Teeth whitening vs teeth cleaning: understanding the difference

Ever heard of teeth whitening and teeth cleaning? They might sound similar, but they’re actually different.

Both of these treatments are ways to make your teeth look better and healthier. But, they’re used for different reasons and done in different ways.

This article is here to help you understand what makes teeth whitening different from teeth cleaning. That way, you can figure out which one is right for your teeth.

What are teeth whitening and teeth cleaning and why are they important for oral hygiene?

Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dental process aimed at lightening the teeth and removing stains or discolouration. Over time, teeth can become stained due to factors like consuming certain foods and drinks, smoking, or simply due to ageing.

Side by side images before and after teeth whitening

A brighter, whiter smile can boost self-confidence and give you a youthful appearance. The process often involves the use of bleaching agents and can be done at home or in a professional setting, under the supervision of a dentist.

On the other hand, teeth cleaning is a preventive procedure that is part of regular oral hygiene. It involves the removal of dental plaque and tartar from teeth to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Regular teeth cleaning, performed by a dental hygienist or dentist, not only helps keep your teeth and gums healthy but also allows the dentist to catch early signs of any potential issues.

Both teeth whitening and cleaning are essential to maintaining good oral hygiene and health. While teeth cleaning focuses on oral health and disease prevention, teeth whitening enhances the aesthetic quality of your smile. Regularly getting your teeth cleaned can also make teeth whitening more effective, as it removes surface stains and buildup, allowing the whitening product to work more efficiently.

The difference between teeth whitening and teeth cleaning – What each procedure does for your oral health

Teeth whitening and teeth cleaning, while distinct, both contribute significantly to oral health. They serve different purposes and have specific benefits.

Teeth whitening is primarily a cosmetic procedure designed to improve the appearance of one’s smile. The process can effectively brighten discoloured or stained teeth, boosting self-esteem and enhancing one’s overall appearance. However, it’s important to note that teeth whitening does not contribute to oral health in the same way that teeth cleaning does. Regular whitening treatments should be treated as complements, not substitutes, for good oral hygiene practices.

Professional teeth cleaning procedure

Teeth cleaning, on the other hand, plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health and preventing dental issues. This procedure removes plaque and tartar, which, if left untreated, could lead to cavities, gum disease, and other dental complications. Regular teeth cleaning sessions are a critical part of a comprehensive oral hygiene routine, alongside daily brushing and flossing.

In essence, teeth cleaning is a proactive preventive measure, while teeth whitening is a reactive solution to existing aesthetic issues. They both play vital roles in maintaining a beautiful, healthy smile. Despite their differences, regular teeth cleaning can enhance the results of teeth whitening, as a clean tooth surface allows the whitening agents to work more efficiently. Hence, integrating both procedures into your oral care routine can lead to optimal results.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Teeth Whitening and Cleaning

Teeth whitening, when done professionally, can dramatically improve the aesthetics of your smile, which in turn can bolster self-confidence. It’s a quick process, often yielding results after just one session. However, it’s not without drawbacks. The procedure can make teeth temporarily sensitive, especially to cold temperatures. Overuse of whitening products can also damage tooth enamel, leading to long-term sensitivity and other oral health issues.

Benefits of Teeth Whitening:

  • Enhances the aesthetics of your smile, potentially increasing self-confidence.
  • A quick process with visible results often after just one session.
  • Can make you look younger and more approachable.
  • Removes stubborn stains caused by food, drinks, smoking, etc.

Drawbacks of Teeth Whitening:

  • Can cause temporary sensitivity, especially to cold temperatures.
  • Overuse can damage tooth enamel, leading to long-term sensitivity and other oral health issues.
  • Results can vary depending on the individual’s initial tooth colour, age, and lifestyle habits.
  • Requires maintenance as results are not permanent.

Teeth cleaning, conversely, directly contributes to oral health by removing built-up plaque and tartar, preventing cavities and gum disease. Regular cleaning sessions also provide an opportunity for dental professionals to spot signs of potential issues, allowing for early intervention. On the flip side, teeth cleanings can also cause temporary discomfort and sensitivity. Some individuals might experience bleeding gums during or after the cleaning, particularly if they have accumulated a significant amount of tartar or have early signs of gum disease.

