Having nice, clean white teeth is something that most people strive for. Being able to flash a smile or just open your mouth without having to be self-conscious about the state of your teeth isn’t anyone’s idea of fun. Luckily there are a number of avenues through which you can whiten your teeth, from things you can do at home to professional procedures.
Even though methods for whitening your teeth at home are safe, as some contain bleaching agents, it’s best to seek the advice of a dentist before you start any course of at home whitening.
One of the best ways to whiten your teeth is to ensure that they don’t become stained in the first place, or failing that, you keep the staining to a minimum by taking good care of your teeth by regularly brushing and flossing. Brushing after meals removes particles of food stuck to or between teeth that can promote the growth of plaque, a yellow, sticky layer of bacteria. This bacteria secretes acid that can damage teeth and cause decay.
Plaque can also harden into yellowish tartar, further staining the teeth. The bacteria responsible for both plaque and tartar can also cause gun diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis. These gum diseases can cause serious damage both to the gums and teeth.
Whitening toothpastes can help remove light surface staining from teeth thanks to a combination of abrasives, detergents, enzymes and antibacterial agents. Although whitening toothpastes contain abrasive elements like silica or alumina, the level of abrasiveness is typically low so there is no threat of abrasive damage to the teeth. Basic whitening toothpastes typically contain abrasives and detergents, but some contain enzymes and antibacterial agents that can both slow the buildup of pellicle on teeth (a layer of proteins from saliva), and slow the spread of bacteria. Bacteria grow on the pellicle layer, so slowing both the development and the spread of bacteria can help prevent new stains while the toothpaste removes older ones.
Originally developed by Australian researchers at the University of Melbourne, tooth mousse contains ingredients that can remineralise the enamel layer of teeth, helping to reverse or prevent damage. While the mousse itself has no real whitening benefits, it can be used in conjunction with other whitening treatments to reduce sensitivity that can occur.
Home Whitening Kits
Home whitening kits are readily available online and usually contain the core components of a mouldable “boil and bite” style tray and a peroxide based bleaching agent. Once you mould the tray to your teeth, the tray is filled with the bleaching solution. Peroxide bleaches both surface stains and the surface of the tooth itself.
While generally effective, bleaching your teeth at home should always be approached with care as there are a number of potential pitfalls, including:
- Peroxide levels - The Australian Dental Association recommends that any bleaching kit with a concentration of more than 6% hydrogen peroxide or 18% carbamide peroxide only be used by a trained professional. Depending on the manufacturer and source, the peroxide levels of home kits can far exceed recommended levels. Strong bleaching can lead to tooth sensitivity, whitening to a colour lighter than natural, and damage if the bleach comes in prolonged contact with gums.
- Excess bleaching - Excessive attempts to bleach teeth can lead to enamel damage and pitting. This can actually discolour teeth giving them a bluish tinge.
- Burning gums - Without custom fitted, professionally made application trays, you may find that a lot of the bleaching agent ends up on your gums. This may damage the soft tissue that supports your teeth.
When home bleaching, there are also a few things you should keep in mind to get the best effects and minimise the risk.
- Buy from a respected Australian vendor - Buying from an Australian vendor helps ensure that the bleaching kit will abide with Australian Dental Association guidelines.
- Concentrate on one set of teeth at a time - Concentrating on either your top or bottom teeth for a course of bleaching allows you to judge the effectiveness of the treatment by comparison, and also means that you’re less likely to make a mistake due to doing too much at once.
- Stick to recommended times - Avoid over-bleaching your teeth by sticking to the recommended bleaching times. Leaving your teeth in bleach for too long can cause sensitivity or damage. Longer bleaching times or more frequent bleaching don’t improve the performance of the treatment.
If you want a bright shiny smile, or just want to rid yourself of some coffee stains, the fastest and easiest way to find a dentist and book an appointment online is with MyHealth1st .
There are a number of different ways in which professional tooth whitening can be delivered, and not all professionals delivering tooth whitening services are equal.
Cosmetic Whitening Providers
Shopping centre kiosks and salons often offer tooth whitening services for a fee, and while the prices may seem reasonable, a lack of training and regulation means that you should be wry of what you pay for. For the most part, salon and kiosk style tooth whitening services may use whitening processes similar to dental practices, but the industry itself has no governing body ensuring standards, infection control and safety. In addition, staff administering whitening treatments may not have much in the way of training, potentially leading to tooth sensitivity and gum pain, due to over-bleaching or poorly fitted trays.
There are a number of advantages to having tooth whitening performed by a dentist, not the least of them being that dentists can assess the state of your teeth and recommend the appropriate whitening treatment, whether it’s bleaching or treating the underlying problem that is causing the discolouration of your teeth.
Dentists are more likely to properly custom fit bleaching trays for patients, leading to both better bleaching performance and less chance of bleach coming in contact with the gums or tongue. Another advantage of seeing a dentist for tooth whitening, is that unlike home whitening kits, or those available to salons or kiosks, dentists can offer a service known as “power bleaching”. This service uses a much stronger peroxide solution than retail offerings and can give immediate, noticeable results. Depending on the level of discolouration, multiple power bleachings may be needed.
Finally, after assessing your teeth, a dentist can help you choose a home bleaching kit if you want to continue treatments at home, either between power bleaching treatments or as an alternative.
Dr. Antony Benedetto
Chairman of Clinical Advisory Committee National Dental Care