Professional teeth whitening – white teeth or white lies?

Professional teeth whitening has been around for decades, coming in all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of fancy tech to go alongside it, each format claiming to be better than the rest. There have also been some significant changes in the Professional Teeth whitening industry in the past five years, and I’m here to go through the good, the bad and the ugly.

Firstly let’s discuss the different methods of whitening out there…

1. Home-whitening kit

This usually consists of two visits to the dentist, where an upper and lower mould is taken, and two thin mouth-guard looking trays are made. The second visit is to check the fit of the trays and to show you how the bleach should be placed. The bleaching trays in this Professional Teeth whitening treatment are typically worn at night and results can be expected after a couple of weeks depending on the consistency of use. Home bleaching kits come in two strengths – 10% (hydrogen peroxide) and 16% (carbamide peroxide which is roughly 4% hydrogen peroxide). The 16% is usually for nightwear or patients with sensitive teeth; results will take a little longer than the higher strength. The 10% is used for 1-2 hours during the day (it is essential that you do not eat or drink with the bleaching trays in the mouth). Best results are usually achieved after two weeks of consistent wear, but can heavily depend on the patient’s dietary habits, start colour and desired colour. Relatively risk-free, it can sometimes lead to sensitivity if overused. However, the sensitivity is usually transient and will resolve just by having a break day of no bleaching. Sensitive toothpaste such as Sensodyne has also proven useful in tackling sensitivity in conjunction with painkillers if necessary. This method is excellent for maintaining a consistently white smile in a reasonably low effort manner at your leisure and works well in conjunction with chair-side whitening (which can act as a booster for the home kit).
Professional Teeth whitening

2. Chair-side/laser whitening

This is a great way to boost the brightness of your teeth in just 1 hour! This Professional Teeth whitening procedure is usually about 1 hour long from start to finish and will include the dentist having a quick look to ensure that you are dentally sound for the process, followed by drying and isolating the teeth and then brushing the bleach onto the teeth. The bleach is then activated by a unique light (not an actual laser, contrary to popular belief), which sets it all into motion. The product is renewed every 15-20 mins either two or three time to ensure maximum results. Following some issues with overly sensitised teeth and gum damage following chair-side whitening, in 2012 the laws changed to prevent such damage from occurring so haphazardly. The percentage of hydrogen peroxide (the active ingredient that causes the tooth to whiten) has been decreased to 6%. This procedure can only be carried out by a dentist or under the direct supervision of a dentist and is only available for.

Now time for the mythbusters

Will your teeth get sensitivity?

Possibly, but unlikely. Due to the decrease in the strength of the bleach for the chair-side whitening, sensitivity is very unlikely. You may have a little bit of tenderness straight after the procedure purely due to the teeth being so dry. But it is usually a very temporary and short-lived side-effect. You may notice that you might get sensitivity when using the home kit – if that’s the case just reduce the length of time wearing the bleaching tray or give yourself a day or two breaks, as mentioned previously.
Professional Teeth whitening diagram

Will it damage your gums?

Extremely unlikely unless the bleach has been rubbed into the gums, which shouldn’t be happening. If you have opted for the chairside whitening, then the dentist will ensure your gums are clear. If you are using the home kit, the dentist will show you how to place the bleach to prevent any overspill into the gums. It’s essential that when you put your bleaching guards, that you run your finger or cloth around the edge of the bleaching guard to ensure that any excess is wiped away. It is challenging to cause any damage following any whitening provided you follow the instructions carefully and use FDA approved bleach given by the dentist. Most patients suffer from issues after whitening by using black market products or not employing the product correctly.

Will I look like Simon Cowell?

This is a common worry; it is quite hard to achieve that level of white in one sitting. Bleaching teeth both chair-side and at home are following treatments. It is difficult to guarantee what shade you will have by the end of the procedure. On average, you can go up two shades using chairside whitening. With the home kit, it varies greatly depending on how often and for how long the bleaching guards are worn. As it is an extremely progressive option, you can keep going until you achieve the shade you want and then stop. You are in control! If you want just a little bit of brightness, or if you wish to individual spotlights on your teeth, you get to choose!

Will it be white forever?

Unfortunately no. Professional Teeth whitening effects can last anywhere from 3 months to 3 years. It’s tough to say, as it is slowly dependant on your eating habits and your desired shade. Avoiding foods like red wine, coffee, black tea, curries and other coloured foods will increase the longevity of your whitening treatment, but the teeth will naturally dim down with time, as with anything that is shiny! But fear not, not all is lost, you can either come in again for a top-up of your chair-side whitening or just continue with your home kit until you go back to the shade that you wanted. On average, patients come every six months or so for chair-side whitening to maintain their brighter tone. The home kit should be reused in a similar time frame.

Can I pick what shade I want to achieve?

It is hard to predict how well chair-side whitening will work and what shade will be achieved per visit, as every patient is different. On average, most patients can achieve up to 2 shades lighter in one visit and can either return for a top-up visit a couple of weeks later or to continue with the home whitening kit until they achieve the desired shade. Home kits are considered to be more consistent and predictable with their results. However, the time is taken to make the desired shade can vary considerably patient to patient.

Can I get sick if I swallow the bleach?

You’d have to swallow the whole syringe pretty much! There may be some small amounts of excess bleach that will get lost in the saliva, but as long as you follow instructions, there shouldn’t ever be a sufficient amount of product free floating around to cause any sickness. Some patients may be allergic to bleach, in which case they should be avoiding this Professional Teeth whitening treatment all together!

Do I have to avoid all dark foods and drinks?

Generally, the longer you avoid such foods or at least cut them down in your diet, the longer lasting the results will be. Food colourants are the primary cause of dark teeth and build up with time. Avoiding or limiting such foods and also seeing your hygienist regularly, will allow for longer lasting optimum results. We understand that not everyone can live without coffee, so even by rinsing your mouth with some water after having any staining food or drink will also help.

Do oil pulling and other over the counter whitening products work?

Tricky to answer accurately, but overall the whitening effects are very minor and very short lived. Stores are not legally allowed to sell the strong stuff. Therefore anything that you can buy from a pharmacy or supermarket is going to be significantly weaker than what the dentist can provide you with.

So there you have it, tooth whitening, stripped bare! The new no-frills whitening has proven itself a great success amongst regular clients who are extremely happy with their pain-free long-lasting results. Feel free to pop in or give us a call if you want any further information. We look forward to providing you those pearly whites you deserve!

Also have a look at the risks of unsafe teeth whitening.

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