Teeth whitening is a quick, safe and easy way to brighten up your smile. It’s one of the most common cosmetic dental treatments, and just an hour at your dentist can banish any stains or discolouration from your teeth. The safest and most effective kind of teeth whitening is given by your dentist. At home and over the counter treatments can be riskier and less effective. However, a whitening kit recommended by your dentist can be effective and allow you to whiten your teeth at home.
What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure that involves bleaching the teeth to lighten their colour and remove stains and discolouration. Teeth whiteners usually use peroxides such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to whiten your teeth. Only professional dental practitioners are allowed to use the most concentrated peroxide solutions, which are more effective and less abrasive. If you use an over the counter whitening kit, you may run the risk of damaging your tooth enamel. During the procedure, bleach soaks through that tooth’s enamel and into the main inside of the tooth. The bleach then reacts with the molecules that cause discolouration. The inside of the tooth then becomes lighter and the outside can become more reflective, which make your teeth look whiter.
Zoom Teeth Whitening
We recommend a check prior to ensure your teeth are clean to maximise the effects of whitening and to identify any conditions which may cause sensitivity or hinder the results of whitening. Only a dentist is permitted to deliver high concentration gels that can make a difference – you may have noticed the limitations of over-the-counter products. At Grand Dental, Phillips Zoom whitening is used to remove years of staining and discolouration in a single – hour visit.
Why might I want teeth whitening?
You may want to consider teeth whitening if your teeth are discoloured or stained due to:
- Tea, coffee, red wine or soda
- Dark foods such as beetroot, cherries ect
- Excessive fluoride formation when the teeth are forming
- Naturally yellow coloured teeth
However, it is important to consult your dentist before going ahead with teeth whitening to see if it is a suitable option.
Teeth whitening is not recommended if:
- You are pregnant for breastfeeding
- You have sensitive teeth
- You have gum disease
- You have cracks or deep chips in your teeth
It is also important to remember that whitening treatments do not whiten veneers, fillings or crowns.
How does treatment work?
Any whitening treatment usually starts off with a consultation with your dentist. This is important as it is essential that a thorough checkup is conducted and that the best kind of treatment is determined based on your personal needs and goals.
If in-chair whitening is decided to be the best option for you, your dentist will first put gel or a rubber shield over your gums. This will protect them and other soft tissues in your mouth from getting bleached. The whitening product is then applied to your teeth. The stains are broken down, and you are left with a whiter and brighter smile. Some procedures might also use a light or laser that activates the products.
There are also take home products that you can get from your dentist that can be used in addition or separately to the in practice treatments. For this, custom trays will be made by taking an impression of your mouth. The trays hold the product against your teeth and are carefully shaped so the contact of bleach to your gums is as small as possible. Depending on your individual situation, this treatment can be done in about 3 – 4 weeks.
How do I know if teeth whitening is suitable for me?
Teeth whitening is best for people who:
- Have problems with stained and discoloured teeth
- Are realistic about the outcome of the procedure
- Fully understand the procedure
This list can be used as a guide to determine whether this procedure is suitable for me, but it also depends on the individuals circumstances.
How does the bleach whiten the teeth?
The peroxides in the whitening products dissolve any discolouration or stains in the teeth, causing the teeth to become a lighter shade. This happens because the peroxide enters the teeth through small pores, and then breaks up any light blocking discolouration. This means more light can pass through the teeth, therefore making them look lighter.
In practice treatments at you dentist are able to penetrate deeper and remove internal stains, whereas over the counter kits can only work on the surface of the teeth.
What variations of teeth whitening are there?
There are four main types of peroxide whitening products available:
- In practice products
- Take home products
- Over the counter products
- Over the counter toothpaste
In practice products
These products can only be used by dental professional as they contain a high percentage of peroxide. The product is applied directly to your teeth, and is sometimes activated even further by using heat, light or a laser. This kind of whitening provides the fastest results but may not be the best option if you have sensitive teeth.
Take home products
Take home products are given to you by your dentist and contain a lower percentage of peroxide than in practice products. The whitening treatment is held in a custom fitted tray that is worn overnight or during the day. Some products include fluoride in their formulation that helps with any mild tooth sensitivities. If worn overnight, most discoloration and stains will lighten in 1-2 weeks.
Over the counter products
These whitening products contain a very small percentage of peroxide compared to in practice products, which means the results are less effective and the teeth take longer be noticeably brighter. It should also be noted that most of these products are composed of acidic ingredients that can damage the tooth enamel if not used correctly.
These products also take much longer than in practice or take home products as they can take up to 6 months to show the same results. When you factor in the risks involved and the amount of time waiting that’s necessary for these products, getting teeth whitening done by a professional is the safest and most effective option.
Over the counter toothpaste
Over the counter whitening toothpastes also contain smaller amounts of peroxide as well as polishing ingredients. They work well at removing stains on the surface of the teeth, but they can also be very harsh and damage your teeth. With consistent use, the strong abrasive will wear down the enamel and make the teeth look yellower. If you are unsure about the safety of a certain toothpaste, be sure to consult your dentist before purchasing.
