And remove stains like coffee and red wine
As much as we love tasty treats such as coffee, red wine and curry, these types of food and drink do a good job of staining and discolouring teeth. When the staining gets too much, you might choose to visit your dentist to get these stains removed.
Your dentist can whiten your teeth using specialist products, dental technology and a bit of time. Carried out correctly your tooth whitening treatment gives you the fresh, bright smile you want.
In this article, we’ll explain why professional tooth whitening guided by a dentist is safer than DIY methods. We’ll also explain the two different ways a dentist can whiten teeth and offer up some post-treatment tips that can help make the results last longer.
How dentists whiten your teeth
The effectiveness of tooth whitening depends on the strength of the bleaching agent in the product. The stronger the bleach, the more apparent the results. In Australia, an at-home tooth whitening product can only contain up to 6% hydrogen peroxide or 18% carbamide peroxide. Dentists can whiten teeth using stronger bleaching agents, but their use is limited to within a dental practice.
Before starting tooth whitening treatment your dentist should see you for a check-up. If you’ve got any existing oral health problems these need correcting before the tooth whitening treatment starts. Not only is this for your safety, but it gives the dentist a clean slate so tooth whitening is more likely to work.
There’s one of two methods dentists use to whiten teeth. We’ll talk through each so you have all the information, but here at Keppel Dental we only use one of these techniques.
Method 1: In-chair whitening treatments
In-chair tooth whitening uses Zoom technology. It must take place in a dental practice, usually takes around 90 minutes total and involves putting hydrogen peroxide (the bleaching agent) into trays and fitting these to the top and bottom of your mouth. A UV light is then positioned in front of your teeth. During this time the bleaching gel penetrates your teeth and removes stains. After around 15 minutes of light exposure the trays are removed, fresh gel is applied and the process begins again.
As this treatment involves you being in the practice for the entire time, the dentist can use a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide.
Method 2: Monitored at-home treatments
As the name suggests, ‘monitored at-home’ tooth whitening means completing the treatment in the comfort of your own home but having a professional dentist oversee and monitor results. At your consultation, the dentist discusses the likely outcomes. Next, moulds of your upper and lower teeth are taken so trays that fit the shape of your mouth can be made. These trays hold the bleaching gel against your teeth while minimising contact with gums. Exposing gums to hydrogen peroxide can cause sensitivity.
While the trays are being created, the dentist may start your treatment by applying a bleaching agent that’s stronger than the one you’ll be using at home. This kick starts the process. Once the trays are finished, you’re shown how to apply the gel and fit the trays so you can carry out the treatment at home. You’ll see your dentist every one-two weeks so they can monitor your treatment and adjust as needed.
Is one method better than the other?
Both in-chair and at-home whitening treatments are effective. So, it’s not really about one technique being better than the other, they’re just different. In either case, their effectiveness relies on how long the bleach is in contact with the tooth and how well you maintain treatment when away from your dentist.
Zoom technology (used for in-chair whitening) speeds up the chemical reaction between the hydrogen peroxide and your tooth. You’re likely to leave your appointment with white teeth, but this is only maintained if you follow it up with at-home whitening.
At Keppel Dental we choose to only offer the monitored at-home option because it’s more affordable, safer for your teeth and gums, and cuts down the amount of time you need to spend in the chair. We’re betting your home sofa is much more comfortable! Results are usually visible in as little as seven days. Some people prefer faster results or might not be good candidates for at-home whitening, which is why they may prefer in-chair.
Side effects of professional tooth whitening
Cosmetic tooth whitening treatments are pretty low risk. There shouldn’t be any serious side effects. That said, hydrogen peroxide is a chemical.
Cast your mind back to mid-2019 and you may remember hearing in the media about an increasing number of young consumers visiting dentists for chemical burn treatment after using DIY tooth whitening kits.
Burns generally occur when the bleaching agent is left on for too long, the product is applied too frequently, or the trays holding the bleach don’t fit the mouth properly because they’re designed as a ‘one size fits all’ product. As a result, the gel escapes from the trays and comes into contact with the gums, causing burns. The same happens if too much bleaching gel is put into the trays.
Always follow the instructions that come with these products. Or better still, speak to a dental professional before using tooth whitening kits.
Whether you choose professional whitening by seeing your dentist or get an over the counter product, there shouldn’t be any serious side effects if done correctly. Some people experience extra sensitivity around the teeth and gums, but this does pass. Additional products such as tooth mousse and a sensitive toothpaste can help reduce feelings of sensitivity.
Keeping your teeth white after treatment
Once treatment has finished you can help maintain the effects for longer by doing the following things.
- Brush twice a day
- Floss once a day
- Cut down on cigarettes if you smoke
- Brush after drinking tea, coffee, red wine, and dark coloured fruit and vegetables.
Thinking of having your teeth whitened?
We’ve covered a lot in this article, including the difference between professional whitening and over the counter kits, the two tooth whitening methods, and how to extend the effects of the treatment.
There’s more information on our Professional Tooth Whitening service page, so you can see how we do it at Keppel Dental. Or if you’ve got more questions, contact us directly. We’re happy to help.