Difference Between Teeth Cleaning & Teeth Whitening

Though teeth whitening and teeth cleaning appear to be the same treatments, they are two different milestones of dentistry.

To understand the differences let us first look at both the treatments individually:

1. Teeth cleaning and Polishing:

One must have noticed a thin sticky layer that covers the outer surface of the tooth. It is called as plaque. This plaque contains millions of bacteria. These bacteria can attack the gums and cause gum diseases. Moreover, plaque can harden to form calculus that can get attached to the gum line and further lead to gum diseases symptomized by bleeding gums, mobile teeth, gums receding and eventual tooth loss.

Daily brushing and rinsing might not be enough to maintain good oral hygiene in the long term. Getting Teeth Cleaning and polishing done every 6 months helps:

  1. Keep the smile brighter
  2. Early detection of dental problems
  3. Prevent further gum diseases
  4. Prevent bad breath
  5. Improve overall health


  1. Teeth Cleaning/ Teeth Scaling: An ultrasonic scaler is used for this procedure. The dull metal trip of the scaler vibrates at a very high frequency and helps knock off the calculus and plaque of the tooth. This system is attached with a water irrigation system that helps remove the debris and cools the tooth.
  2. Teeth Polishing: Post teeth cleaning, a procedure called teeth polishing is carried out with the help of a soft rubber cup that spins. A toothpaste like material is scooped into the cup and moved around the teeth. This procedure helps remove the stains from the teeth and helps to keep it smooth and shiny.

Teeth Cleaning and Polishing helps remove stains as well as prevent gum diseases Thus, dentists recommend getting teeth cleaning and polishing done every 6 months


2. Teeth Whitening:

99% of the people in the world have yellow teeth. The color shade of one’s teeth is determined by reflection and scattering of light off the enamel (outer layer of the tooth), combined with the color of the dentin under it. Dentin has a yellowish hue and thus thin enamel can lead to appearance of yellower teeth. Apart from that stains from tobacco, coffee, tea and other beverages also determine the color of the teeth. Tooth may appear discolored or have patches in case of excessive fluoride consumption in childhood, administration of certain drugs to pregnant mothers can lead to certain stains on the child’s tooth or the teeth may turn non-vital on trauma or post root canal.

In this case, teeth whitening proves to be helpful. Teeth Whitening lightens the teeth and helps remove stains and discoloration. Whitening is a cosmetic procedure which needs to repeat from time to time to maintain brighter color


Teeth Whitening can be done on vital as well as non-vital teeth

  1. Vital teeth: Whitening can be done at home or clinic. But it is recommended that one opts for in clinic whitening. In-clinic whitening allows your dentist to use a more powerful whitening gel which is activated using specialized light or laser and allows bleaching to happen faster. It usually requires 1-3 appointments which last for 30 to 90 minutes.
  2. Non-Vital Whitening: In case one has had root canal treatment in the tooth, the tooth is non-vital and the stains come from inside the tooth. In this case the dentist will place the whitening agent inside the tooth followed by temporary filling. The tooth will be left this way for several days. It is usually done only once but can be repeated till one gets the desired shade.


One should remember that whitening is not a permanent procedure and stains can come back if you smoke, eat, or drink a lot of staining foods like tea, coffee, etc. If these things are avoided whitening can stay for 6-12 months.

Some people may feel sensitivity or soreness of the gums post whitening. Contact a dentist in this case.


Looking at the details of both the treatments, it is evident that both the procedures are very different. Let’s look at the differences: 

Difference between teeth whitening and teeth cleaning:

  1. Teeth Whitening helps lighten the tooth.Whereas Teeth Cleaning and polishing on the other hand helps remove dental plaque, calculus and tartar.
  2. Teeth Whitening is a cosmetic treatment opted for when one needs shinny bright and white teeth Whereas Teeth Cleaning and Polishing is a treatment that helps get rid of plaque and tartar which causes gum diseases.
  3. Teeth Whitening is an optional procedure and not necessary for dental health.Whereas regular teeth cleaning and polishing is necessary to maintain good oral health.
  4. On the other hand, teeth whitening does not help prevent any oral diseases. Whereas teeth cleaning helps prevent periodontal diseases.
  5. Teeth Whitening does not have any effect on the overall health Whereas Teeth Cleaning is necessary to prevent health diseases.


So, though the terms teeth cleaning and teeth whitening may seem like synonyms, there is no connection between the two treatments. Teeth cleaning may be suggested before teeth whitening only if the teeth whitening procedure requires such preparation.