Many factors can cause teeth to lose their whiteness, leading people to lose their confidence and impacting their enjoyment of social situations. If you've been considering having your teeth whitened but have a host of questions, here are the answers you've been looking for.

Why are my teeth discolored?

While some people experience discoloration due to illness, medication or tooth damage, for most, it's food and beverages that lead to staining. Red wine, coffee, tea, cola, berries and tobacco are the main culprits.

Will teeth whitening work for me?

If your teeth have typical food and beverage, tobacco or age staining, professional teeth whitening systems deliver fantastic results, lightening teeth up to 10 shades. Tetracycline and fluoride stains are less common, and while these can't be completely removed they can be significantly lightened.

Which teeth whitening option is best?

Over-the-counter teeth whitening gels and strips are an economical approach to teeth whitening. Because they contain a much weaker solution than that used by your dentist, they achieve less impressive results.

Whitening your teeth at home with a professional take-home kit is a great option if you're pushed for time and want an effective treatment. Your dentist will tailor a mouth tray to fit your smile, and supply you with a professional-grade teeth whitening solution to use in your own time.

Several in-office treatments also offer highly successful ways to brighten up your smile. Using the Zoom method, a 25% hydrogen peroxide whitening solution is applied to your teeth and a light is shone into your mouth to enhance the whitening process. Zoom lets oxygen do the work, entering the enamel and dentin of your teeth to bleach away stains, and leaving the integral structures of your teeth unharmed.

Opalescence Boost is another in-office approach, using a 40% hydrogen peroxide whitening agent. The Opalescence system also uses fluoride and potassium nitrate to strengthen enamel, protect against cavities and reduce the sensitivity of your teeth.

Are teeth whitening systems safe?

Because they are so popular, many clinical trials have assessed the safety of teeth whitening systems. Although the process can cause hypersensitivity and irritated gums, these effects are typically over within 24 hours. Anti-sensitivity toothpaste will minimize any discomfort you feel.

How long will my teeth whitening procedure last?

Teeth whitening results vary between people, and can last several years. After a professional treatment, your dentist will give you a maintenance kit to take home. By taking great care of your teeth and avoiding tobacco and food and beverages that cause stains, you'll ensure the effect will last much longer.

If you'd love to put a little extra spring in your step, teeth whitening could be just the thing for you. So take a little time to choose the best procedure for you, and enjoy that dazzling new smile.