a few days to weeks to complete.

Store-Bought Whitening Kits

Sliding down the expense scale again, we come to store-bought whitening options. In the aisles of your local grocery store, or at your fingertips when shopping online, you can find several versions of home whitening treatments. Popular kits include overnight trays, whitening strips, or bleach gel applicators. You can even find LED light and bleach gel kids that connect to your phone, so you can take selfies of the process as you go. Depending on the route that interests you, these options generally cost less than $100. 

Whitening Toothpaste

Using a whitening toothpaste is the best option for whitening your teeth daily and removing stains gently. The safest option for your teeth and gums, this option also promotes health for your enamel and helps fight off cavities. Make sure to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride to help prevent tooth decay as you whiten and do not brush too hard. Gentle scrubbing will do the trick without damaging your outer enamel.

There are 3 main differences between this daily whitening option and those above. 

  • This option is the least expensive by far. (You can try this favorite duo of ours for only $5.)
  • Most whitening toothpastes do not contain harmful bleach and peroxides, but rather uses gentle abrasion to buff away stains.
  • Combating stains with brushing will not whiten your teeth to an unnatural level, but will instead encourage a return to the natural white color of your teeth

A final difference between daily whitening and undergoing whitening-specific treatments is that these treatments will not last forever. If you do not get into a solid brushing and flossing routine, your stains will return and new treatments will be needed. Prevent stains and promote a glistening smile by implementing a thorough and correct brushing habit. Brush twice a day for at least two minutes per session. These results will last, as you are fighting stains each day!

Remember, discoloration that is completely unresponsive to extrinsic whitening techniques may be the sign of a bigger issue existing on the inside of your tooth structure. If you find that whitening has not worked, you may need to look deeper into your discoloration cause.

Whitening Wrap-Up

Your best defense against discoloration of your teeth is to keep them vibrant not only in color, but in integrity. Protecting your teeth and cleansing them from build-up daily will help reduce staining and cavities that turn to dark spots, holes, and other noticeable issues. If you notice severe discoloration, you may desire a bleach treatment of some kind, but talk to your favorite dentist about the risks associated with this kind of whitening before scheduling a visit or picking up a pack of whitener from the store. 

All things considered, one thing is certain: Keeping your teeth healthy is never a bad idea! Knowing you are caring for yourself is as good a reason to smile as any!