Why whiten your teeth?
Teeth can become stained over time, resulting in their loss of natural whiteness. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including ageing, lifestyle choices (such as tobacco use), eating habits (drinks like coffee or tea or other sugary beverages), and even some medications. Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure that many patients find can boost their self-esteem by allowing them to show off their brightest, whitest smile.
What are the options for whitening teeth?
Whitening can be done in several different ways:
- In-office professional whitening by your dental hygienist, usually in one or two appointments
- At-home professional whitening with take-home kits from your dentist's office custom-made for you
- Over-the-counter products from a pharmacy, which are done without supervision by a dentist or a dental hygienist
How safe is it to whiten (bleach) my teeth?
In most cases, professional teeth whitening treatments are both safe and effective. Over-the-counter products are, in most cases, quite safe as long as you follow the directions. Professional teeth whitening (both in-office and at-home versions) is usually overseen by your dentist, so any problems that arise can be addressed before they become more serious.
Professional treatment is, on average, quicker and more effective as they use stronger whitening solutions than over-the-counter products. This could mean fewer treatments to achieve your desired result.
Be aware that professional at-home teeth whitening is a process that usually takes longer than in-office treatment. This is due to the amount of hydrogen peroxide being used. In-office treatments can use up to 43% hydrogen peroxide. This is because the dentist is there and can control the amount of hydrogen peroxide and how it is used.
Take-home treatments normally use around 5% of hydrogen peroxide. While this does mean the treatment will take longer, there is less risk if you accidentally make a mistake during treatment. Remember, the lower amount of hydrogen peroxide is for your safety.
Over-whitening or whitening too frequently might cause damage to your teeth or gums, so be sure to discuss the protocol your dentist recommends for you and let them know of any questions you have. Your dentist is there to assure you of the safety of the treatment.
Are there side effects to teeth whitening?
If the solution comes into contact with your gums, the most common side effect is temporary gum irritation. Any irritation that occurs as a result of this will most likely go away after the treatment. However, if you become concerned, you should contact your dentist.