When it comes to teeth whitening treatments, there seems to be no end of choices. From supermarket brand whitening toothpastes,to chemist brand over-the-counter whitening kits, to professional whitening treatments from the dentist, it can be hard to know where to start.
With these kinds of cosmetic dentistry treatments being increasing pushed to young people, especially by online “celebrity” influencers, it’s important to understand what they are, the associated risks and whether they’re right for you.
It’s vital to remember that any whitening product is a chemical treatment and you should always be careful and fully informed before putting any chemicals into your body. You should always consult your dentist before attempting any kind of teeth whitening treatment.
With that in mind, we have a few questions you should ask before trying any teeth whitening treatment.
What’s causing the discolouration?
Before you dive into the world of teeth whitening, it’s important to know what’s causing the discolouration on your teeth. Persistent discolouration could be a sign of a more serious dental problem that requires more than a cosmetic fix. You may need a dentist to fix the underlying problems before any whitening process will have any chance of working.
If the staining is being caused by particular foods, drinks or tobacco, then you may need to avoid these if you want the whitening process to work.
What are the risks?
Most legitimate teeth whitening kits, whether over the counter or dentist supplied, carry minimal risks or side effects. That said, teeth whitening is still a chemical process and it’s important to be aware of the risks associated with any chemicals you’re putting into your body, especially for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide are the bleaching ingredients in most whitening products. In low concentrations, as you would get in over-the-counter formulations, these chemicals are safe. Even in low concentrations, however, some people may be more sensitive to these chemicals and may experience discomfort or increased tooth or gum sensitivity during and after the treatment.
In higher concentrations, there may be a risk of chemicals burns to your gums, lips and mouth.
It’s important to be aware that many international products available online, especially those pushed by social media influencers, may not meet Australian quality or safety standards.
Regardless of the treatment, it’s recommended that you consult a dentist before trying whitening kit.
Over-the-counter or professional dental treatments?
It’s also worth considering the type of teeth whitening treatment you want to invest in: Over-the-counter or a professional dentist treatment.
Over-the-counter kits will be cheaper and more convenient as you won’t need multiple trips to the dentist. Legitimate chemist brand kits can be safely and simply applied in the comfort of your own home.
These systems, however, tend to have lower concentrations of active chemicals. This means they will take longer to work and likely won’t deliver the kind of results that professional systems will.
With a professional dentist treatment, the process will be applied and monitored by your dentist. This means that not only can you expect better results, but there’s a professional on hand to monitor progress and ensure there are no side effects.
Dentist treatments will obviously be more expensive and time-consuming. However, they are safer and are also more likely to be more effective.
How long will it take to see results?
Well, that depends on what kind of staining you’re dealing with and what your expectations are in terms of results. The more heavily stained your teeth are, the longer it will take to achieve the level of whiteness you’re after. So, you should bear that in mind.
In general, home whitening kits may take up to two weeks to start showing noticeable results. A professional dentist treatment, on the other hand, can start showing results after just a single appointment.
Of course, for a clear indication of how long your whitening process may take, you should consult your dentist.
What kind of results can I expect?
Before investing in teeth whitening, it’s important to be realistic about the results. The extent to which the process works depends on your level of staining, your general dental heath and the quality of the whitening kit.
Your dentist will be able to provide a good indication of the results you can expect.
It’s important to note that the process doesn’t always work evenly across all teeth. Teeth with less staining often tend to respond better to the treatment, while those with heavy staining can be slower to respond. In the short term, this could act to heighten the colour differences in these teeth.
Does it work with other dental treatments?
Whitening may not work if you have other dental work like crowns, veneers, braces, bridges, or fillings. Since whitening treatments are designed to work on the natural tooth enamel, artificial surfaces like crowns and veneers will not be affected by the bleaching process. That means that you could end up with noticeable colour differences between your natural and artificial teeth.
To overcome this, your dentist may need to replace any crowns or veneers to match your whitened teeth.
The whitening process can still work with braces, but it’s generally recommended to wait until your braces are off before commencing any cosmetic dentistry.
Is it worth it?
Once you have a good idea of the risks, side effects and expected results, you can decide whether or not the process is for you. You should always consult your dentist before starting any cosmetic dentistry process, especially an over-the-counter product.
Teeth whitening is a purely cosmetic process and will not improve your dental health in any way. But it will help to bring the best out of your smile.