Professional Teeth Whitening: Is It Really Worth It?

cropped 20211105 piara ro1 5941 scaled 1.jpg By Dr. Ram Nair

There are many ways to whiten your teeth and brighten your smile. Many available commercial options make whitening your teeth at home easy and cost-effective. However, in-office teeth whitening is one of the most preferred treatment options.

In-office teeth whitening is more expensive than other treatment alternatives, but many claim it is well worth the cost. If you’re thinking of having your teeth whitened, learn more about the procedure and how it compares to other current treatments before making a decision. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what goes into professional teeth whitening. Keep reading to learn more!

What is In-Office Teeth Whitening?

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In-office teeth whitening is a popular cosmetic dental procedure that can dramatically improve and brighten the appearance of your smile. The entire procedure is typically done in a dental office under the supervision of a trained professional. It offers dramatic results in just one session. The bleaching agent contains high concentrations of peroxide (15% to 43%), which is applied to the teeth and then activated with a special light. This process helps to break down any surface stains or discolouration, giving teeth a brighter, whiter appearance.

Some patients experience side effects following their teeth whitening session. These include tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. Both are temporary and may last a few days at most. Many patients opt for in-office treatments to minimise these adverse side effects. Your dentist can take extra precautionary steps and observe the procedure to lessen the likelihood of tooth sensitivity or gum irritation. Teeth whitening is a safe and effective way to achieve a brighter smile when done correctly.

Is Professional Teeth Whitening For Me?

Patients who opt for teeth whitening treatment want to address discolouration and staining on their teeth. When you come in for a consultation, your dentist can determine if you are a good candidate for in-office teeth whitening. The clinic staff will take a thorough medical and dental history. You will have to disclose any dental restorations or health conditions that you may have.

Patients with periodontal disease and tooth sensitivity do not typically react well to teeth whitening due to the interactions of the bleaching agent with the teeth and, possibly, the gums. Your dentist may recommend addressing those concerns before teeth whitening or giving you different cosmetic treatment options instead.

If you need tooth restoration done but want to lighten your natural teeth, teeth whitening should be done before the restoration. This will allow your dentist to match your dental crowns or other restoration to the whiter colour of your natural teeth, making your whiter smile look more natural.

The ideal patient for professional teeth whitening would be an adult with healthy but discoloured or stained teeth. Ideally, no previous dental restorations should be present. The patient should also have healthy gums free of inflammation. Even if you do not fit that description, in-office teeth whitening is not completely out of the question. You will have to discuss your concerns with your dentist to find out what type of treatment is fit for you.

How Does In-Office Teeth Whitening Work?

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Patients who opt for in-office teeth whitening treatment can expect a more meticulous process than what would occur with home treatments. Although the treatment specifics will vary between practices, these are the standard steps with professionally handled teeth whitening.

  1. A cheek retractor is used to keep the mouth open to expose the entire treatment area.
  2. The initial tooth shade is taken for comparison purposes at the end of the treatment.
  3. A barrier is placed around the gums of the teeth to be treated. This will protect them from exposure to the chairside bleaching agent because irritation can occur with contact.
  4. After the preparation, a bleaching gel is applied to the teeth to be lightened. It is typically kept on for 15 to 30 minutes.
  5. After the initial treatment, the bleaching gel is removed via irrigation or suction. If the desired shade has not yet been reached, a fresh layer of bleaching gel is applied. This cycle is repeated as deemed necessary.
  6. Certain professional whitening treatments also use a special blue light. The light activates the bleaching agent or improves its lightening effects.
  7. When the desired shade has been achieved, the cheek retractors are removed. A final rinsing is done to remove any remaining bleaching residue. The tooth shade is then measured to determine the effectiveness of the treatment.

With in-office teeth whitening treatments, you can expect your teeth to whiten 2 to 8 shades lighter. However, the shade you leave the dental office with is whiter than the final result due to the dehydration of the tooth, a common side effect of teeth whitening. The true colour of your teeth will settle in a few days after your treatment.

With heavily discoloured teeth, the desired shade may not be attainable with one dental session. Your dentist can recommend you return for a follow-up bleaching appointment in the future after your teeth have been given some time to recover. Another option would be to use a customised set of take-home bleaching trays from your dentist.

Cosmetic Treatment Alternatives for Teeth Whitening

Patients who suffer from severe intrinsic staining or have sensitive teeth do not respond well to teeth whitening treatments. However, several other treatment alternatives can improve the appearance of their teeth. Based on your dentist’s evaluation, one of the following treatments may be suggested.

Composed of dental-grade ceramic, porcelain veneers hide away your stained teeth. They are thin shells that can be adhered to the existing tooth surface like a mask. It can also hide other imperfections like chips and cracks. If you have gaps between your teeth due to some of them being smaller than the rest, you can also address this with veneers.

