Should I be Whitening my Teeth?
There are lots of advantages in getting your teeth whitened. When you smile, people take notice, and a brilliant white smile can give you new found confidence that people will instantly notice. It gives your appearance an instantaneous lift. Whiter teeth are associated with a healthier, happier lifestyle. Also a whiter smile tends to minimise the appearance of facial wrinkles, and helps to give way to a more youthful appearance.
However,teeth whitening is not for everyone. Before choosing to whiten your teeth it is important to see your dentist to determine if your teeth are suitable for the treatment. Teeth whitening is not recommended for everyone because of various issues relating to gum and tooth sensitivity, the natural colour of a person’s teeth and presence of fillings, crowns and veneers.
Unlike many untrained operators offering teeth whitening treatments, only dentists can assess a person’s suitability for the treatment. Without a proper assessment it is not possible to rule out any permanent side effects or other risks associated with the process.
If administered by untrained individuals, whitening procedures can cause discoloured teeth, heightened tooth sensitivity and gum problems.
When Assessing your Teeth for Whitening, your Dentist will:
- Ensure your mouth is healthy before whitening commences
- Look for grey or yellow discolouration and diagnose the cause of any discolouration
- Discuss with you the best method to whiten your teeth
- Advise if there are factors which may influence the whitening process (e.g. antibiotic staining)
- Assess whether your fillings, crowns and veneers need replacement (as these won’t change colour)
- Identify areas of gum recession
- Discuss possible tooth sensitivity and how it may be managed
- Teeth whitening should only be carried out on people who have their adult teeth, unless otherwise advised by a dentist
What can go Wrong?
For many people teeth whitening poses no serious risk if done correctly. However, if you choose the wrong treatment for your teeth or that treatment is applied incorrectly (e.g. whitening products are often used too frequently or applied for too long a time) then some damage can occur.
- Reduction in the hardness and strength of enamel
- Damaged and inflamed gums
- Severe tooth sensitivity
- Irritation and possibly bleeding in the oesophagus and stomach if some of the bleaching agent is ingested
- If you have crowns, veneers or fillings these will not change colour at all after bleaching so you could end up with multicoloured teeth
- On the product side, some whitening treatments are very highly concentrated and are well over the officially recommended level of 6% for the active whitening ingredient. Find out what’s in the product you want to use as they can range from 3% to 35%!
What Results can I Expect?
Depending on the cause of the discolouration results can range from impressive to disappointing so it’s important to understand what can reasonably be achieved before you go ahead with any whitening procedure. The reality is that most people will achieve a one or two shade change but many will see no change at all. What works for one person will not work for another. Again, our experience team will be able to advise you.
Resource: ADA teeth whitening fact sheet [PDF download link]