Teeth whitening or bleaching, is a cosmetic dental treatment that has been increasing in popularity for the past few years. With more attention being paid to esthetics, particularly non-invasive speedy procedures, it is not surprising that teeth whitening will continue to be in demand as a quick fix to getting a dazzling smile.
Dental clinics as well as non-dental establishments are now offering teeth whitening treatments at very competitive prices. Tooth bleaching has even been incorporated into holiday packages or part of a day of pampering at the spa.
Before you grab your phone and make an appointment to have your smile brightened, however, there are some important factors that you should consider:
Factor #1: Not everyone is a suitable candidate for teeth whitening
A consultation with a dentist is important to assess whether you are a suitable candidate for teeth whitening. Certain dental or medical conditions can result in a person being less ideal for this type of treatment, especially treatment involving the use of a specially designed ultraviolet light combined with a bleaching gel:
- Pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding;
- People who are light sensitive;
- Those with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart problems or melanoma, or those taking medication or on radiation/chemotherapy treatment; and
- Those with receding gums or gum problems, as well as sensitive teeth.
Factor #2: Sensitivity may occur during or after treatment
Although teeth whitening is generally painless or with minimal discomfort, some people may experience some slight sensitivity during or after treatment. This is normal and usually will disappear on its own. A desensitizing gel is usually provided in the take-home kit and this can be used as a preventive measure, or to address any sensitivity post treatment.
Some people may be more susceptible to sensitivity:
- Those with cracked teeth, open cavities, leaking fillings, existing sensitivity and receding gums will most likely experience discomfort;
- Others with dental conditions that allow penetration of the bleaching gel into the teeth may find that the sensitivity increases or is prolonged after treatment
Factor #3: The results of teeth whitening vary, depending on your dental condition
There are many factors as to why teeth are stained and thus it is important to obtain a proper diagnosis on the causes of the discoloration of the teeth.
- For teeth that are discoloured due to extrinsic or external factors, e.g. consumption of certain foods or drinks (e.g. curries, certain spicy or foods with strong colouring, red wine, coffee and tea), bleaching may be effective in removing the unsightly stains.
- On the other hand, teeth that are stained due to intrinsic factors, e.g., consumption of medication or through flourosis (when a person receives too much fluoride during the tooth development phase of their life), will not respond well to teeth whitening. In this type of situation, one may have to consider other treatment such as veneers or crowns.
There are also different types of stains – those with darkly stained yellow, or yellow-brown teeth will usually see more dramatic results than those with gray or bluish-gray teeth.
Teeth that have many fillings may also not whiten effectively with the treatment and other non-bleaching procedures should be considered.
Temporary teeth (e.g. used while crown or dental implant treatment is being completed) may also become discolored after exposure to the chemicals used in the whitening treatment.
Factor #4: Be realistic about your expectations on the final result
The success and satisfaction with teeth whitening treatment depends not only on the skills of the dentist but also on the expectations of the patient. For best results, it is important to have a realistic expectation of what can (and cannot) be achieved with teeth bleaching treatment.
- It is possible to whiten teeth by several shades… and more.. but do bear in mind that if you desire whiter teeth, you may have to go through more cycles of exposure to the special whitening light during the whitening session. The more cycles of the treatment one is exposed to, the higher the chance of experiencing sensitivity.
- Some people ask for a shade of white that is similar to the shade of a piece of white paper… but while that shade looks wonderful on a piece of paper, it may look unnatural on one’s teeth. The key is to determine what works best for you – whether it is to have natural-looking teeth or brighter-than-life gleaming teeth.
Factor #5: Relapse is possible
Do bear in mind that it is natural that the teeth will gradually regress in the shading after the treatment is completed. This will not happen right away but over a period of time. This is because bleaching is not a permanent solution to stained or discoloured teeth.
For best results, a take-home whitening kit is usually used after in-clinic chairside whitening treatment. This take-home kit can be used for touch-ups subsequently.
One’s eating habits and lifestyle will also determine the duration of the results of the teeth whitening treatment. If a person regularly smokes, or drinks red wine, coffee or tea, the relapse of the teeth to their original shade will be accelerated, compared with a person who abstains or only moderately consumes these beverages.
Thus, be prepared that you may need a repeat visit to the dentist to maintain the results of your teeth whitening treatment sometime down the road.
If you would like more information on teeth whitening, visit the Specialist Dental Group website. We will be posting another article soon on ways to improve your teeth whitening experience. Keep an eye out for it.