An image of a white smile always produces a better impression than one that does not. That’s why in the past years, the number of patients asking for a teeth whitening service whitening has boomed.
But do you know how it is done? What dangers must be taken care of?
Dr.Tasleem Ahmed, Fellow of The Royal College, Faculty of Dental Surgeons, Member of The British Academy of Cosmetic Dentists, and an experienced clinician in Dental Teeth whitening, offers us eight tips before, during, and after whitening.
1. How Tooth Whitening Works
The purpose of tooth whitening is to eliminate external stains from teeth caused by the action of tobacco and the pigments contained in food and beverages, especially if proper dental hygiene is not maintained.
In the tooth enamel (which is the outer surface of your tooth), there are millions of microscopic pores that allow the passage of organic compounds such as tobacco and the pigments contained in food and beverages. So, over time they penetrate the tooth and cause the process of discoloration.
Tooth whitening treatments eliminate these external stains from the teeth’ enamel. Usually, a mixed technique is used where the treatment is started at the clinic and is followed up by a “home treatment” under the supervision of the dentist.
The treatment can be done at the clinic or at home. The treatment is based on the use of bleaching agents, generally a gel of carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide at different concentrations. If the teeth are particularly dark then the dentist may suggest you combine the treatments, starting with the In surgery one hour and then complete with the At-Home Treatment.
These gels act by allowing the oxygen to penetrate through the pores of the enamel and when they reach the dentin, they decompose the organic compounds trapped in it. As a result, the enamel gets whitened, brightening the colour of the teeth.
The At Home treatment is done by placing the whitening gel into custom-made trays made by your dentist, which is then inserted into the dental arch, where it is worn for between 2 hours to overnight depending on the product. This whitening treatment can take between 3 days to 2 weeks to reach a lighter, whiter smile
The In Surgery Procedure is a much faster process. The gels of a higher concentration are applied to your teeth several times in one hour and the lightning process is speeded up by exposure to intense light (LED, plasma arc, or halogen). This is called tooth whitening by photo-activation and greatly reduces the time the teeth should be exposed to the whitening gel.
New in dentistry is now the use of Laser- EpicX Diode Laser to activate the whitening gel- to give a faster and lighter result.
For all applications, it is essential to pre-protect the mucous membranes of the mouth from contact with hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. In addition to the In Surgery treatments with/without Laser, both the dentist and the patient should protect their eyes with spectacles while the treatment lasts.
2. The treatment does not damage the enamel
The teeth whitening technique has been shown by independent clinical studies not to cause damage or structural changes to the teeth enamel.
But the fact that these bleaching agents penetrate the enamel and become close to the dentine can cause an increase in the sensitivity to the cold of the teeth as long as the treatment lasts. This may be experienced in 2% of cases but can be easily dealt with by using a desensitising toothpaste. Your dentist can suggest some good desensitising techniques and products so that you can continue to whiten your teeth to get the result you wish to achieve.
3. Is teeth whitening effective in all types of blemishes that can occur on teeth?
The best results are obtained on the teeth that, over the years have yellowed via dietary causes or have that natural yellow tone. In more intense stains (orange or gray tones), it is possible to get the tooth clarified, although it depends on the tonality and must be evaluated by the specialist because, in the most severe and darker teeth cases, it is not always possible to achieve satisfactory results.
Your dentist should be able to advise you as to your likelihood of reaching a good result.
If the stains in your teeth are caused by the tetracycline, which is an antibiotic taken in childhood for a severe illness then the teeth will have a greyish tone to the tooth, the treatment is not always effective and your dentist will suggest prolonged use of the whitening agents. In most cases, you would have to resort to other options, such as porcelain veneers or crowns.
This is why is very important to have your treatment done by a professional dentist that will have as a priority is your oral health and will advise you on the best solution for your problem.
4. After Treatment care
The three days after the treatment are very important to achieve a better result, and that is why in those 72 hours you have to take special care with hygiene.
Teeth that have been recently whitened will pick up dietary stains very quickly within the next three days.
We recommend following a ‘white’ diet that does not include foods that cause staining (red wine, tea, coffee, tomato, carbonated drinks, curry, strawberry, raspberry…). Also, smoking should be avoided, since the nicotine leaves a series of deposits on the teeth, making the teeth dark again.
5. How Long Does a Teeth Whitening Effect Last
The duration depends on the habits of each person, but with correct hygiene, the whitening treatment result can last up to 2 years. Obviously, the effect will last longer if you avoid foods and drinks that can dye your teeth, as well as tobacco.
Visiting a hygienist every 4 to 6 months is recommended. The hygienist can also apply a whitening strip which is impregnated with the whitening peroxide to your teeth for 1 hour to aid in refreshing the whitened teeth.
After having tea/ coffee/ red wine rinsing your mouth soon after with water will delay the darkening process.
Asking your dentist to take a shade check at 6-month dental checkups and seeking their advice on further top-up treatments is advisable as this can work out much cheaper than having the teeth whitening treatment repeated.
6. Dental whitening does not replace oral cleansing
One of the myths surrounding tooth whitening is that it can replace oral cleaning. This is a lie. Bleaching is an aesthetic technique and in no case replaces a cleaning at home or with a hygienist. Cleansing removes bacteria, strengthens the gums, and reduces the risk of dental gum disease, and removal of the plaque strengthens the enamel and protects teeth.
It is always advisable to have your teeth professionally cleaned a the dental practice every 4 to 6 months to maintain a healthy mouth.
7. Whitening pastes and over-the-counter treatments are not effective.
There is no whitening toothpaste that returns the tooth to its original colour or bleaches the teeth.
They can be useful in maintaining the teeth after having them professionally whitened. They work by helping to remove surface stains.
Professional Whitening pastes and gels should not be bought in pharmacies, in supermarkets, or on the Internet, due to the risks that could lead to “self-treatment” without proper professional supervision. Caution should be exercised with pastes, which are very abrasive because they can cause certain wear of the enamel if they are overused.
Youtube videos showing the use of bicarbonate and lemon to whiten teeth, are not advisable to follow and always seek the advice of your dentist if you are concerned about your teeth – as both lemon juice and sodium bicarbonate can damage the enamel of the tooth.
8. Excessive obsession with tooth whitening leads to addiction
Having whiter teeth can lead to an improvement in the patient’s self-esteem. However, when that “white” tooth becomes an obsession, is when the problem comes. It is called ‘blancorexia’, the obsession to achieve a very white tooth tone.
Not all teeth colours are the same and it all depends on the enamel of each person as well as the natural colour of the dentine below. That’s why At Longwood House we bleach only to a natural white and always advise our patients on the best treatment they need.
We always follow up your whitening treatment with clinical reviews at the next check-up, to control everything is correct and your smile is white and healthy.