Teeth whitening has become a popular cosmetic treatment to cover up stained or discoloured teeth, but it's not suitable for everyone. While some people expect a gleaming white smile, most bleaching treatments only lighten teeth by several shades.
Before you begin any whitening treatment, it's important to have a consultation with your dentist. They can help you to get a realistic idea of what to expect, so you can decide if whitening is right for you.
Most teeth whitening treatments use either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.
When applied to the teeth, these chemicals pass through the hard outer layer (the enamel) to react with pigments in the softer lower layer (the dentine). This becomes lighter, which makes your teeth appear whiter. Some treatments also make teeth shinier, which reflects more light and helps them to look even brighter.
This effect will wear off over time, and your teeth may return to their original shade without top-up treatments.
Teeth whitening done by a dentist uses much stronger concentrations of bleaching agents than home whitening products. While these won't necessarily brighten your smile more than a home treatment, you'll see the results much faster – often after a single appointment. Your dentist can also make sure your teeth are whitened more evenly.
Dentists can also provide take-home whitening kits with customised trays designed to fit exactly over your teeth. These will give better results than a generic kit bought over the counter. Home teeth whitening usually takes around 1–2 weeks, depending on how much whitening you want.
Putting more bleach in the tray than recommended will not whiten your teeth more, but it will increase the risks to your health and safety.
It's important to know the possible side-effects and complications of teeth whitening before you decide to have a treatment. These will be minimised if your treatment is performed by a dentist or if you follow their instructions.
Your teeth might feel more sensitive to hot and cold food and drink for a day or two following your treatment, especially if it was done by a dentist using stronger bleaching agents. You might sometimes feel a sensation like a small electric shock on your teeth, or your gums may feel slightly irritated.
If your treatment is not supervised by a qualified dentist, or you don't follow their instructions properly when using a take-home kit, you could risk permanently damaging your teeth or gums.
Teeth bleaching treatments can't remove all types of discolouration from teeth.
If your teeth are dark grey, brown or black – such as teeth affected by trauma or medication side-effects – whitening won't normally be effective. If you want to whiten these teeth, you can discuss more invasive options with your dentist, such as covering the teeth with crowns or veneers.
If your teeth only have light stains or discolouration, these could be removed through professional teeth cleaning at the dental clinic. Regular dental visits can also help your teeth to stay whiter, along with twice-daily brushing, daily flossing and avoiding staining food and drink such as coffee, tea and red wine.
Teeth bleaching doesn't work on restorations such as fillings or crowns. If you want these to be whitened along with your teeth, they'll need to be replaced by your dentist with lighter options.
If you're interested in teeth whitening or another cosmetic treatment, get in touch with our team at Face Value Dental. We'll give you all the information you need about our treatments so you can decide what's right for you.
Call us on (07) 3221 0677 or make an appointment online.
Healthdirect. Teeth whitening [Online] 2018 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/teeth-whitening
Australian Dental Association. Teeth Whitening: Getting the best result for your smile [Online] 2016 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/getattachment/Your-Dental-Health/Resources-for-Professionals/Resources-for-Teens-12-17/Teeth-whitening-the-best-result-for-your-smile/Teeth-whitening,-getting-the-best-result-for-your-smile.pdf.aspx