Tooth whitening is a procedure used to lighten teeth and remove discolouration and stains.
There are many reasons why teeth get stained or discoloured
- Drinking stain-causing beverages – cola, tea, red wine, coffee
- Eating dark coloured berries
- Excessive use of fluoride
- Certain medications
- Trauma to the teeth
Who are the best candidates for tooth whitening?
Tooth whitening is perfect for those who have healthy teeth and gums, no fillings and who just want a brighter smile. Those who have yellow tones/colouring to their teeth respond best to tooth whitening.
Who are NOT good candidates for tooth whitening?
Reasons why whitening is NOT recommended – or will be less successful include –
- Gum disease, cavities, worn enamel and exposed roots – if you have gum disease or worn tooth enamel it’s not recommended that you undergo a tooth whitening procedure. Cavities will need to be treated BEFORE undergoing any whitening treatment. This is because the whitening solution will penetrate any existing decay and the inner areas of the tooth that can lead to sensitivity. Also whitening does not work on exposed tooth roots as they do not have an enamel layer.
- Age and pregnancy – for children under the age of 16 whitening is not recommended, this is because the pulp chamber, or nerve of the tooth, at this age, is enlarged. Tooth whitening under this condition can irritate the pulp and cause it to become sensitive. Pregnant and lactating women are also advised not to have the procedure done.
- Sensitive teeth and allergies to products – if you have sensitive teeth or gums or you have defective restorations speak to your dentist before undergoing a tooth whitening procedure. Anyone allergic to Peroxide should not use a bleaching product.
- Filling, crowns or other restorations – tooth coloured fillings and resin composite materials used in dental restorations (crowns, bridges, veneers) do not whiten, so if you undergo a tooth whitening treatment on teeth that do and don’t contain restorations, the results will be uneven – the teeth without restorations will be lighter than the teeth with restorations. Any whitening procedures should be done BEFORE any composite fillings, veneers, crowns, dentures or porcelain restorations to match the degree of tooth whitening to your new tooth colour. You should wait a minimum of two weeks after a whitening procedure before bonding’s, crowns, dentures, veneers or restorations are completed. This is to allow enough time for the tooth to remineralise and optimise the bonding strength. Tooth coloured fillings will need to be replaced after the bleaching process is completed. If you have a few restorations it could result in uneven whitening, you may be better off considering veneers, bonding or crowns, rather than tooth whitening – speak to your dentist to find the solution that’s best for you.
Try not to have any unrealistic expectations, those who expect their teeth to be *bright white* may be disappointed in the results. Smokers need to be aware that if they want their teeth to stay white, they will need to give up smoking. A good guide as to the degree of whitening that can be achieved – so you have a more natural white tooth colour – it’s a colour that is just slightly whiter than the whites of your eyes.
There are three main types of tooth whitening available:
- In office whitening, performed at your dental clinic.
- Professionally dispensed take-home whitening kits.
- Over the counter whitening kits – generally the cheapest and available to buy from chemists and supermarkets.
There are some side effects to teeth whitening such as –
- Sensitivity – bleaching can cause a temporary increase in sensitivity – to touch, pressure and temperature. This is more likely to occur at the dental clinic where a higher concentration bleach is used. Those at greater risk of sensitivity are those with gum recession.
- Gum irritation – over half who use peroxide whiteners experienced some degree of gum irritation from the bleach concentration or contact with the whitening trays. This irritation can last for several days.
You can extend the longevity of your newly whitened teeth by –
- Avoiding dark coloured food and drink for a week after treatment.
- Practice regular good dental hygiene – brushing and flossing after meals and at bedtime.