Comment / Dr Ros Davis
Many people tell me they’ve stopped smiling in photos because they are embarrassed that their teeth look yellow. They’ve tried the whitening toothpaste and the red lipstick to try and brighten them up, but they just don’t look as white as they used to! Luckily, dentists have developed a method of teeth whitening which is very effective and has been used for years with great results
So, how does whitening your teeth work?
The whitening agents used by dentists contain hydrogen peroxide. This peroxide infiltrates teeth and releases free radicals which oxidise the chromogens (or pigments) in teeth into smaller chromogens which are colourless.
There are two ways the whitening process is carried out. Some dentists use a system where the whitening component is applied in the dental chair over a duration of approximately an hour – this is referred to as “in-chair whitening”. Others make custom-made trays which their patients use at home with special peroxide gel over a period of weeks – this is referred to as “take-home whitening”. Both systems are very successful, however, people tend to find take-home whitening a more comfortable and controllable way to achieve the results that they want. Whitening does cause teeth to become sensitive, and this is more intense with in-chair whitening because the peroxide concentration of the gel used is higher, and a very hot light is applied to the teeth which supposedly increases the whitening effectiveness (this is a highly contested topic).
How long does it last?
That all depends on how many staining foods and drinks you consume! Things like red wine, coffee, tea, soy sauce and of course smoking will cause the colour to relapse faster. The teeth will naturally stain again over time, however, the majority of people don’t notice this subtle relapse and don’t feel the need to bleach their teeth again for years after their initial treatment.
Does it always work?
Very few people don’t experience a lightening of the teeth, and in general, this tends to be people with greyer tones in their teeth. Most people in the community have yellowish tones in their teeth and these stains are broken down very efficiently by peroxide.
Things to be aware of:
Most people experience tooth sensitivity when they whiten their teeth, however, this only lasts during the treatment period or for a short time afterwards. The sensitivity can be quite intense with in-chair whitening, so if you already have sensitive teeth this would probably not be the treatment of choice for you. If there are any cavities in the mouth this can cause more extreme sensitivity, which is why it is absolutely essential that everyone has a check-up prior to tooth whitening. People must also be aware that any restorative work such as crowns, fillings and veneers will not whiten. Discuss this with your dentist before commencing whitening treatment.
Is it safe for everyone?
Like many elective procedures, there have not been any studies with conclusive results carried out on pregnant women receiving teeth whitening treatment. For this reason, it is not recommended for pregnant women.
To book an appointment at Sailors Bay Dentistry please call (02) 9958 0400 or visit our teeth whitening page.