Having gleaming white teeth is no longer out of reach with so many do-it-yourself (DIY) teeth whitening products readily available online or in pharmacies.
The price of an at-home teeth whitening procedure? No more than $10 to $50.
Products range from whitening toothpastes (under $10) to DIY teeth whitening products in the form of gels, pens, strips or mouthpiece trays, costing between $20 and $50. With so many options, do you still need professional teeth whitening?
“DIY teeth whitening products can help to whiten your teeth, but be prepared for uneven whitening results and possible side effects of over-bleaching,” says Dr Christina Sim, a Senior Consultant with the Prosthodontic Unit of the National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS).
“Over-the-counter tooth whiteners come with fixed amounts of bleaching gel, either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. In some products, the concentration of these bleaching ingredients may not be strong enough to sufficiently lighten discoloured teeth. The results may be insignificant. Others may contain chemicals that cause erosion of teeth or gum sensitivity,” adds Dr Sim.
What are the benefits of professional teeth whitening?
The most common teeth whitening procedures performed by dentists are professional in-office bleaching and dentist-supervised home bleaching.
Professional in-office bleaching involves a visit to the dentist where teeth are whitened within one to two hours using a laser procedure. The dentist calibrates the amount of bleaching gel suitable for your teeth.
Dentist-supervised home bleaching is slightly more complicated. The dentist makes a precise mould of your teeth and custom-designs a bleaching tray which you wear for a couple of hours every day.
The custom-fit tray holds just the right amount of bleaching gel and ensures bleaching is evenly distributed on all tooth surfaces. The dentist will monitor the results and your reaction to the bleaching gel over a few weeks.
Myths of teeth whitening products
Teeth whitening can remove all stains.
Not true. Teeth whitening removes intrinsic stains found inside the tooth. However, not all intrinsic stains can be lightened as some stains such as those caused by decay require the removal of the decayed tooth tissue followed by the placement of a filling material. Extrinsic stains do not require tooth whitening. These stains can be removed by a thorough prophylaxis (scaling and polishing). Products that remove extrinsic stains usually do so through the use of abrasive particles.
Teeth whitening is permanent.
Not true. Professional teeth whitening by a dentist can last two to three years. The results from DIY teeth whitening will vary from product to product.
To maintain your sparkling whites, you need to practise good oral care. Frequent flossing, rinsing after drinking coffee and tea, and quitting smoking can help to prevent tooth discolouration.
Teeth whitening is for everyone.
Not true. Teeth whitening is not suitable for children under the age of 16. Also, people with worn tooth enamel, receding gums, sensitive teeth, untreated cavities, and heavily restored teeth should consult a dentist before undergoing any teeth whitening procedures.
What you should know about DIY teeth whitening
Be prepared for uneven results.
Commercial, standard-size mouthpiece trays may not fit your teeth precisely. Besides the discomfort, any spillover of bleaching gel onto the gums may cause gum irritation and sensitivity.
Also, your saliva may dilute the whitening strips and gels, making them less effective.
Result? You may end up with teeth of different shades due to uneven bleaching.
Beware of over exposure to abrasives and bleaching chemicals.
Overzealous use of DIY teeth whitening strips, gels and trays can damage tooth enamel. Some whitening toothpastes contain harsh abrasives like silica and their overuse may erode tooth enamel.
DIY teeth whitening may be cheaper than professional teeth whitening. But if you want fast and uniform results, consider letting the dentist do the job.
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