Teeth whitening is carried out to improve the colour of the teeth. There is more than one way of doing so and the most suitable method is often dictated by the underlying cause of discolouration, your tooth structure and expectations.
Benefits of teeth whitening.
Most people feel that whiter teeth projects a more youthful and attractive smile, enhancing their self-confidence both at work as well as their social lives.
What will the dentist do?
The dentist starts by investigating the nature of your teeth discolouration and colour of your existing restorations (e.g. tooth fillings, veneers, crowns, etc.). He will also check the health of your teeth and gums to ensure that it is safe to proceed. Your dentist is likely to record your initial tooth shade and may take photos and impressions of your teeth.
How long will it take?
The procedure time is dependent on the method employed. In-office bleaching can be completed within an hour whereas home bleaching may take between two and three weeks.
What will the experience be like?
This will also depend on the method used.
Supervised Home Teeth Whitening
Home whitening is most suitable for individuals who wish to lighten their teeth colour gradually in the comfort of their own home and time. This method requires an impression to be taken for the fabrication of customized bleaching trays. The customized trays ensures that the gel is evenly distributed and covers all the targeted teeth sufficiently. It also prevent direct contact of the gel with the soft tissues of the mouth and reduce gel leakage.
Home whitening kits work by having the bleaching ingredients in whitening gels to diffuse into the tooth structure and break down the stain particles present over a period of two to three weeks. These kits typically contain between 10% and 35% of Carbamide Peroxide (active ingredient). The duration of usage varies significantly (ranges from a few hours to overnight) depending on the brand. Your dentist will provide you with detailed instructions on the usage regime and care.
Since these kits consist of bleaching agents that can potentially cause harm to your teeth and gums if misused, they have to be prescribed by a dentist. Unused bleaching gels can be kept up to their expiry dates if stored in a cool, dry and dark area. These can be used to maintain the whiteness of your teeth by repeating the procedure a few months later.
In-Office Teeth Whitening
In-office whitening is most suitable for individuals who want fast results. It works in a similar way to home whitening kits, producing equally satisfactory outcomes. It is faster because of the use of a higher concentration or different formulation of the bleaching agent. Chemical activators, light and heat sources are commonly used to catalyse (hasten) the process.
Internal Tooth Bleaching
Internal tooth bleaching is most suitable for root canal treated teeth. The source of discolouration in root canal treated teeth is often from within the tooth (e.g. root canal filling materials, residual blood cell deposits).
Internal tooth bleaching as its name suggest, literally works by whitening your teeth from inside-out. Bleaching agent is placed inside your tooth and left in place for two weeks to work its magic, before being removed and the affected tooth restored. As the bleaching agent is placed internally within the tooth, your dentist has to ensure that the existing root canal filling is sufficiently robust.
How long will it last?
Teeth whitening last between 18 and 24 months on average, depending on your lifestyle habits, oral hygiene and access to routine dental care.
Are there any risks?
Common complications associated with teeth whitening are transient teeth sensitivity, soft tissue irritation or a less than expected change in tooth colour.
The incidence of teeth sensitivity and soft tissue irritation is relatively higher with in-office teeth whitening. These symptoms will resolve spontaneously once active treatment is stopped.
The teeth colour at the end of treatment often varies a little between different individuals. It is affected by the underlying cause of teeth discolouration, your inherent tooth structure and compliance with the treatment regime. Do share your expectations with your dentist so that he can better understand your needs.
All professional teeth whitening products have to be registered with the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore. It is a safe procedure when carried out using reputable products under the supervision of a dentist.