Benefits of Professional Teeth Cleaning:

  • Helps maintain oral health by removing built-up plaque and tartar, thereby preventing cavities and gum disease.
  • Provides a chance for dental professionals to detect early signs of potential issues, allowing for prompt intervention.
  • Can result in fresher breath and a brighter smile.
  • Regular cleanings can prevent the need for more extensive dental procedures in the future.

Drawbacks of Professional Teeth Cleaning:

  • Can cause temporary discomfort and sensitivity, particularly right after the procedure.
  • Some individuals might experience bleeding gums during or after the cleaning, especially if they have significant tartar accumulation or early signs of gum disease.
  • Requires regular visits to the dentist, which can be inconvenient or anxiety-inducing for some individuals.
  • Depending on the individual’s insurance coverage and geographic location, the cost of professional cleanings can be a potential drawback.

How the procedures compare in terms of cost, time frame, and results

Costs, Time Frame, and Results: Professional teeth cleaning

In terms of cost, the price for a professional teeth cleaning session can vary widely, depending largely on geographical location and specific dental practice. However, generally, the cost can range from £50 to £200 per session. The timeframe for a typical cleaning session usually spans from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the extent of cleaning needed. One should expect to schedule cleanings twice a year for optimal oral health.

When it comes to results, teeth appear brighter and feel cleaner immediately after the session.

Regular professional cleanings, when coupled with good oral hygiene habits at home, can significantly reduce the likelihood of cavities and gum disease, contributing to overall oral health.

It’s important to note that while the upfront cost of regular professional cleanings may seem high, these can often prevent the need for more expensive, extensive procedures in the future.

Costs, Time Frame, and Results: Teeth Whitening by Professionals vs. At Home

When considering teeth whitening procedures, the cost, time frame, and results can differ significantly between professional treatments and at-home remedies.

Professional teeth whitening procedures, on average, can range from $400 to $600 per session in NZ. These sessions typically last about an hour, and noticeable results can be achieved after just one session. It’s worth noting that the number of sessions needed can vary from individual to individual based on the level of discolouration and desired shade of brightness.

On the other hand, at-home teeth whitening kits are substantially cheaper, with prices ranging from $40 to $200. The time frame for these kits varies, with most requiring daily use over a period of weeks before noticeable results are seen. While these kits can be convenient and cost-effective, they typically do not provide the same level of whitening as professional treatments.

In terms of results, professional whitening treatments typically yield quicker and more dramatic results, but the longevity of these results can depend significantly on an individual’s dietary habits and oral hygiene practices. At-home kits, while slower and often less dramatic in their results, can offer a more affordable and convenient solution for those looking to brighten their smile incrementally.

Tips for keeping your teeth white naturally without professional help

A young female flossing her teeth in the mirror

Maintaining the whiteness of your teeth naturally without professional help can be a cost-effective and beneficial practice. Here are a few tips:

  1. Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly can help remove plaque and prevent tooth discolouration. It’s advisable to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day.
  2. Limit Intake of Staining Foods and Drinks: Certain foods and beverages, such as coffee, tea, red wine, and berries, can stain your teeth. Try to limit your consumption of these items and ensure you brush your teeth or rinse your mouth after consuming them.
  3. Quit Smoking: Tobacco can cause teeth to stain. Quitting smoking can prevent further discolouration and improve overall oral health.
  4. Eat a Balanced Diet: Consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots, and celery, can help clean your teeth naturally and keep them white.
  5. Use Whitening Toothpaste: While not as effective as professional treatments or at-home kits, whitening toothpaste can help remove surface stains and slowly brighten your smile.

Remember, while these tips can help maintain the whiteness of your teeth, they are not a substitute for regular dental check-ups. It’s important to visit your dentist for professional cleanings and oral health assessments.


In conclusion, caring for the health of your teeth is vital in achieving a healthy and bright smile. Regular cleaning and maintenance sessions are important for preventing decay and discolouration of your teeth.

When it comes to teeth whitening treatments, you can take the steps to help restore the original colour and beauty of your teeth or even upgrade it further. While there are many teeth whitening options available to choose from, it’s always best to speak to a professional who can give you advice on which treatment would best suit your individual needs.

Hamilton Dental Centre has experienced dentists who provide high-quality dental services including both cleaning and whitening treatments. So if you’re looking to improve the health of your teeth while restoring that perfect pearly white smile, talk to the team at Hamilton Dental Centre about the best treatment for you!

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