Does fluoride whiten teeth?

Updated: Aug 6

The dentist always put fluoride varnish on your teeth because it makes it better and better means whiter teeth right? If fluoride does not whiten your teeth then what is it for? Fluoride whitens teeth right? Tell me its so. It has to be since whiter will always be better!


Fluoride varnish
Fluoride varnish

Table of Contents:



Does it whiten your teeth?

Unfortunately fluoride does not whiten your teeth because if it did, it would be in the ingredient for all of the whitening materials out there. For teeth whitening our long island city dentists have only ever seen the two ingredients below.


Common whitening material ingredients:

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Carbamide peroxide

Every teeth whitening material has either one of these two products listed as the main ingredient. Conversely, have you ever seen fluoride as one of the marketed whitening ingredients? Bet you haven't because fluoride doesn't whiten your teeth.


The reason why peroxide is required to make your teeth white is because it has the ability to oxidize stains that are embedded in your enamel. All other "whitening materials" do NOT have the ability to do that and will only remove surface stains. Therefore if you're using a whitening toothpaste, it will only be able to remove surface stains and won't remove deeply embedded stains because it has no peroxide.




If fluoride does not whiten teeth, what does it do then?

Fluoride may not whiten but it is very safe and not harmful in low dosages for your teeth. Although they can cause unintended side effects when taken in large dosages, namely:

  • Fluorosis

  • Mottled enamel


Fluorosis

This is a tooth condition when you have excess fluoride. You actually start to develop white spots on the teeth but they aren't very even. So, technically fluoride whitens teeth sort of... but not really. Usually when people whiten their teeth, they want the entire tooth to be uniform white. This will leave splotches here and there.


These white spots are hypomineralizations, which are weakened areas of enamel. This is not something that you want. Not very aesthetic looking if you ask me.

Mottled enamel

This is actually a more severe form of fluorosis. You may think that whitened spots on the enamel may look better than yellow but once you increase the concentration of fluoride intake some more, it becomes more severe. Mottled enamel is when those white spots actually start turning into a brown stain.


The teeth will be stained brown with some pitting on the enamel. Definitely not what you would want. This is the farthest result from fluoride whitening teeth since it turns your teeth brown.

Interesting how it turns from extra white to brown right?



How fluoride can help your teeth despite not whitening

So... what you're telling me is that after all this time after fluoride treatment and I had to wait to eat, it wasn't because it was whitening my teeth!?


The only reason dentists put it on your teeth is to fight tooth decay because that is THE main benefit of using fluoride. Our enamel is made of a mineral called hydroxyapatite but when it comes into contact with fluoride, it transforms into fluorapatite, which is an even stronger mineral.


Improved benefits of fluorapatite over hydroxyapatite:

It basically re-enforces the existing layer of enamel and makes it more decay resistant.

  • Increased stability

  • Decreased solubility


Last but not least, fluoride also works better when there is more contact time with your teeth. That is the reason why you should wait before you eat so that it has more time to strengthen your teeth. If you eat right away, it will decrease the efficacy of the treatment so you might've wasted your time getting it in the first place.


How fluoride can help with the whitening process

Fluoride may not whiten your teeth directly but it does help in the process by decreasing teeth sensitivity since a major side effect of making your teeth whiter is increased sensitivity. Therefore it is also recommended to use a fluoridated anti-sensitivity toothpaste at least 2 weeks before starting whitening. It will make the entire process a lot more comfortable for you.




Takeaway

Does fluoride whiten teeth? No, it doesn't but you should still get the fluoride treatment if you're at the dentist because it helps strengthens your teeth. If you want to whiten your teeth, you should check out actual products that are meant to brighten your teeth such as Kor Whitening.


Author: Written by Dr David Chen DDS, a cosmetic dentist in long island city.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!