Understanding Teeth Whitening

As dentist William Huynh puts it, only extremely few individuals have got teeth that are brilliant white. Here he gives a low-down on general teeth whitening processes




Tooth whitening is an extremely effective method of lightening the color of your teeth without damaging them and without the need to scrape off the surface of your teeth. According to a report published in the British Dental Journal in April 2005, just about any whitening method available today can work just fine, with the most significant efficacy factors being the concentration of the whitening or bleaching agent used and the duration of exposure.


Why Do People Need it?

As people age, their teeth will get darker. This is partly an inescapable effect of aging, but also happens due to what we drink and eat, along with habits like smoking. Coffee, tea, red wine, blackcurrant juice and other foods and drinks that contain strong coloring agents can also affect teeth color. Furthermore, some antibiotics might also contribute to the darkening of teeth.

It should also be noted that some individuals will naturally develop a shade that’s grayer than other people, while some might also see white spots appear on teeth due to illness or ordinary tooth decay. In other words, all people are different: Just like how our skin and hair differ from person to person, so do our teeth. Extremely few individuals have got teeth that are brilliant white. Tartar buildup can, of course, also have an impact on the color of your teeth. Finally, some people may experience staining beneath their teeth’s enamel cover or suffer from tiny dental cracks which might develop into larger stains.

Considering the range of factors that might have an adverse effect on tooth color, it becomes apparent that for many people, regular dental care might not be sufficient to maintain a presentable row of white teeth. The problem becomes even more apparent for those of advanced age.

It is at these points that teeth whitening procedures become an attractive and viable solution to be considered.



What Does It Involve?

The most common method of professional tooth whitening is bleaching. The dentist will first perform an assessment to determine if tooth whitening is appropriate for your case and also inform you about the available options. The most common whitening method is known as “dentist-supervised” tooth whitening, which is done at home. Here you get some gel trays containing a special gel that are made to fit inside your mouth, similar to gum-shields. You then follow a home routine given by the dentist.



“As people age, their teeth will get darker, partly as an inescapable effect of aging, but also due to what we drink and eat, plus other individual habits like smoking”



One alternative is “chairside whitening.” As the name suggests, in this type of procedure, the dentist, therapist or dental hygienist will be applying the whitening agents as the patient sits in a typical dentist chair. They will put a gel or rubber shield on your gum for protection. Thereafter, they apply the whitening product onto the teeth using a specially made tray.

In the majority of whitening products, the active ingredient is hydrogen carbamide peroxide, which is used in very precise measurements. Currently, the US Food and Drug Administration only approves whitening gels with a hydrogen peroxide content below six percent or carbamide peroxide below 16 percent. Concurrently, the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety has declared that all gels with active ingredient concentrations higher than the aforementioned limits to be unsafe. Other major health authorities apply similar standards.



What Are The Possible Side Effects?

After or during treatment, some patients might find that their teeth have become sensitive to cold and/or sudden shifts in temperature. Other patients might experience discomfort in their gums, sore throat or white patches along the gum line. More often than not, all of these symptoms are only temporary and should disappear completely after a couple of days.

It should also be noted that just about every health authority, such as the British Dental Bleaching Society, stresses how essential it is for all dental therapists and dental hygienists to undertake suitable instruction in all dental bleaching techniques, so that they are able to assist in the provision of successful whitening for all their dental patients.

So, essentially, for would-be patients, the same pre-procedure precautions should be observed: Make sure that you are aware of what the tooth whitening procedure will entail and that it will be carried out, or at least supervised, by properly trained professionals.



William Huynh is an Australian-based dental therapist who has been practicing for over ten years.