If you’d like a brighter, whiter smile, understanding just ‘how does teeth whitening work?’ will help you to appreciate why professional whitening treatments are so much more effective than the procedures you try at home. That’s because you need to penetrate your tooth enamel, in order to lift stains and tooth discolouration. Let’s take a closer look at the treatments that are available on the market, and what you can expect from whitening treatment.


Why Do Teeth Become Discoloured?

We all start life out with white dentin. Dentin makes up the biggest percentage of your teeth, and is a layer of porous material that sits below your enamel and cementum. As we get older, the dentin becomes more yellow and, as we expose our teeth to various substances like red wine, coffee and tobacco products, they exacerbate the yellow colour. Tooth discolouration is a natural consequence of ageing, and one of the reasons that teeth whitening can make you look younger instantly.


So, How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

In order to whiten teeth, teeth whitening products need to penetrate the enamel of your teeth, in order to get to the dentin. This requires a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide, but it also requires a special formulation to protect your tooth enamel and remineralise your teeth at the same time.


Over-the-counter Products

Over-the-counter teeth whitening products like whitening kits, gels and whitening strips tend to be ineffective because they are too weak to remove intrinsic stains. Only suitably qualified professionals are permitted by Law to administer whitening products that contain more than 6% hydrogen peroxide, for your safety, store-bought whitening strips generally don’t fit well enough or adhere to all surfaces of the teeth, while the gels tend to be too weak.

Whitening toothpastes usually contain abrasive substances and only really work on extrinsic or surface stains, but they run the risk of damaging your tooth enamel. Products claiming to be natural, containing ingredients like baking soda, charcoal and acidic substances can also cause damage to your teeth and should be avoided. Remember that even the toothbrush you use should be soft bristled, so abrasive substances should be avoided so as not to damage your teeth.

At-home Whitening Products

Take-home whitening products can be used under the supervision of your dentist but they may take a few days or weeks for results to be noticeable. If you do opt for a take-home kit it is very important that you have a pre-whitening check up and clean by your dentist. This is to ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy and that your mouth is free of decay and weaknesses in the enamel.

home Whitening

Take-home whitening treatments are usually administered in trays that are customised to your mouth shape. You will dispense a small amount of bleaching agent into each compartment and place the tray in your mouth for a period of time determined by your dentist. 

At-home teeth whitening products must only be used as directed, which means you should not leave them on for longer than instructed or use them for longer than recommended by your dentist. 


In-chair Whitening Treatments

In-chair whitening is still the fastest safest and most effective way to achieve your teeth whitening goals. This is because your dentist is permitted to use the highest concentration of hydrogen peroxide in whitening products. Your dentist is also the best qualified to manage the situation in the event that something does go wrong in your procedure.

Your dentist will also treat each tooth individually and make sure your end result is even and natural looking. 


What To Expect From A Whitening Treatment

After inspecting your teeth and cleaning them to remove all traces of plaque and tartar, your dentist will protect your soft tissue and then paint a thin layer of bleaching agent evenly onto each tooth. He or she will shine a light onto your teeth to activate the whitening gel. The gel is left on for approximately 15 minutes before being rinsed off. This process may be repeated two or three times in your session. Most patients find that one session is enough for them to achieve their whitening goals. 

Some patients report slight tooth sensitivity after a whitening treatment but today’s products are so sophisticated, the effects do not last for very long and most people can resume their usual activities (like going back to the office) straight away. Patients who have very stained teeth may need to return for another session.


How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?

Your results will not last forever, and will depend on what you expose your teeth to afterwards. If you continue to smoke and drink lots of coffee and red wine, you can expect your bright smile to fade faster than if you reduce or quit those habits. You should discuss top up whitening treatments with your dentist before your first session so you know what to expect.


Still wondering ‘how does teeth whitening work’? Please contact us for an appointment: (03) 9626 9581 

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