The Wisdom Tooth

Teeth Whitening

Teeth Whitening

There is so much information that you can read these days about the various types of teeth whitening. Magazines, digital advertisements and even celebrities bombard us about this area. So let’s have a look at this topic as a whole.

How do teeth get stained?

Teeth Whitening

There are many reasons that can cause your teeth to become discoloured or stained including, but not limited to:

  • Food & drinks such as tea, coffee, red wine, coloured sauces and curries
  • Antibiotic medications
  • Nicotine and tar in Tobacco
  • Natural age changes in teeth
  • Trauma

The stains and discolouration that affect your tooth from the outside are usually from foods, drinks, some medicines and tobacco that you may be consuming.

The stains and colours that affect your tooth from the inside are usually from age changes, trauma and sometimes medicines.

How does teeth whitening work?

Teeth whitening works through a chemical process using hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. The peroxides break down the organic stains in the tooth structure. Usually, there are minimal changes to the organic parts of the tooth. Most teeth whitening products contain one of these 2 ingredients. Some toothpaste companies are now also using Phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid, which is an organic peroxide.

What teeth whitening treatment options exist?

There are 3 main ways to whiten teeth.

  • Pharmacy Based
    • These products include toothpastes, strips, pens and prefabricated trays. While these products do work, their benefits can be limited. This is because the concentration of the whitening gel is low due to the imprecise method of placement. It is also very important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to minimise gum burns and uneven colours.
  • In-office Systems
    • In-office products come in concentrations of up to 35% and involve you sitting in a dental chair for up to 1 hour. A dentist usually applies and monitors the whitening process.
  • Take Home Kits
    • A take home kit involves having custom teeth trays made with a whitening gel kit is provided to you. Every day, you place a small amount of gel in the trays and put it is your mouth following your dentists instructions. You then repeat this process for 5-7 days.
In Chair Zoom Office Teeth Whitening Smile Hawthorn

What are the risks and problems with teeth whitening?

Pola Office In Chair Zoom whitening

Like all medical procedures, teeth whitening does have some considerations. The most common include:

  • The overall colour change cannot be predicted accurately.
  • Lighter shaded teeth can appear to have a smaller colour change than darker shaded teeth.
  • Some teeth will not change colour at all e.g. Tetracycline stained teeth.
  • Increased tooth sensitivity.
  • Chemical burns to the lips or gums.
  • Pre-existing fillings, crowns, veneers etc will not change colour.

Some rarer side effects can include breakdown of the root surface as well as severe chemical burns.

Can I whiten my teeth with Baking Soda or Charcoal?

The baking soda and water teeth whitening recipe is found online in plentiful amounts. While this mixture can remove surface stains, it won’t change discolouration that is deeper in the tooth.

There has been no good evidence based research that has shown that activated charcoal products can whiten teeth. There are even concerns that they can be very abrasive and could damage enamel.

As a result, it would not generally be recommended using either product on a regular basis.

Are online whitening products OK?

When you have whitening done at your dentist, your dentist will use a whitening agent that that has been approved for that use by the Therapeutic Goods of Australia (TGA). Some gels that can be purchased online have varying concentrations than those recommended by the TGA and the mouthguards used are not custom fitted. These can result in higher risks of gum burns or other complications. Additionally, some products available contain chemicals such as Sodium Chlorite, which is used to clean swimming pools.

So where to from here?

Teeth whitening is best done under the guidance of dentists, who are trained in managing pathology and health of the mouth. They also have the knowledge to manage any adverse side effects that could occur when whitening. And lastly, they have the experience to assist you in determining if teeth whitening will work and how well it would work.

Further Reading

Australians’ teeth whitening – a shady story
Australian Dental Association warns of dangers of DIY teeth-whitening products – Teeth whitening

And remember, a white smile is not always a beautiful smile, but a healthy smile is always a beautiful smile!

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By The Wisdom Tooth 7 June 2022

Between causing bouts of discomfort on unwary mouths and hiding in dark corners, the wisdom tooth shares snippets of wisdom from the field of dentistry. the world smiles with you

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