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Teeth Whitening - the facts

Teeth WhiteningOne of the hottest topics I get asked about is teeth whitening, how does it work, who can do it and do the whitening toothpastes actually work.

Let’s start at the beginning, I have had many, let’s call them debates, with people who claim they are qualified to provide whitening, the fact of the matter is, the only people actually qualified to whiten teeth are – yep you’ve guessed it dentists.

The Dentists Act makes it illegal for anyone who is not a dentist to give “treatment, advice or attendance” that would usually be given by a dentist. Handing an individual a tooth whitening tray and advising them on application, amongst other things, could constitute the giving of “advice or attendance” and would be illegal.

In my own experience I have treated a patient who bought a $1 gel online and irreversibly damaged 2 teeth and required 2 fillings. Some illegal gels are acidic, designed to dissolve the stains and will therefore damage the teeth.

Normally a dentist will exam your teeth and gums and give you advice on how to proceed with whitening, most of my patients use a whitening tray which is like a soft gum shield in which whitening gel is placed and then the tray is placed on the teeth for a period during the day or night, dependent on the change desired and the shade variation.

The gels all contain pretty much the same thing, carbamide peroxide which reacts with the teeth and effectively the oxygen component penetrates the teeth surface and ‘bleaches’ it. The gels come in different strengths either 9.5% to 16% and in the concentrations we recommend are non-toxic. The teeth are not weakened and whilst occasionally I have adjusted the levels for patients who report some small areas of soreness generally due to the tray, in some instances the gel can actually benefit the gums.

Everyone’s teeth react differently to the process and some react very quickly whilst others take more time, the starting shade has a lot to do with it, if you have teeth with dark shades then it’s going to take longer to lighten them and you should only need to do it every 3-4 years, again everyone is different.

All in all there is minimal adverse risk for you, when you see an appropriately qualified dentist, please don’t risk it, give me or the team a call and we’ll happily walk you through the best options and the results you could expect.

4th November 2016

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