How to Make Teeth Whitening Last Longer

woman drinking though straw

Whether you’re about to start your first teeth whitening treatment or you’re someone who is getting ready to touch up your smile after a dental cleaning, you want your investment to last as long as possible. Not just because of the cost of the teeth whitening agents or the risk of brushing whitening away, but also because of the time commitment. You want it to last. 

Here’s the good news. There are specific things you can do every day to help your teeth whitening methods be more effective and produce longer-lasting results.[1] For example, if you’re brushing whitening away immediately after each application, it might cause you to see slightly weaker results than if you just left it on your teeth afterward. We’ll dive in a little deeper to talk about how you can take steps to make your whitening last longer on a day-to-day and year-to-year basis…

How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?

On average, an at-home professional teeth whitening treatment will last you about a year. That’s without any touchups. For some people, it’s even longer than that. But whitening isn’t permanent like dental veneers or a ceramic crown. Your teeth will always want to naturally re-absorb new stains over time. Touching up at specific intervals will help results last even longer so that your smile stays the level of white you want it to be. 

  1. Don't smoke or use tobacco
  2. Reduce coffee and tea
  3. Limit stain-causing foods or liquids
  4. Rinse with water
  5. Go for routine professional dental cleanings
  6. Read the whitening directions!

First 24 Hours After Teeth Whitening  

Make sure to avoid any dark foods or liquids within 24 hours of whitening your teeth. Your teeth tend to be a bit more prone to stain immediately after the whitening process. If it can stain a white t-shirt, it can re-stain your teeth whether you’re brushing whitening away or not. In fact, it’s probably best to avoid them for at least a week or two after your whitening treatment is complete. 

Teeth Whitening Touchups

Don’t skip your touchups. It’s important to realize that you’ll want to touch up semi-frequently to keep your teeth white. Since teeth naturally absorb stains over time, re-treatments will keep your smile brighter, and longer. One of the best things to do is to touch up right after your professional dental cleanings every six months. That way the teeth whitening agents can penetrate clean teeth and work more effectively. The most common teeth whitening ingredients are hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Most people only need to re-apply their treatment for 3-4 sessions immediately after their dental visit. If it’s been longer than six months since you’ve seen your hygienist or there’s visible tartar on your teeth, you need to get that out of the way before you try to whiten them again.

Avoid Stain-causing Liquids & Foods

Respect dark liquids and stain-causing foods. If you’re someone who drinks a lot of coffee or tea, you probably need to touch up more frequently (like every 3-4 months.) Using a straw, swishing with water, and modifying your diet will help your teeth whitening results last longer.[2]

As the years go by, you might find that you want to completely re-treat everything from scratch. But if you already have take-home whitening trays all you’ll need to do is get a refill of gel from your dentist, then go through the process as you did on day one. 

As long as you’re maintaining your teeth properly and not brushing whitening away immediately after, you can technically keep your teeth white for last forever. 

PRO TIP: You can use whitening toothpaste to keep tooth stains and discoloration in control. Even though whitening toothpaste has hydrogen peroxide, it does not whiten your teeth, only helps reduces surface stains. Whitening toothpaste should be an addition to your routine and should contain fluoride.

Can You Make Teeth Whitening Last Longer?

Absolutely. One of the best ways to help teeth whitening last longer is to watch your day-to-day diet and lifestyle habits. A few changes will help make sure your smile stays bright for as long as possible. 

Avoid smoking or using tobacco products because they will definitely discolor your teeth over time. Try not to drink too much coffee or tea either, since these dark liquids will cause stain particles to coat your teeth. And of course be selective about eating certain types of food like berries and tomato sauces, since they also leave stains on your enamel. 

If you do want to indulge, at least rinse with some water afterward to get rid of some of the dark particles before they settle into your teeth. Another thing you can try is drinking soda or tea through a straw so that the dark liquids skip right past your top front teeth. 

One other way to help to keep teeth whitening last longer is to use a stronger product or professional whitening. For example, applying professional teeth whitening gel in a set of custom whitening trays will provide significantly stronger results than a strip system whitening treatment you can buy in the store. And if you’re purchasing a product online, always read the concentration of the ingredient to make sure you know what you’re getting.

Can You Technically “Brush Your Whitening Away”?

Not all whitening products are used the same. By making sure you follow the manufacturer’s directions (and not brushing whitening away) you’ll see stronger, faster results. For instance, some whitening treatments want you to brush your teeth immediately before or after the treatment, while others do not. It boils down to things like fluoride in your toothpaste, physically removing the whitening agent too soon, or making sure there is no plaque on your enamel so that the ingredients can penetrate your teeth better. 

Always. Read. The. Directions. If it says to brush your teeth immediately after, don’t worry about brushing whitening away; leaving it on too long can have unwanted side effects like burning gums or tooth sensitivity. But if it does say to leave it on, leave it. Each gel is formulated differently! If your product says to wait 30 minutes after brushing your teeth before applying the whitening agent, then do it! Instructions are specific so that your whitening will last as long as possible. 

If you haven’t had a professional dental cleaning recently, you’ll want to make sure you get caught up on that first. Don’t try to whiten if you're behind on checkups. Things like tartar and plaque buildup will prevent whitening gel—regardless of how strong it is—from penetrating your teeth. And if you have superficial surface stains that your hygienist needs to polish away, it will give you dramatically better results than applying the whitening gel directly onto your teeth. A dental cleaning essentially gives you a blank slate so that you can focus on whitening your tooth enamel, rather than trying to work your way through buildup beforehand. If you whiten with dirty teeth, it will just give you uneven and patchy-looking results. 

See Your Dental Hygienist Regularly For Cleanings

Regardless of whether you’re choosing a take-home professional kit or you purchased a commercial whitening product at the store, always consult with your dentist or dental hygienist first. They need to make sure your oral hygiene is in check. Your teeth and gums need to be healthy enough for teeth whitening.[3] If you have tooth-colored restorations like crowns or fillings in your “smile zone”, those materials cannot whiten when bleaching agents are applied. It could leave you with uneven, unattractive results. Be sure to plan in advance if you’re hoping to get any dental work changed out; your dentist will want to coordinate the timing with your teeth whitening treatment so that everything matches correctly.

Second, the regular checkups will help you get the most bang for your buck out of your teeth whitening investment. You’ll save money and time when your teeth are clean before the whitening gel is applied. This will in turn help you enjoy longer results, but most importantly you’ll get physically whiter teeth than if you whitened with dirty tooth enamel. Incorporating regular cleanings with your long-term maintenance can theoretically help you keep your teeth white for decades, if not a lifetime. Think of it like a pre-rinse before you’re washing a really dirty load of laundry. The better penetration the product has, the better the results will be. 

Make Teeth White for longer

With the right teeth whitening techniques, you can keep your freshly whitened teeth white for years or even decades. But the key lies in maintenance and regular dental cleanings. If you’re not following the manufacturer’s directions, brushing whitening away too soon, or applying gel to dirty teeth, you’re not going to get the white enamel that you’re hoping for. Fortunately, regular dental cleanings and proper touch-ups throughout the year will help you maintain your smile’s brightness so that it stays white for as long as you maintain it. The most important thing is making sure there’s no buildup on your teeth to get in the way, or lifestyle factors (such as coffee, red wine, or smoking) counteracting your teeth whitening sessions at home.