Why would you consider teeth whitening?
Everyone would like a nice bright, white smile. Sometimes the teeth are just not naturally “white enough”, as they have discoloured over time. Teeth will always tend to darken with age, being caused by both accumulation of stains penetrating into the tooth, as well as continuing formation of ever-darker dentine deep within the tooth.
If the teeth do not have large “fillings” (restorations) and the position and shape of them is acceptable then you may be a good candidate for bleaching the teeth to lighten their colouring.
However, if you also feel your teeth are also not regular enough in shape or position, to suit your expectations you might wish to discuss other treatment options such as veneers, crowns or braces.
How teeth whitening works
A peroxide gel (usually carbamide or hydrogen peroxide) is applied to the teeth for varying times and in varying concentrations to bleach the teeth.
This works by penetrating into the crystal structure of the enamel (and to a degree, dentine) to chemically break-down the long chain molecules (pigments) which cause the light to be absorbed or scattered instead of being reflected out to give a whiter appearance.
Custom-made trays are constructed which fit very snugly around the teeth at the gum level to contain the bleaching gel from washing away too quickly. These are very thin, flexible and quite transparent. The trays are like an extremely thin (clear) mouthguard, but without any protective qualities – not suitable for sports protection.
Together with the clear gel used, they are unobtrusive enough to be worn during normal daily activity, undetected by people you meet and casually talk to face-to-face.
A true custom-fit teeth whitening tray will require a dental impression, or mould, of the teeth to be taken to construct the trays under heat and pressure on a plaster cast of the teeth.
What we offer
You will to obtain a thorough bleach effect in a safe and progressive manner where you can control the desired level of bleaching.
- Assessment of your suitability for bleaching
- Creation of custom fit whitening trays
- You follow an at-home bleaching protocol wearing the trays
Depending on the concentration of the gel, the trays may be worn for periods as short as 20 minutes at a time perhaps twice a day. Results are often discernible by a couple of weeks.
Higher concentrations of bleach are most effective but there are risks
The benefit of using higher teeth whitening concentrations is a faster and more extended result than would be achieved using a lesser concentration, but with increased likelihood of ill-effects. The greatest risks are:
- chemical burns to the gums or mouth/throat (if excess material extrudes out of the trays)
- sensitivity of the teeth.
Sensitivity is more likely in individuals who have exposed dentine or root surface, or are already prone to sensitive teeth.
An approach using milder concentrations will probably not deliver results quite as quickly or possibly bleach to a maximum effect as white, but is more comfortable and may allow even those with sensitive teeth to achieve effective bleaching.
When in-surgery teeth whitening may be necessary
Different causes of darkening of the teeth will respond to bleaching to different degrees.
Some of the most difficult discolouration to treat is caused by tetracycline antibiotics, taken as a child while the enamel/dentine is developing. This is becoming less common, confined only to the older population, as medical doctors are now aware of the need to avoid using those particular antibiotics during the age of teeth formation. This is one case where prolonged bleaching is almost certainly going to be necessary, and “in-surgery” bleaching using high concentrations is often indicated, perhaps using a true laser light activation (as opposed to the usual “blue” LED or halogen light).
Single tooth darkening
When a single tooth darkens, especially a grey or “black” colour, it may be a sign of the tooth dying internally (becoming “non-vital”). This requires Root Canal Therapy before then possibly bleaching that single tooth from the inside (as distinct from the external general bleaching). If a tooth has been traumatised or knocked, but not enough to become non-vital, the tooth may sometimes go slightly more yellow-brown over time because of a process called internal calcification, where the tooth effectively ages internally in an accelerated fashion compared to the normal ageing process.
Be aware there are risks associated with non-dentist teeth whitening options
At the beauticians
Some beauticians offer tooth whitening done on-site. Not only is this illegal (contravening the Dental Act), but also exposes consumers to the risks of potentially ill-advised, inappropriate or dangerous treatment delivered by untrained personnel.
Off the shelf tray systems
Off-the-shelf tray systems for bleaching are also sold, often on-line, but also in supermarkets and chemist. These are sometimes inappropriately promoted as “custom trays”, but are similar to over-the-counter/off-the-shelf mouthguards: they do not fit everyone well (in fact they often fit everyone equally badly) even if there is some degree of home customisation possible.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are entirely consumer controlled bleaching materials available. Some true “bleaching” toothpastes exist, but not all toothpastes which claim to produce whiter teeth contain the necessary ingredients to actually bleach the teeth. If you carefully read the packaging they may stop short of claiming bleaching or “whitening” the teeth, merely claiming to clean external stain off the teeth to produce “whiter looking teeth”.
In addition to bleach in toothpastes, bleaching applicators or “pens” will allow also self-application of bleach products, but for effective bleaching there is a necessary level of concentration and prolonged contact on the teeth necessary. If the material is not protected from the saliva it will probably be quickly be diluted and/or washed away before being able to exert sufficient bleaching. Or will take many, many applications to achieve a significant effect.
There are different forms of “bleaching strips” available “over the counter” which have bleach gel impregnated into them and are adapted temporarily to the teeth in a variety of ways and degrees of effectiveness. Again, these rely on the bleach being held against the teeth in an appropriate concentration for a sufficient time, and can be effective and relatively inexpensive especially if only a mild, or perhaps one-off, bleaching result is required.
Also be wary of whitening products purchased overseas
The recent trend was for the available at-home tooth whitening bleach gels to be released in ever-increasing concentrations, but the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia has acted to put a cap on the concentrations allowed to be sold in Australia, for the safety of consumers. (Warning: high concentrations are still available from overseas via on-line shopping, and there are risks to using them.)