Dr. Engen answers your questions about teeth whitening

Bright, white smiles are everywhere you look this summer, and many people are looking for different ways to get that glowing, beautiful smile. Here at the offices of Drs. David Engen & Rudolf Hahn we receive a lot of questions about how to safely and effectively whiten your teeth. Dr. Engen took the time to answer some of your most frequently asked questions about teeth whitening–

Q. What is the difference between in-office whitening, take-home whitening kits and over-the-counter products?
A. In-office products are much more concentrated (powerful) and should be administered by a professional who can make sure you do not burn your gums or cause damage to your teeth. Over-the-counter products are much less concentrated, and are thus safer to be used in an unregulated environment. Take home whitening kits fall in the middle of the concentration spectrum. They can be used at home, but only as prescribed by your dental professional.

Q. Do whitening toothpastes really make a difference?
A. Not really.

Q. How do I get my teeth whiter without them looking unnatural?
A. Always talk to your dentist about whitening. You want a lighter shade, but you do not want an unnatural shade of white. Teeth should be an age appropriate shade that looks nice, but not artificially white. The dentist can help determine these shades for you.

Q. Can I use whitening products on my teeth while I have braces?
A. No. The exposed areas of your teeth will become bleached and when we take the braces off, the area that was underneath the bracket will still be the original color.

Q. Can I use whitening products on my dentures?
A. You should not use the same products as you would for natural teeth. Dentures are made of plastic and teeth are made of enamel. Chemicals which work for one may not work for the other. You should always use denture specific products to whiten your dentures.

Q. What is the best over-the-counter whitening product?
A. Rembrant whitening toothpaste works fair. The Crest white strips work well, but they do have issues. In order to bleach the whole tooth with the white strips, you will burn the gums. If you don’t touch the gums you will have two-toned teeth with a stripe.

Q. After I’ve received in-office teeth bleaching, what’s the best way to maintain my bright smile? 
A. Your dentist will send you home with bleaching trays and a recommended product to use. You should always use them as directed. You may also need a touch up, in-office bleaching every 6 months or so.

Q. What foods and beverages will discolor my teeth? Which foods and beverages taste good but won’t discolor my teeth?
A. If it will stain your clothes, it will stain your teeth. Tobacco, coffee, and colas are all on the “bad list”. Fruits, vegetables, water, meat, grains are all on the “good list.”

Q. Is tooth discoloration genetic?
A. Yes, to a degree. However, environmental factors such as medication as a child or trauma to teeth play a bigger factor. Local factors (ie: plaque) is the biggest driver of tooth discoloration. Poor oral hygiene will lead to discoloration faster than all of the other issues combined.

If you have any other questions regarding teeth whitening, feel free to contact our office or post a question to our Facebook page!


Denise F
Jun 29, 2014


I would highly recommend Dr. Engen and his office staff to anyone whose child was apprehensive about having braces. Other than the high level of professionalism, I appreciate the down-play of cutsie-pie gimmicks for kids. He thoroughly explained everything to us right from the start.

Patricia A.
Jun 29, 2014


Dr. David has a wonderful chairside manner, just as his father did when I saw him many years ago. He made me feel very comfortable