Teeth Whitening 101

It’s never been easier to brighten your smile!

Do you find yourself wondering about teeth whitening and feeling unsure of the procedures that are out there? 

Fret not! We’ve got you covered! Read on to stay informed on the types of teeth whitening procedures available, the differences between dental whitening treatments and at-home teeth whitening kits and more! We hope you get your fill for a brighter smile!

What is teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening is a process of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of their surfaces. It won’t completely change the colour, but it will lighten the existing tone from stains or discolouration. There are two types of stains that affect the teeth. They’re known as extrinsic and intrinsic staining. Extrinsic staining happens to the outside of your tooth and the primary cause of staining is due to environmental factors such as smoking, consumption of certain types of food and beverages, antibiotics and exposure to metals such as copper or iron.

Whereas, intrinsic staining takes place inside of your tooth. Some factors that contribute to intrinsic staining are genetics, tooth development disorders, antibiotics and age related erosion pertaining to the enamel found on the teeth. It’s important to realise that teeth whitening isn’t for everyone. If you would like to know whether teeth whitening is right for you, please consult your dentist.

Categories of teeth whitening procedures

Whitening procedures can be classified into three categories:

  • Obtainable over the counter or produced at home without the supervision of your dentist.
  • Supplied by your dentist for usage at home.
  • A procedure conducted or administered by the dentist.

Factors that may influence your decision to choose a certain teeth whitening procedure:

  • The cost of the procedure or treatment.
  • The range of discolouration on your teeth.
  • Type of treatment or procedure.
  • Age (Treatments may vary according to age).
  • Dental history including previous fillings and crowns.

Before you attempt any whitening treatment, you’re advised to consult your dentist about it. Your dentist can suggest a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs. The dentist might even suggest a few other different ways to whiten your teeth based on the type of discolouration that you have.

Chemicals used in teeth whitening products

Chemicals found in the teeth whitening products used by the dentists and at-home kits both use peroxide-based bleaching agents. The differing factor is the level of chemicals in each of these products.

Since the whitening procedures done by the dentists are much faster in getting your teeth brighter, the bleaching solution used is much stronger when compared to at-home kits. The solution used by dentists is found to contain between 15 percent to 43 percent of peroxide.

Dentists also use heat, light, or a combination of both to speed up the whitening process. As for the at-home kits, they are found to contain anywhere from 3 percent to 20 percent peroxide (carbamide or hydrogen peroxides).

Types of teeth whitening products that are available in the market

Whitening strips

Over-the-counter whitening strips are available for purchase in many drug stores and pharmacies. These whitening strips contain a significantly smaller amount of hydrogen peroxide when compared to professional products that are used in dental clinics. There are a myriad of whitening strip products that are sold and what makes them different is the concentration of bleaching agents and their cost.

Activated charcoal and other at-home methods

Activated charcoals are some of the heavily advertised key ingredients when it comes to at home teeth whitening products. Consumers should consider consulting a dentist prior to trying these methods. This is because while activated charcoal does have some proven benefits, there is not enough scientific evidence to include teeth whitening as one of them. It’s best to get an expert’s opinion to ensure that we don’t cause irreversible damage to our teeth by unknowingly using potentially harmful substances.

Before you attempt any whitening treatment, you’re advised to consult your dentist about it.

Whitening toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste usually does not use carbamide peroxide. Carbamide peroxide is also known as urea-hydrogen. The key difference between hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide is the presence of other chemical properties. Carbamide peroxide contains hydrogen peroxide in it. However, hydrogen peroxide remains in its authentic form without any mixture and is known as an effective whitening agent by itself.

Whitening toothpaste zones in on the surface of your teeth with substances such as abrasives, the chemical blue covarine and more. Blue covarine is a blue-coloured agent and its whitening effect can be seen when there’s a deposit of a thin blue film on the enamel’s surface. This modifies how the teeth will look when it’s exposed to light. Upon interaction with lights, the teeth will appear lighter and brighter.

Do teeth whitening products really work?

It’s a general consensus that most at home teeth whitening kits struggle to give you dentist-level results. However, that doesn’t mean the money you spent on these products will go to waste. The at-home kits are good when it comes to removing surface level stains. They’re effective in removing tannin stains that are caused by coffee, tea and even wine.

Experts also advise consumers to tamper our expectations when it comes to teeth whitening products. Whilst the before and after photos may seem really impressive, always remember to double check the claims and their validity. Furthermore, consumers are also advised to verify the authenticity of the whitening products before purchasing them. This ensures that the product complies with safety regulations and standards.

The good and the bad of teeth whitening

Teeth whitening in general is a confidence booster because it empowers you to smile. In fact, teeth whitening is a popular go-to routine for a bright smile. It’s also an effective way of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of the tooth surfaces. Teeth whitening procedures that are done by dentists have a higher likelihood of yielding better results when compared to at home kits. It may be a little costly but it’s a worthwhile investment.

Whilst teeth whitening is generally considered to be safe, there are still chances for one to experience some side effects from treatments. These side effects include teeth sensitivity and irritated gums. Teeth sensitivity is not a long term effect and it may dissipate with time. It’s usually experienced on the first or second treatment. Whereas, gums can get irritated when it comes in contact with the whitening product. This irritation should also diminish after treatments.

Teeth are not meant to be whitened on a permanent basis and most of the time these whitening products are meant for natural teeth. If you have implants, crowns, bridges or dentures, you will need to seek further clarification and advice from your dentist.

Foods to stay away from after teeth whitening

Some good ways to preserve the longevity of your teeth whitening procedures are to brush, floss and rinse daily. On top of that, food consumption also greatly affects the colour of your teeth. Here are some of food and beverages you might want to consider avoiding or consuming minimally:

  • Sports drinks.
  • Black teas and coffee.
  • Red and white wine.
  • Sauces ( Soy sauces or dark coloured sauces).
  • Carbonated beverages (Primarily coloured sodas).
  • Berries and other strong coloured foods.

Source: Healthline, WebMD