The application process for porcelain veneers can be divided into traditional and minimal-prep veneers. When you get traditional veneers, a part of the tooth’s outermost layer, the enamel, is shaved away. This will alter the shape of your natural tooth. Traditional veneers are not recommended for those with a thin enamel layer or sensitive teeth. Minimal-prep veneers are bonded over the surface of the concerned tooth without the need for shaving.

  • Dental Bonding

Dental bonding entails the application of a composite resin over your stained teeth. The resin shade can be matched to the shade of your natural teeth. Hence, the application will give you a seamlessly beautiful smile. The purpose of dental bonding is to conceal any intrinsic discolouration in your teeth.

Dental bonding is quick, cost-effective, and conservative in terms of dental treatments. In one appointment, you will be able to hide your tooth discolouration. A drawback of this treatment is that composite resin is prone to staining and will not look as natural as veneers. However, it is reversible and preserves the healthy tooth enamel.

  • Tooth-Coloured Fillings

Medication and trauma can sometimes cause dark stains on the teeth. It can also occur over a period of time with amalgam dental fillings. The metal can start to show through the enamel, giving a grey tint to your teeth. Composite resin restorations can replace older traditional fillings.

Other than aesthetic benefits, tooth-coloured fillings also have added health benefits. The material forms a stronger bond with the tooth compared to metal fillings. This will increase the expected longevity of the filling. Metal fillings tend to expand and shrink depending on the temperature. Unfortunately, this can lead to fractures in teeth over time. This complication is not present with composite resin fillings.

How Long Do Results Last?

After spending money and time to achieve a new confident smile, you must be wondering how long it will last. In general, the results from teeth whitening treatments can last from 6 months to several years. Professional teeth whitening treatments tend to offer results will longer longevity, while over-the-counter teeth whitening options like whitening strips and toothpaste offer less dramatic results that only last a few months.

Another factor to consider concerning the longevity of results is what happens after the treatment. Certain food and drinks are quite prone to staining your teeth. Tobacco use is also one of the main contributing factors to extrinsic stains. Even treatments for medical conditions can contribute to the discolouration of your teeth. Antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline can affect the proper tooth formation in young children, interfering with how the enamel forms and leading to discolouration. Even antihistamines, antipsychotic drugs, and antihypertension medication can lead to tooth discolouration.

Tips On Caring For Whitened Teeth

The initial 48 hours following your teeth whitening procedure is the most crucial in maintaining the results of your treatment. Your teeth will need to settle and recover from the bleaching process. This makes them especially vulnerable and sensitive. Any stains or discolouration you get during this time will be hard to remove. These tips may help avoid premature discolouration of your white teeth.

  • Avoid coffee and tea.
    Your caffeine pick-me-up may need to be avoided following your whitening treatment. The dark colour of coffee and tea are known for staining teeth when consumed in large quantities or frequently over time. A better alternative for your warm breakfast drink will include a glass of warm water or a cup of warm milk.
  • Avoid acidic beverages and sour food.
    Although typically light in colour, liquids like lime soda and vinegar are acidic and can harm your already sensitive teeth. Food and drink with an acidic base can weaken your enamel, especially if concentrated. If you are to drink any of these beverages, using a straw can guide the beverage to the area behind your teeth to minimise staining.
  • Quit smoking.
    The smoking or chewing of tobacco can lead to discolouration of your teeth. If you are a former smoker, your habit may have been a major cause of the staining of your enamel. It is encouraged that the habit is stopped altogether. However, if you find it hard to stop, try talking with your dentist or physician about possible alternatives or treatment options.
  • Brush and floss your teeth.
    To maintain dental hygiene, you should brush your teeth after each meal. You may need to switch to a toothbrush with softer bristles following your treatment to avoid damaging your enamel. The occasional use of whitening toothpaste can also aid in maintaining the appearance of your teeth.
    It is quite easy to get something caught between one’s teeth. Brushing alone may not remove food debris in those small crevices between your teeth. Flossing at least once a day will avoid the build-up of plaque and bacteria.
  • See your dentist.
    It has always been recommended that adults see their dentist twice a year. Once you’ve whitened your teeth, these visits will give your dentist a chance to check the state of your teeth and determine if any touch-ups are necessary. You can also have your teeth professionally cleaned during your appointment to help keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Final Thoughts

With the demand to look a certain way, teeth whitening has become a common dental treatment. Whiter teeth give you the confidence to stand out and speak up. With all the benefits of teeth whitening, it only makes sense to find the most effective and time-efficient method for treatment. With in-office teeth whitening, you can walk out of your dentist’s appointment with a new set of pearly whites after one session. The results cannot be disputed. Additionally, among other whitening options, only in-office whitening treatments can assure you of the procedure’s safety. The risks of human error and improper application techniques are minimised.

In the end, there is only one clear choice. If you are interested in having your teeth professionally whitened today, book an appointment with Piara Waters Dental by calling (08) 6196 4661.

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