Many ‘Hollywood White’ smiles are actually achieved with porcelain veneers, where a coloured layer of porcelain has been glued onto the front of the teeth. There are two main ways to effectively whiten your teeth without veneers: Laser Bleaching and At Home Bleaching.
Indeed, whitening is often the first treatment step to lighten the overall shade even if veneers are planned afterwards.
Laser Teeth Whitening:
Laser tooth bleaching is the fastest most efficient way to whiten your teeth. This is different to using other ‘light activated’ tooth bleaching systems. Using a true laser is different to just power bleaching with a bright light and can only be done in a dental clinic with appropriate equipment and training.
We have been excited to introduce this to our practice in 2021 with Dr Raghed Bashour, who has many years clinical experience using lasers. Lasers are also capable of removing deeper stains and a greater variety of stains.
We use Opalescence at home bleaching for overnight whitening, and Colgate Optic White at home bleaching for day time whitening.
This allows customising the product for your specific needs. At home bleaching involves a mild bleaching agent known as carbamyl-peroxide in a glycerol base.
This has been used since the 1980’s and during this time there has been no reports of anybody needing a root canal or having damaged a tooth from controlled home whitening.
An initial exam is essential as not all teeth are suitable for this procedure. Cleaning may also be required to remove chalky deposits and staining from tooth surfaces. After this a highly accurate impression is taken of your teeth.
From this, special thin bleaching trays are made. Normal treatment time is about 2 to 4 weeks. Some darker stained or severely discoloured teeth may take longer.
The term ‘whitening’ in toothpaste marketing may be misleading. Some well known brands do show some limited lightening with prolonged use. This is because of there ability to remove some external stains on the tooth surface, and the polish in them creates a higher lustre on the tooth surface making the teeth appear lighter, although this effect is mild. Toothpaste is just not in contact with you teeth long enough to have a significant deep effect.
Over the counter products
The trays provided with these systems are poorly fitting so most of the bleach is swallowed rather than held on the teeth. Because of this the legal concentration of active bleach is very low (about 10 times less than professional applied products). Some advertising on these products is very misleading. If it’s too good to be true…
Beauticians and shopping centre booths
It looks so easy – jump in the chair for 30 minutes and apply a bleach and light to your teeth. These booths are not legal without having a dentist supervising the treatment.
In October 2009 the Victorian ADA prosecuted one of these operators after a client ended up in hospital with throat ulceration, burns to the gums, and marbled teeth. Dentists are trained in understanding your medical history (some medications make your skin light sensitive), dental history (some dark teeth from previous trauma or fillings need special care), what different types of stain means and how they should be treated.
There are grave concerns regarding infection control, soft tissue damage, and again their claims of success. Much of the whitening gained after these procedures is simply dehydration of the teeth and the acid in the bleaching agent causing a white frosty appearance which is gone within 24 hours – Buyer beware!
What about the light?
Most lights have been shown to make little difference to whitening outcome and are simply to impress the client. Although some light in-office bleaching systems can give immediate and brighter effects, it often relapses within a couple of weeks back to what home bleaching achieves. Most of these procedures use a light which provides a certain light intensity or heat to activate the applied gel and result in hypersensitive teeth. Lasers are shown to be more efficient than other light activated systems and with far less cause for sensitivity.
Frequently Asked Questions – Home Bleaching
How long do I use the product?
Usually 2 – 4 weeks with overnight use. Some yellower teeth due to ageing could take longer.
When do I notice any effect?
Usually the first night but most definitely in about three days
What if I can’t wear the trays?
This is rarely a problem. They are very thin and seal with the gel much like a contact lens. If you can’t sleep through the night then it is fine to wear them for a few hours in the morning or evening, but it just takes a little longer. Call us if you are still experiencing problems.
Will it hurt?
Sensitivity is a side-effect of all whitening systems but usually mild and always temporary. We have found most patients have minimal problems with our product. Most sensitivity peaks at three days then drops off. The faster whitening techniques such as laser bleaching and high concentration peroxide bleaches often require pain medications.
How long do my teeth stay white?
All whitening will relapse over time. Studies show teeth remain whiter even 15 years after initial bleaching. A top-up bleach using the same trays can be achieved quickly to maintain your bright smile – often one night to every 5-7 nights of original whitening. Some people never relapse in shade, and smokers most frequently do.
Can I bleach if I am pregnant?
As there is no research on this people should not bleach their teeth while pregnant.
Will it damage my crowns or fillings?
No, although it will not lighten them either and you may wish to have some replaced afterwards to match your new colour.
Can I over-bleach my teeth?
Yes! In rare cases with unsupervised bleaching patients have ended up with protein breakdown in the teeth enamel.
This results in translucent teeth that look dark due to the shadow or the mouth behind them, or they get unsightly white spots where water fills the void left by the protein loss.
We only recommend top-ups of bleaching under supervision and review with our dentists.
Call us for further information on 3260 6200
For specific answers to questions go to Marc’s Blog
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