Having cleaner, brighter, whiter teeth and a confident smile is a goal that many people strive for but often fail to achieve.
Brushing, flossing and visiting a dentist regularly will certainly help keep teeth in good condition — but cannot fully combat the staining and discolouration that will inevitably occur.
The solution to discoloured teeth is to have them whitened, but it’s important to be careful how you do this.
There are numerous over-the-counter products on the market today and many beauty boutiques also now offer a service to whiten teeth. Unfortunately, many home kits can be harmful to dental enamel.
And professional beauticians can inadvertently do more harm than good. They may be acting illegally as only registered dental professionals are allowed to carry out this form of dental treatment.
For these reasons it is ALWAYS best to undergo teeth whitening at a dental practice where the highest standard of care can be ensured and better, longer-lasting results achieved.
There are two methods used for teeth whitening at a dentist. One is by using a custom-made mouthguard and gel — and the other is with the use of lasers.
Mouthguard and Gel
In order to ensure that all the surfaces of the teeth are whitened and there are no areas missed, it is necessary to have a mouthguard made that perfectly sits on the teeth.
This will entail a couple of visits to the dentist who will take dental impressions and have a mouthguard made to fit. The mouthguard is filled with a special bleaching gel and is used daily for a few weeks.
How long the process takes will depend on how badly discoloured the teeth are. As a general rule, it takes a number of weeks before the desired result is achieved.
Laser whitening is quicker than using a bleaching gel. Sometimes called power whitening, lasers can be used to quickly remove discolouration and staining from teeth. The teeth are coated by a bleaching agent which is activated by the laser beam. The process can take as little as one hour to complete but this will depend on the severity of the staining and discolouration.
Clearly a much faster process than a mouthguard and gel, laser teeth whitening should only be carried out by a qualified dentist or registered dental professional.
Risks of Non-Professional Treatment
Some people may choose the option of home treatment rather than undergo teeth whitening at a dentist as they perceive this as being just as effective and cheaper.
Using store-bought teeth whitening kits may seem an attractive proposition but there are risks attached. Many kits are simply ineffective no matter how long they are used. There may not be sufficient whitening product in the gel to remove stains or it may not be strong enough.
Also, the mouthguards provided with home kits are not custom-made; this may result in a poor fit, causing the bleaching agent to leak onto gums and into the mouth. This can create dental issues including blisters, lesions and tooth sensitivity.
Similarly, having the teeth whitened at a beauty salon can lead to serious dental issues as the staff are often not qualified, or even properly trained, to carry out this procedure and may do more harm than good.
Of course, some home whitening kits are very good in removing stains and discolouration. But it is advisable to discuss the pros and cons of using any kit with a dental professional and only use those that are recommended.
Having the teeth whitened does not mean that a set of perfectly white teeth will be the outcome. Whitening involves bleaching, whereby stains such as caffeine, nicotine or wine that has built up over time are bleached away.
For most people, having perfectly white teeth can only be achieved through the use of dental veneers or other forms of cosmetic dentistry.
Whitening will only remove stains and brighten the natural color by a couple of shades. Once the discolouration has been removed the results can last anywhere from a couple of months to three years.
The time will depend on the individual’s lifestyle and personal habits. A heavy smoker or coffee drinker cannot expect these habits not to discolour teeth and the results achieved will only last months rather than years.
Pros and Cons
Undergoing teeth whitening at a dentist is not suitable for everyone and all options should be discussed before any decision is made. The procedure is usually not recommended for patients with gum disease or those with crowns or dentures.
Whitening does not work on crowns, dentures or false teeth – or on teeth with bonding applied. Whitening in such cases will result in mismatched teeth of different shades and colours.
Another possible downside to professional whitening is the risk of an adverse reaction to the bleaching gel which could result in tooth sensitivity or oral lesions.
However, adverse reactions are rare and the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Even with the mouthguard and gel system, there is a noticeable improvement in the appearance of the teeth after just a few days while laser treatment gives almost instantaneous results.
Teeth whitening is safe, tried and tested when carried out by a qualified dentist and the results are almost immediate.
Many people have their teeth whitened on a regular basis and most will speak highly of the boost in self-confidence achieved by being able to talk and smile without the embarrassment stained and discoloured teeth can cause.