If you’ve ever considered brightening up your jaded smile then you might want to know the answer to the question ‘how does professional teeth whitening work?’ In this post, we’ll talk about the science behind teeth whitening as well as explore your options. So let’s begin.
Before we get into the specifics of various whitening treatments, it’s perhaps a good idea to discuss what causes teeth to discolour in the first place.
There are in fact many reasons why teeth discolour and include:
- Partaking in stain-inducing foods and beverages such as coffee, red wine and tomato sauce
- Age – Believe it or not, as we age, our tooth enamel thins revealing more of the pale yellow dentin located beneath
- Medication – Certain medications like antihistamines can cause discolouration of the teeth over time
- Genetics – Finally, not so much of a stain causer but not everyone is born with perfectly white teeth. If your parent’s or grandparent’s teeth were less than white, it is possible that you may also inherit this trait.
So know you know about the factors that can cause teeth to fade, let’s talk about your
Teeth whitening treatment options
The good news is that you have several teeth whitening options open to you, some of which are more successful than others. In addition to the array of over-the-counter whitening products such as whitening gels, strips and even teeth whitening pens, you also have the option of professional teeth whitening.
The latter is deemed to be more successful because it is a;
- Dentist-led treatment and
- involves a higher concentration of bleaching agent (more about this later)
What you need to know about whitening treatments, in general, is that they all whiten teeth, in the same manner, using one of two substances, Either…
- Carbamide peroxide or
- Hydrogen peroxide.
Carbamide peroxide will break down into hydrogen peroxide anyway once applied to the teeth, so predominantly, we need to talk about the latter.
So, how does teeth whitening work with hydrogen peroxide?
Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent that kills bacteria but has also been used for over 200 years to disinfect wounds. As a result, it’s perfectly safe to use both in and on the body.
When applied to the surface of the teeth in gel form, the hydrogen peroxide (bleaching agent) will penetrate the porous enamel of the teeth and attach itself to the stain molecules that sit under the tooth surface. During a short period of oxidisation, the stain molecules break down into thousands of microscopic particles leaving the tooth looking both whiter and brighter.
So why pay more for professional teeth whitening?
As already mentioned, there is a wide variety of over the counter whitening treatments that you can buy from your local pharmacy or purchase online. The problem with these types of teeth whitening options is that by law they need to contain less than 6% hydrogen peroxide. This means that any teeth whitening effects can be a slow process (if at all).
Alternatively, when teeth whitening treatments are led or supervised by a dental professional, they are permitted to carry out treatments that contain higher percentages of bleaching agent for superior and speedy results.
In the case of professional chair-side teeth whitening for instance – dentists will typically use treatments containing hydrogen peroxide levels of around 35%. This means that results can be seen in as little as 1 hour!
Conversely, many dentists will also supply teeth whitening treatments in the form of take-home kits. These differ from the type that you can buy over-the-counter in two ways…
- Firstly, they contain higher strengths of bleaching agent and secondly,
- The trays designed to contain the bleaching gel and worn over the teeth are custom made to fit your smile exactly.
This has a dual effect…
Teeth typically whiten faster (usually within 7-10 days) and there is a higher guarantee of an all-over even whiteness – no more zebra-style stripes across the surface of the tooth where the trays haven’t fitted correctly.
So is teeth whitening safe?
Absolutely, provided the right care is taken. Problems with whitening treatments typically arise when a user doesn’t follow instructions and instead decides to ‘do their own thing’. More often than not this leads to problems like overexposure to the gel causing extreme teeth sensitivity or burning gums.
Alternatively, opt for professional teeth whitening treatment and patients are always examined first to ensure they are both cavity and gum disease-free. In addition, many of the proven whitening products that dentists use like Opalescence and Pola have been clinically tested over many years and contain desensitising agents for a more comfortable experience.
So there you have it – all you need to know about how professional teeth whitening works and why it pays to go pro!
If you aren’t happy with your current smile, we invite you to come and talk to the team at Randwick Smiles. During a thorough smile consultation, our dentists will talk you through your options giving you all the information you need to make a fully informed decision.