Tooth whitening is a popular and effective procedure that is one of the easiest ways to restore beauty and confidence to your smile. Whitening treatments are safe, effective and involve a minimum of time and fuss to get results. But before you take the plunge into teeth whitening, there are a few steps you need to follow first.
Contrary to popular belief, tooth whitening isn’t for everyone. The whitening process might not work or be right for you, and you may be wasting time and money on a procedure that won’t give you the results you want.
You shouldn’t whiten your teeth if you:
· Are pregnant or breastfeeding. While you CAN whiten your teeth while pregnant, it’s usually better to wait until after the birth for non-urgent dental treatments such as whitening. While experts don’t know for certain that whitening chemicals may cause harm to a developing baby, it’s best to hold off until after you’ve finished breastfeeding. Whitening gels contain chemicals that if ingested or absorbed during the whitening process, may potentially harm the baby.
Teeth whitening should especially be avoided in the third trimester, as it may become quite uncomfortable to lie still for the length of time required to perform a whitening procedure. If you’re whitening your teeth with an at-home kit, the level of hydrogen peroxide should be no more than 6%. Higher levels can potentially cause tissue damage.
· Have sensitive teeth
If you have particularly sensitive teeth or are allergic to peroxide, you should avoid tooth whitening.
- Haven’t lost all your baby teeth. Your baby teeth will be a different colour to your adult teeth. Because the enamel on adult teeth is thinner, they are usually not as bright a white as baby teeth. You will need to wait until all your adult teeth have come in, so that they can be properly assessed to determine how much – if any – whitening treatment is necessary.
- Have had a lot of dental work done and don’t have all your original teeth. Whitening treatments are completely ineffective on dental restorations such as fillings, crowns, veneers or bridges. These restorations are created from materials, such as porcelain and resin, that don’t bleach. This means that if you undergo whitening treatment, your teeth will display two different shades. This is probably not the look you want! Whitening treatments only work on natural tooth enamel, and will leave your restorations the same colour they were. For this reason, it’s best to undergo whitening treatment before any major restoration work is done. This allows the dentist to colour-match the restoration to your newly whitened teeth.
- Are under the age of 16. Tooth whitening is usually not recommended for children under the age of 16. The nerve of the tooth is usually enlarged until this age, and teeth whitening could irritate the pulp or cause sensitivity.
- Have internal stains on your teeth caused by trauma, decay or long-term use of antibiotics. Stains such as these will not be removed even by professional-grade whitening products. Whitening treatments will be able to effectively remove stains caused by eating, drinking, smoking and ageing – but not other types of stains.
You may need to consider a different treatment to deal with this type of staining.
If any of these factors apply to you, consult your dentist to determine if another treatment might be more suitable, or if whitening might be a possibility at some point in the future.
Have a dental check-up
If you want whiter teeth, the best place to start is with a healthy mouth. This means starting with a dental check-up to assess the state of your teeth and gums before beginning any whitening treatment. Undertaking any whitening procedure is not recommended without first consulting a dentist. Any existing dental problems you have will need to be diagnosed and treated before you start the whitening process. Failure to do so may aggravate existing problems and cause you to experience pain or discomfort. An expert opinion and treatment will give you the best chance of achieving a beautiful white smile AND a healthy mouth.
Get your dental problems treated first
After your teeth and gums have been assessed, your dentist will determine what treatment needs to occur before you begin the whitening process. Any dental problems will need to be treated first before you can go ahead with whitening. While this may involve extra time before you can get your whitening treatment done, you’ll be much better off in the long run by treating your problems first. Just keep this in mind if you have a specific event (such as a wedding) that you’re whitening your teeth for, and be sure to leave yourself enough time.
Choose your whitening method
Once you’ve determined you are a good candidate for tooth whitening and have had any dental problems treated, you can go ahead and choose which whitening method is the best fit for your individual circumstances. This should be done in consultation with your dentist, as each procedure has its advantages and disadvantages. Procedures range from quick and effective in-chair treatments at the dental clinic, to at-home treatments you carry out yourself over the course of a few weeks, to whitening toothpastes. Which treatment you choose will depend on your budget, your timeframes and your goals.
Determine your shade of white
Your dentist should be able to help you determine what shade of white you’d like to achieve. You want a shade that will give you a bright and natural-looking smile without looking too falsely white. The shade of your eyeballs is a good guide. Keep in mind that teeth will usually whiten up to two shades. You can use a shade guide to compare your current shade with your goal shade, and to determine whether your treatment has achieved
the desired results. This is particularly important if you’re whitening your teeth at home, so you know when to stop the treatment and avoid over-whitening your teeth.
Get your teeth cleaned pre-treatment
You will achieve the best results from your whitening procedure if you have your teeth professionally cleaned by a dentist before you begin. This will allow the whitening products to work more effectively by removing build-ups of plaque and tartar that may be present on your teeth. A good dental clean will also remove any surface stains on your teeth, meaning that your whitening treatment will be even more effective.
Maintain a good oral hygiene routine
Once your teeth have been professionally cleaned, you can also aid the process by maintaining an excellent dental care routine in the weeks leading up to your treatment. Maintaining really good oral hygiene will prevent issues from arising that may affect your treatment. Brush and floss thoroughly each day to give yourself the best chance of a pleasing result.
Desensitise sensitive teeth
Temporary teeth and gum sensitivity is a fairly common side-effect of teeth whitening procedures. It won’t last long and is usually nothing to worry about – but you might like to consider the use of a desensitising toothpaste, particularly if you’re prone to sensitive teeth. Start using a desensitising toothpaste two weeks prior to teeth whitening. This will reduce any discomfort after the procedure by helping to block the transmission of pain signals from the tooth to the nerve.
Following these steps will ensure you get the best out of your procedure, and will enjoy your brighter, whiter smile for as long as possible. Remember to always consult your dentist before commencing any treatment.