How much does teeth whitening cost?
The price varies from method to method, but in Australia a take home whitening kit can cost up to $610. In practice bleaching treatments can cost up to as much as $260 per tooth, in addition to a consultation and plaque removal beforehand which can cost up to $280.
Is teeth whitening painful?
The discomfort varies from method to method and the patients pain tolerance. For most people, there is minor sensitivity for the first 1-3 days after their treatment. Any discomfort can be treated simply with painkillers.
How long will teeth whitening take at my dentist?
In chair treatments usually last from between 1 – 3 hours. Factors that can affect the time it takes include:
- The product being used
- Whether the treatment sped up through the use of a laser or UV light
- How much discolouration is present in your teeth
Is teeth whitening safe?
At your dentist, teeth whitening is a very safe procedure. During the procedure you will wear protective eye wear and your dentist will use gels/rubber shields to protect your gums and tongue from coming in contact with the bleach. In the rare case of an allergic reaction, your dentist is trained to provide the appropriate support.
For take home treatments, the custom trays are specially moulded to make sure there is as little contact between the bleach and your gums as possible, as this may cause irritation.
Is teeth whitening permanent?
The effects of teeth whitening are not permanent. Results can last from a few months for up to three years, but this can vary depending on how much effort you put into maintenance. If you frequently smoke or consistently drink liquids that stain your teeth such as coffee, tea and red wine, this can shorten the time of your results.
Are there any risks involved with teeth whitening?
The side effects of teeth whitening can include pain in the gums/tongue and tooth sensitivity. It is also possible to over-whiten your teeth, which turns your teeth translucent and almost grey. Over-whitening is very rare and only happens when the bleach is left on for too long. If you choose to go ahead with take home whitening, there is a risk of swallowing the bleach, which can result in nausea, a burning feeling and vomiting. However, the chances of this happening are very small as the tray is custom to fit perfectly around your teeth. Peroxide in the whitening products can cause burns to your gums if they’re not covered, so it is recommended to let a professional to whiten your teeth.
Who should avoid teeth whitening?
Since there are risks, it is not recommended that pregnant or breastfeeding women whiten their teeth. It is also not recommended if you are allergic to peroxide. Those with receding gums may be more likely to sensitivity, however this generally subsides in a couple of days. Any cavities must be treated before teeth whitening, and if you have worn enamel, it is best to consult with you dentist on the most suitable treatment.
How can I reduce teeth sensitivity?
If you are experiencing sensitivity after your treatment, it may be a good option to use a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. It is also a good idea to avoid very hot and cold foods for the first couple of days.
Does teeth whitening cause damage?
The answer is no, any teeth whitening procedures and products used by your dentist will not cause damage. However, some over the counter treatments and toothpastes can cause enamel damage if used too much.
Does tooth whitening affect crowns or fillings?
Teeth whitening will not have any effect on crowns or fillings. Any tooth coloured fillings and crowns you had before the whitening will need to be replaced if you want them to be the same colour as your whitened teeth.
Will teeth whitening damage my gums?
Although treatment can cause gum irritation, this is a temporary effect and does not cause permanent damage.
What happens after I get my teeth whitened?
For at least a week after your treatment, it is recommended to avoid substances that easily stain, such as coffee, tea, red wine and tobacco. This is because the procedure opens the pores in your teeth, which means it is much easier for discolouration to occur.
What can I eat immediately after treatment?
After your treatment, it is important to avoid dark foods and beverages. It’s recommended to eat only plain coloured food for the first couple of days. This might include:
- Plain chicken
What foods are dark staining foods?
Dark staining foods and beverages should be avoided for the first couple of days after your whitening treatment. These foods and beverages include:
- Soy sauce
- All fruits (except bananas)
- Tomato sauce
How do I maintain the results of my whitening treatment?
To prolong the results of your treatment, it is important to avoid as much staining foods and beverages as possible. This includes coffee, tea, red wine, soda and tobacco. If you still wish to drink one of these beverages, it is recommended to drink through a straw so the beverage avoids contact with your teeth. It is also important to keep good oral hygiene, which means brushing and flossing twice a day.
How old does someone have to be to whiten their teeth?
Generally anyone over 10 years old can whiten their teeth, because by this age most people have all their adult teeth grown in it.
How white will my teeth get?
This depends on your individual circumstances. Whiteners might not lighten all kinds of discolouration. If you have yellow teeth they will probably whiten effectively, whereas brownish teeth not as well, and greyish teeth might not see any effects. But in most cases, white teeth that are several shades lighter than the original colour are achievable in practice.
Is teeth whitening the only option for whiter teeth?
No, there are a handful of options than can brighten and improve your smile. Some other options include:
- Porcelain veneers
- Composite bonding
- Dental implants
These options may be more effective if your stains are deep within the enamel of the tooth.