We’ve asked our dental hygienist and tooth whitening expert, Sarie Liebenberg, to answer a few of our questions regarding teeth whitening. Sarie has more than 20 years of experience in the field of home and in-office teeth whitening and has lectured internationally, sharing her knowledge and experience.
How does teeth whitening work?
A tooth with its porous outer membrane will allow whitening agents such as peroxide to penetrate its surface within 15 minutes. Whitening products contain an active ingredient of either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen ions, also known as whitening molecules, as it is absorbed into the tooth. These oxygen whitening molecules remove the yellow pigments that have built up in teeth from the absorbsion of stain molecules in tea/coffee and highly coloured foods. The action of the oxygen molecules cause the stains to dissolve, allowing teeth to regain their natural white appearance.
Is teeth whitening harmful to the teeth?
No, teeth whitening in the hands of dental professionals does not damage the tooth layers or integrity of the tooth. It is a gentle procedure if the right products and procedures are used.
Why do some people have yellow teeth?
Just like the colour of your skin and eyes, we are born with a certain tooth colour that we genetically inherit from our parents. The outer layer of the tooth above the gum line is called the enamel and underneath the enamel is a thick layer called dentine. The colour of your teeth is determined by the colour of the dentine, not the enamel. The dentine will shine through the enamel. This means, the darker the dentine, the darker/more yellow the tooth will appear.
Who should have teeth whitening done?
Teeth whitening is an excellent way to enhance your smile. Some dental defects might be less visible when the colour of the teeth is improved. It is recommended to consider the health of your teeth and gums first, before doing some whitening. But saying that, often patients lack motivation to be disciplined in taking good care of their teeth. Teeth whitening often creates a new motivation to looking after your teeth. Anyone who wants to improve their smile should consider teeth whitening.
Who should not get their teeth whitened?
– Pregnant and breast-feeding women.
– Children younger than 18 years old.
– Patients who already have anterior (front of the mouth) crowns/veneers/composite bonding.
– Orthodontic patients with white spot lesions.
Is teeth whitening effective?
I’ve never encountered a patient that has had no response to a teeth whitening treatment. It is highly likely that you will see some improvement of the colour of your teeth. But it is impossible to predict how many shades lighter your teeth will be. Some products are more reliable and effective than others. My advice will be to always make sure you go for a quality product that is tried and tested and recommend by your dentist/dental hygienist.
How long do the results last?
How long does a suntan last? No whitening result will last without maintenance. Once you have undertaken your initial teeth whitening and the desired result has been achieved, you can easily and effectively maintain the result with one application every 30 days or so. This can be achieved by using custom made trays that your dental professional will create by taking impressions of your mouth prior to your in-clinic whitening appointment.
These snug, customs made trays will ensure the whitening gel will not leak out onto the gums. All of this doesn’t mean that you will see a decline in colour in 30 days, but the idea is to keep the initial result. If proper maintenance isn’t practiced, your teeth will gradually get darker with time.
What is the difference between in-clinic teeth whitening and at-home teeth whitening?
In-clinic whitening is a treatment in the clinic by your dentist or dental hygienist. If you don’t experience any sensitivity while undertaking the procedure it can be finished in one visit of approximately 90 minutes. This means you see results instantly. If you do have some sensitivity, the sessions can be broken down into 2, 3 or 4 X 15-minute sessions.
At-home whitening is applied by the patient at home. The whitening gel is applied daily for a week or two. There is a gradual change of colour of the teeth. The biggest advantage of at-home teeth whitening is that it is much more affordable.
A final few words from Sarie…
A smile is the most beautiful accessory you can wear. With a little enhancement of the colour of your teeth, your smile can be even more beautiful. When we smile, we create instant happiness. Not only for ourselves, but for everyone around us. You can’t help but smile back when someone smiles at you. It is simply contagious. What a wonderful world we live in…..