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Tooth whitening: what you need to know

It’s true: tooth whitening is a quick, relatively simple way to brighten a smile.

Whether you opt for the quick in-chair method, or prefer to use your custom trays every now and then for a freshen up, it’s important to know that tooth whitening is not a solution for everyone.

Certain stains respond well to the bleaching process. These include discolouration from normal ageing, tea, coffee, wine and certain foods (think blue berries, pomegranate, balsamic vinegar) Nicotine stains can do well. For best results, heavy smoking stains may require an initial professional dentist or hygienist clean prior to using whitening products.

When tooth whitening doesn’t work

Some teeth are stained intrinsically – that is within the tooth structure. This can come from certain medications, including a type of antibiotic. In this case, bleaching the outside of the teeth will not brighten a smile.

In addition, where teeth have had repairs – crowns, large fillings, veneers etc – the restoration material will not respond to the whitening process. In this case, using home whitening kit will lighten everything except the repair. Instead of hiding it, this restored tooth can now be more obvious.

Too much of a good thing?

Long term excessive bleaching can give a poor outcome in individuals with naturally thinner tooth enamel – resulting in apparent greying of the teeth.

The good news is, your dentist can advise you on whether tooth whitening will work for you.

About the different tooth whitening treatments

Over-the-counter:

Some “whitening” tooth pastes contain abrasive substances -like baking soda- which risk damaging tooth enamel in the process of brightening your smile.

Dentist custom trays:

You receive a take-home kit allowing for bleaching in the comfort and convenience of your own home. And importantly, at your own pace.

Custom-made plastic trays from a mould of your teeth mean a comfortable and snug fit. A good fit means more comfortable splints which also minimise leakage of bleaching compound which can irritate the gums. It is still common to experience short-term gum sensitivity.

Normally this process is done over a couple of weeks (or less), and it is possible to buy more bleaching compound for future top-ups.

Dental in-chair whitening:

Whitening done in the dental chair produces the fastest and most dramatic results. Of course, as it makes use of the most concentrated whitening agents, gum sensitivity can be more pronounced with this process.

It can be ideal prior to a wedding or special occasion

As with many things, there’s a little more to whitening teeth than the adverts let on. For peace of mind, and the results you dream of – check with your dentist first!

Bli Bli Smiles…for the teeth of your life

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