Tooth Whitening

Guide to Tooth Whitening

Almost all discoloured teeth can be simply and safely whitened.  Only the colour and not the structure of the tooth are changed. 

General Information
Whitening is a procedure which is designed to brighten the colour of your teeth.  When done properly, tooth whitening will not harm your teeth or gums.  Significant whitening can be achieved in the majority of cases.  Tooth whitening, like any other treatment, has some inherent risks and limitations.  These are seldom serious enough to discourage you from having your teeth whitened, but should be considered in making the decision to have this treatment.  In addition, there are variables such as the type of discolouration that effects your teeth, the degree to which you follow our instructions, the overall condition of your teeth, etc......, that can affect the outcome of your treatment.

What causes tooth discolouration ?
Tooth enamel discolouration can be caused by staining, ageing or chemical damage to teeth.  Some of the more common causes of teeth discolouration are medications, coffee, tea, tobacco, trauma and nerve degeneration.  People who drink significant amounts of cola soft drinks and wine can experience similar staining.

Aside from staining, there are other factors that can affect the colour of an individual’s teeth.  Genetics can play a role.  Some people have naturally brighter enamel than others.  Disease can also be a factor and certain medications can cause discolouration of the teeth.

Candidates for Tooth Whitening
Almost anyone is a candidate for tooth whitening.  However, people with dark yellow-ish brown teeth tend to whiten better than people with bluish-grey or multi-coloured teeth.  Multi-coloured teeth, especially if stained due to tetracycline, do not whiten very predictably in the short term (but will whiten in the long term.....it just takes longer).  Teeth with many large fillings, cavities, chips, etc..... are often best treated with a combination of whitening and bonding, porcelain veneers or porcelain crowns.
We do not recommend whitening to patients who are pregnant or currently breast feeding, or to patients with a known hypersensitivity to any of the whitening gel ingredients (very rare).

Is the process safe ?
Yes !
Research and clinical studies indicate that whitening teeth with carbamide peroxide and/or hydrogen peroxide under the supervision of a dentist is safe for teeth and gums.  Whitening acts only on the molecules that carry the discolouration.  In fact, many dentists consider this whitening process the safest cosmetic procedure available today.  Dentist-supervised whitening has been done for nearly a century, but has increased in popularity in recent years as yellowed teeth are becoming less and less acceptable, both socially and professionally.

How do Teeth Whitening Systems remove stains ?
Teeth Whitening Systems will remove most stains with a gentle action that whitens your teeth.  As the active ingredient in the gel is broken down, oxygen is released to act upon stained organic deposits.  Over 95% of people treated achieve some level of tooth whitening.  Crowns, bridges and fillings do not lighten with dental tooth whitening systems.  Existing fillings and restorations may need to be replaced to match the new colour of your teeth.

Pros and Cons of Tooth Whitening

People typically have a tooth whitened  to improve their appearance.  Teeth that are all the same bright colour are associated with beauty and a healthier lifestyle.  When people have a brighter smile, they tend to smile more often and are less self-conscious.

In addition, a whiter smile tends to minimize the appearance of facial wrinkles, giving way to a more youthful and energetic appearance.Finally, a whiter smile gives people to whom you are speaking a place to focus on and gives you a friendlier appearance.

Although tooth whitening is very effective, there can be short-term disadvantages such as sensitive gums or teeth.  This subsides within a day or two of the procedure being discontinued.

Research indicates that that tooth whitening is completely effective in more than 85% of people.  In cases of serious tooth discolouration, whitening may not be the best choice.  Veneers or crowns may be the superior choice.  Whitening is usually the first solution to try due to its lower cost.

Types of Whitening

Home Whitening
This process, which can be done anywhere and not just at home, involves wearing a custom-made whitening tray in which tooth whitening gel is placed. The professionally made trays containing the whitening gel are worn for 30 minutes to 4 hours per day, or overnight, depending on your carefully designed program (which caters for individual needs and circumstances).  You need to wear the whitening trays for the specified number of hours per day or night for approximately 2 to 4 weeks.  We check your whitening progress on a weekly basis or twice weekly basis during the period that you are using the gel.

The advantages of home whitening include cost and convenience.  The disadvantage is primarily the wearing of the whitening trays and the results depend on your consistent use of the whitening gel.

In Office Whitening
This process involves either one or more 1 hour sessions, done either to supplement or “kick start” home whitening or as a procedure on its own.  A newly developed protective light cured barrier is placed on the gums and a highly specialized gel is applied to the teeth.  This dramatically accelerates the whitening process (safely).  There are many advantages to “in office” whitening:-

    • Results are rapid
    • Patients don’t have the inconvenience of wearing trays for extended periods (particularly important if you have a sensitive gag reflex, etc.)
    • The main advantage is the higher cost.

What is the difference between Proffessional Tooth Whitening and OTC Whitening Products ?
Whitening  Systems found in mass retail markets do not all use Carbamide Peroxide, the exact ingredient used in professional dental offices.  Having a professionally constructed whitening tray is essential to assure proper whitening results.  Inaccurately fitting trays can result in inconsistent whitening or spotting on the teeth and they are uncomfortable to wear.  An accurately made well fitting tray saves on the amount of whitening gel required, will be well tolerated and results in minimal or no discomfort to the teeth and gums.

Many OTC whitening gels are not thick enough to stay in place and will leak out of the tray (as well as containing less effective active ingredients or a lower concentration of active ingredients).  Our whitening gel contains special desensitizing agents to help avoid any sensitivity of your teeth and gums.

If you have any undiagnosed cavities or leaking fillings, the whitening gel may penetrate deeply within the teeth causing irritation of the nerves.  It is therefore important to have a thorough and comprehensive examination before going ahead with tooth whitening – any open cavities should be sealed before commencement of whitening.

How long will it last ?
Non-smokers who do not drink coffee or tea often see little or no change over five years.  But your long-term results will depend on your habits and the specific foods you eat.  Based on those variables, some patients may require a “touch-up” treatment at regular intervals.

What if I have more questions ?
Just ask. Our office is well experienced in tooth whitening treatments and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about the process or the results.

Remember that a Beautiful Smile is measured by not only how white your teeth are, but rather how healthy your teeth and gums actually are.
An exquisitely bright smile isn’t just for celebrities anymore......it’s for everyone !