The Ultimate Guide: Is Teeth Polishing the Same as Teeth Whitening? Find Out Now!

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Before and after teeth whitening results

Amongst the many procedures for beautifying smiles, teeth whitening and teeth polishing often get mixed up. Although both lead to a whiter smile, each has a different purpose, involves separate procedures, and leads to distinct outcomes.

Our teeth change with time. Depending on our eating habits and lifestyles they go from pearly whites to dull and stained grays.

The appearance of our teeth can be affected by the accumulation of surface stains caused by the use of tobacco products and the consumption of certain foods or drinks. Poor oral hygiene and age play a crucial role in the health and appearance of our teeth too.

Teeth polishing gives cleaner, smoother teeth with reduced stains while teeth whitening offers a visibly brighter smile with less discoloration. Here’s all you need to know about them to decide which one is right for you.

What is Teeth Whitening?

You can get your teeth whitened at a dental clinic or at home. The process uses bleaching agents like hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide, to dissolve and lighten stains on teeth. This process enhances the brightness of teeth without scrubbing the enamel.

Teeth Whitening Methods

Teeth whitening methods range from traditional powdered charcoal to at-home LED (light-emitting diode) kits. Here are the most common types of teeth whitening options we have today:

Whitening Toothpaste

Whitening with toothpaste is the most convenient teeth-whitening method and is suitable for mild stains. Many brands boast of their whitening toothpaste miracles and some actually work very well too. These over-the-counter toothpastes are formulated with stain-dissolving and mild bleaching agents that make it easy to use on a daily basis.

Whitening toothpastes are however not effective against dark stains and neither do they promise lasting results. For a quick and dramatic whitening effect, customers either pay a visit to the clinic or go for at-home whitening kits.

Teeth whitening treatment being performed at an orthodontist’s clinic.
Teeth whitening treatment being performed at an orthodontist’s clinic.

In-office Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening at a dentist's clinic is nothing like at-home whitening. The process is different and comes with a big price tag. Dentists utilize professional tools and use higher concentrations of bleaching agents for instant whitening reults. Whitening lasers help achieve drastic teeth whitening which will last for months. The cost of a single whitening session starts from a staggering $700 and with lasers, may go up to $1100.

Teeth Whitening Strips

These are teeth-bleaching strips coated with whitening agents like hydrogen peroxide gel. The strips are placed closely on the surface of the teeth and left for a prescribed time. The process is simple but does not offer precision as gums are often exposed to bleaching chemicals. Whitening strips despite being very popular due to their low price and easy access, don’t promise lasting results or intensive whitening.

Teeth Whitening Pen

Made to be used on the go, convenient and hassle-free. Teeth whitening pens are filled with bleaching liquid concentrate that is brushed on teeth. They offer precision, convenience, and a quick solution. However, the whitening results are relatively mild, and for lasting results, they need to be paired with other whitening options.

A female using an at-home LED Teeth whitening kit
A female using an at-home LED Teeth whitening kit

At Home LED Kit

LED whitening kits have gained immense popularity in the past few years. These offer a solution to sensitivity complaints by customers who have used whitening strips for a long time while providing effective whitening results.

A whitening kit typically contains a gel in a tube or pen, teeth trays, gloves, instructions, and an LED (Light Emitting Diode) mouthpiece. The active ingredients accelerate the whitening process after exposure to LED light. LED whitening kits promise effective whitening without the hefty price tag.

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Benefits of Teeth Whitening

  • Aesthetic smile
  • Brighter, clear teeth
  • Can be done at home

What Is Teeth Polishing?

Teeth polishing is used as a preventive method and to enhance the appearance of teeth. It is only performed at dental clinics. The process involves removing mild plaque and stains from teeth by scrubbing them away with a polishing paste and a prophy angle (a device with a rubber cap).

For deeper plaque, tartar, and stubborn calculus (the white or yellow hard deposits) teeth scaling is recommended before teeth polishing. Teeth are generally polished after removing metal braces to restore their shine and smoothness.

Teeth Scaling

For severe tartar and plaque, your dentist will sometimes recommend teeth scaling along with teeth polishing. Teeth are cleaned below the gum line by scraping away calculus, tartar, and plaque. This deep cleaning ensures the teeth stay healthy and it might incur slight discomfort and bleeding.

Benefits of Teeth Polishing

  • Clears away plaque and enhances oral hygiene.
  • Prevents teeth from gum disease.
  • Improves smile by removing stains.
  • Leaves teeth feeling smooth and shiny.

Teeth whitening or Teeth Polishing: Which one do you need?

If you are looking to restore the brightness of your stained teeth or generally whiten your teeth to enhance your smile and your oral hygiene is good i-e you don’t suffer from any plaque buildup, at-home teeth whitening kits are your answer. You can learn more about the dos and don’ts of teeth whitening kits in our comprehensive guide.

If however, you notice deep stains, plaque buildup, and rough surfaces caused by calculus, teeth whitening will not fix them. We suggest paying a visit to the dentist for teeth polishing.


1. Is there a DIY (do it yourself) teeth polishing method?

No, teeth polishing requires professional equipment, precision, and expertise. One wrong move can damage the teeth' structure or cause gum injury. Therefore, they are only performed at dental clinics.

2. Does teeth whitening cause sensitivity?

Whitening may temporarily cause teeth sensitivity. If your teeth sensitivity persists for longer than 3 days, please contact your dental expert.

3. Does teeth polishing cause sensitivity?

It is normal to feel a little sensitivity in your teeth after polishing, it usually goes away in a day. If severe sensitivity persists, please contact your dentist.

4. What are the side effects of teeth whitening?

Excessive teeth whitening, and leaving the whitening agent on the teeth longer than prescribed will thin out the enamel and cause sensitivity.

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