An article by Dr Lin Gengfeng
Why Teeth Whitening?
A bright and beautiful smile is not only essential to achieve a high level of facial aesthetics; it can also make an individual feel more confident and appear more approachable. Obviously, this would positively influence how an individual is perceived by others. Hence it is not surprising that teeth whitening procedures are becoming increasingly popular and sought after.
Teeth whitening is a simple yet effective way to lighten the colour of our teeth and allow us to achieve a dazzling and attractive smile. It can be broadly classified into 2 types:
- Professional In-Office whitening
- and Home whitening.
In-office whitening involves the use of certain whitening agents, which work to remove stains and lighten the colour of the teeth. The dentist first has to ensure your teeth are sparkling clean. Next, he will check the initial shade of your teeth before the procedure. Following that, he will meticulously apply a barrier material to protect certain areas within and around the mouth and prevent these areas from coming into contact with the whitening agent. The whitening agent is then placed on the teeth surfaces and upon activation, they work to whiten the teeth. Lasers or light is commonly used to activate the whitening agent and the whole process lasts between 1 to 2 hours.
In home whitening, the dentist fabricates a set of customised trays that fit snugly over your teeth surfaces. You are then given the whitening gel and taught how to apply it using the trays. Subsequently, you can then apply the whitening gel in the comfort of your home. It is recommended that the whitening be applied initially for an hour a day for 14 – 21 consecutive days.
It is widely recommended that a combination of both in-office and home whitening be done to not only achieve, but maintain the ideal teeth shade.
Over-the-counter whitening products
In addition to these 2 categories of professionally administered teeth whitening procedures, there is also a wide array of over-the-counter (OTC) whitening products such as whitening toothpastes and whitening strips. However, these have limited efficacy as the strength of the whitening agents present is usually too weak to have any significant effect. Most of these OTC products contain abrasives in an attempt to remove extrinsic stains present on the teeth surfaces.
Some examples of results achieved
Whitening can not only lighten the shade of the teeth, it can also correct colour discrepancies. In this particular instance, the presence of white spots resulted in an uneven and “patchy” appearance. This was corrected with whitening to produce teeth with an even and homogeneous appearance and hence, greatly improving the colour aesthetics.
With in-office whitening, the teeth shade immediately after the procedure is improved. However, after a week, the colour may further even out to give an even better aesthetic result. In this particular case, the patient decided to undergo in-office whitening to correct the central, yellowish region of his teeth surfaces. Immediately after whitening, the teeth have lightened several shades and the colour discrepancy is less pronounced. 3 weeks after whitening, the colour has become more homogenous and there is no evidence of the central yellowish core. The result is a vastly improved and brighter smile.
Sometimes, whitening may be done not on all the teeth surfaces, but on a single discoloured tooth. In this particular case, whitening was done for a single tooth that turned dark after root canal treatment.
Is whitening safe? Does whitening damage my tooth?
Whitening is recognised as one of the safest and least invasive aesthetic dental procedure available. There is no evidence that whitening causes any damage to the teeth. It does not cause your teeth to become weaker or make them more susceptible to cavities.
How long can the effects of whitening last? How can I maintain the lighter shade?
How long the effects of whitening last varies greatly as it depends on several factors such as the initial shade of the teeth, age, lifestyle factors such as whether the patient smokes etc. Generally, it is recommended that a set of whitening trays be made so that the patient can maintain the shade by home whitening.
In addition, when in-office whitening is done, it is important to avoid any foods that can stain the teeth for the next 24 hours. Examples include red wine, coffee and other coloured foods.
Is the whitening procedure uncomfortable?
Most patients do not experience any discomfort at all. However, there may be mild sensitivity for some patients when an in-office whitening procedure is carried out. This is usually very mild and temporary.
Is whitening suitable for everyone?
Whitening may not be suitable for everyone. Not all instances of teeth discolouration can be corrected with whitening. In addition, there may be existing conditions that need to be treated before whitening can be done. For example, in instances where there is severe gum disease, whitening should be delayed until after the disease is controlled.
Dr Lin Gengfeng practises aesthetic implant & restorative dentistry at T32 Dental Centre situated in Camden Medical Centre, Level 17. Website: http://www.t32dental.com