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What is tooth whitening?

Whitening is a procedure designed to lighten the colour of your teeth. When done properly it will not harm your teeth and gums.

There are various reasons for the discolouration of teeth and according to the discolouration, therefore the results of tooth whitening can vary. As dental professionals, we classify teeth under different shades. We have found that people with dark yellow or yellowish-brown teeth tend to bleach better than people with grey or bluish grey teeth.


Will tooth whitening harm my teeth?

Teeth whitening done correctly is safe and it does not work by stripping enamel from your teeth! Older over the counter whitening toothpaste contained harsh abrasives that scoured away the stains and took off a layer of enamel at the same time. Professional tooth whitening does not do this.

Tooth enamel is made up of thousands of tiny tubes called "enamel rods". Over time, the stains on the tooth's surface become trapped between the tubes which we regard as "intrinsic stain". These stains get plugged by organic matter. Professional tooth whitening removes the plug and penetrates the enamel to lift off the stains. The whitening gel then deactivates, exits the tooth and after a few weeks the organic plug reforms.

The most effective and research proved bleach material is 10% Carbamide peroxide with thickener. In fact, one of the side effects of this product is effective to remove bad plaque, reduce caries bacteria and elevate PH level, so we use it successful on elderly people who have compromised dexterity for successful long-term oral hygiene care.


Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is the single most significant deterrent to bleaching.  Beaching sensitivity may result from a combination of your pre-existing tooth an gum conditions, the chemical nature of the product and frequency of application.

Fluoride has not been particularly beneficial in treating bleaching sensitivity. The primary mechanism for fluoride action is to increase hardness of enamel but bleach molecule is so small that it still can get into nerve chamber.

Potassium nitrate (active ingredient of Sensodyne toothpaste) has a completely different mechanism of action than fluoride. Potassim nitrate penetrates enamel and dentine to travel to nerve chamber and create ‘anesthetic-like effect’ on the nerve.

At thorough Dental Care, we developed a protocol to minimize sensitivity: prebrushing with desensitizing toothpaste, use bleach material effectively containing potassium nitrate (eg. Opalescence PF). We found it is far better to avoid the sensitivity than to treat sensitivity after it occurs.


Types of Whitening

Home Whitening
This involves wearing a custom made whitening tray filed with a gentle whitening gel. The tray looks like a thin, transparent night guard. You need to wear the whitening trays from 1- 4 weeks. Overnight wear is ideal, otherwise 2-4 hours daily is recommended. It is the safest,  most cost-effective whitening treatment available.  The main disadvantage of the home whitening is the inconvenience of wearing the whitening trays and the results depend on your consistency during the whitening period.

In-Chair Whitening

This is carried out in the dental surgery and takes 1- 1 ½ hours. It utilises a stronger whitening gel to facilitate the whitening. You are also given home whitening trays to take home to top up afterwards and to keep for future top ups.

Over-the-Counter Products

There are more and more OTC materials available as 'suck strips', wraps and paint-ons. We have concerns over safety issues:

  • Lack of diagnosis for proper treatment, it may mask pathology
  • Potential for less aesthetic outcome, because filling are not identified and filling or crowns cannot be whitened, so this method may lead to mismatching filling and tooth
  • Unknown safety of higher concentration, unknown quality of product for some company
  • You may not receive maximum benefit available for whitening due to shortened treatment time and ineffective product