Best Ways to Whiten Your Teeth

Written by Dr. Reuben Sim
Published: 22-01-2022

This article was published in

Lost in the confusing world of ‘at home kits’ and ‘UV whitening’? This might help.

Have you noticed your smile looking dull and discoloured?

Years of drinking coffee, tea and red wine may be the reason why.

Melbourne based aesthetic and cosmetic dentist, Dr Reuben Sim from Dental Boutique gives you a guide into the different whitening options available on the market today.

The key points to consider when selecting teeth whitening service are:

  • What is the cause of your teeth discolouration?
  • How effective is the option for your particular condition?
  • Will it cause any harm in the short and long term?

Whitening Toothpastes

Whitening toothpaste can be easily purchased over the counter. They work by using abrasive ingredients (silica most commonly) to scrub your teeth surface and remove external stains from your daily diet. Prolonged use of whitening toothpaste can wear down your enamel (the protection layer of your teeth), slowly causing the inner yellow layer (dentine) of your teeth to be exposed. Enamel damage is long-term and irreparable. If the underlying layer of the teeth becomes exposed, no whitening treatment will be effective anymore. Exposed dentine will cause your teeth to be yellow, and very sensitive. Long term usage of whitening toothpaste should be used with caution and you should always follow the recommendation of your dental professional.

Over the Counter Whitening Kits

DIY home whitening kits are becoming more popular. They can be purchased online or over the counter. These whitening kits have a low percentage of whitening active ingredient (less than 6 per cent hydrogen peroxide or equivalent) and they may also contain some abrasive particles to aid with stain removal. These kits often fail to achieve a noticeable change in colour due to the low percentage of active ingredient allowed.

If the DIY kit comes with a tray (that is not custom made by a dental professional), they can result in the whitening gel not covering your teeth evenly. This may result in gum burns or uneven patchy colour across your teeth. If you have undetected tooth decay, the ingredients may cause irritation to the nerve of the tooth leading to pain and sensitivity. Be wary of some of the DIY kits purchased online that do not make known to the public what their active ingredients are.


Non-dentist Whitening Services

According to Australian Dental Industry Association guidelines, non registered dental professionals are not allowed to administer any peroxide based whitening product greater than 6 per cent hydrogen perxodie (or 18 per cent carbamide peroxide equivalent). Because of this reason, non-dentist prescribed whitening services are generally ineffective, and may cause harm to the teeth and gums. They do not have the qualification to perform a proper examination prior to applying products on your teeth. They also are not trained to pick up any teeth conditions that may not whiten properly, and they do not place gum barriers to protect your gums from getting “burned”. Some of these non-dental-professionals will ask you to place the whitening gel yourself, so if you get “burned” they will not get in trouble.

Dentist In-office Whitening Treatment

Dentist in-chair whitening treatment is the most effective whitening option that gives you a relatively immediate result (as little as one hour). Zoom teeth whitening is one of the most popular in the market. It can whiten your teeth by up to 8 shades in a single appointment. Dental professionals are trained to perform this procedure safe and effectively.

The procedure involves the dental professional conducting a checkup to ensure your teeth is suitable for whitening. Discuss your goals and expectations ahead of the treatment with your dentist, to ensure it meets your expectations once completed. The dental professional then apply a barrier to protect your lips and gums, before carefully applying the whitening liquid gel evenly over the teeth. A special light is then placed over your teeth that warms and activates the whitening gel to whiten your teeth efficiently.

When done properly and carefully, professional in-chair teeth whitening is the perfect solution for people who desire effective and immediate teeth whitening results.

Dentist Made Custom Whitening Tray and Gel Kit

Custom-made take home kits prescribed by dental professionals are a popular option when in-office whitening is not within your budget. Unlike over the counter, custom fitted trays made by a professional ensure that gels stay in place, and thus avoids the gel spreading over the gums, which can cause irritation. Plus, the whitening gel sits on your teeth evenly without causing potential patchiness on your teeth.

The procedure involves the dental professional making a fitted tray for you, and prescribing you with a peroxide-based whitening gel, which percentage of chemicals is tailored to the client’s needs. Some whitening gel even contain fluoride, which works in conjunction to strengthen your teeth while whitening. The main disadvantage of the take home whitening compared to in-office whitening (which only takes one hour) is that it may take from days to weeks, depending on your condition, to see a result.

Non-dentist prescribed whitening can be lower in cost, however, they may carry the following risk:

  • Whitening performed without a dental checkup can cause potential damage to teeth and gums — especially if there are undiagnosed condition
  • Some people have teeth conditions that may not be suitable for whitening. This may cause teeth to whiten unevenly, and sometimes result in white patches on the teeth.
  • Non-dentist prescribed whitening products can be harmful to the teeth and gums.

Dentist-prescribed whitening will ensure the greatest possible change in colour, as dental practitioners have access to whitening products of a much higher strength than those available over-the-counter. Safety is ensured when:

  • A proper consultation and examination to determine the cause of staining and discolouration will ensure you get the best possible result without damaging your teeth and gums
  • Under the supervision of a professional dentist, the whitening procedure can be tailored to suit your individual condition and goals. Options will be provided with professional opinion so you can get a realistic expectation of what can be achieved.

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