Can you start off by explaining the difference between stain removal and teeth whitening?
Jerome: Food, drink and, most obviously, smoking creates pigments which adhere to the surface of your teeth, causing stains. Stains happen more often on the places that are difficult to reach with brushing – between the teeth and just above the gum line. Unlike whitening (also known as bleaching), removing stains does not change the colour of your teeth, but it does help reveal your natural tooth colour, so it is an effective way to brighten your smile. Brushing your teeth and flossing regularly helps minimise staining. However, if the stains on the enamel cannot be removed, this is when you might want to think about whitening, either professionally or using an over-the-counter product.
Amelia: Stain removal is usually done when you have a hygiene visit. It uses ultra-sonic jets and abrasive polishing paste to remove surface or external stains. Teeth whitening is when hydrogen peroxide is used in some form of gel to actually change the colour of the tooth.
What causes teeth yellowing?
Jerome: Four main factors cause teeth yellowing: diet, smoking, illness and poor oral hygiene. Certain foods that are high in tannins, such as red wine, cause yellow teeth, but actually some of the most common causes of tooth discolouration are from coffee and fizzy soda. Smoking is one of the top causes of yellow teeth and the stains can be really stubborn to remove.
Sunita: Over the course of time, the natural whiteness of our teeth can fade and our day-to-day lifestyle habits can have an impact on the colour of our teeth. Whitening treatments can help restore the natural whiteness of teeth.
How does teeth whitening work?
Jerome: Whitening gels contain an active whitening ingredient that penetrates the enamel to get to the discoloured molecules. Oxygen molecules from the whitening agents react with the discoloured molecules in your teeth, breaking the bonds that hold them together. The oxygen molecules spread, whitening the entire tooth. As a result, you are left with a brighter and whiter smile.
Can you explain the different types of professional teeth whitening available?
Amelia: There are two different types of professional teeth whitening. At home, prescribed whitening is where the dentist will take moulds of the mouth to provide the patient with specific trays to fit their teeth. They will then prescribe a whitening gel which the patient will wear in the trays, at home, for a certain number of hours a day for a short course (advised by the dentist specific to the patient). If needed, this can be ‘topped up’ at a future date at the patient’s convenience. This takes a bit longer to get the desired effect, but usually within one to two weeks.
Chair whitening is where higher doses of hydrogen peroxide will be used to whiten the teeth – again in moulds, but in the dental chair, usually during an hour’s appointment. This is done in a dental setting because the higher doses can be damaging to the gums and surrounding tissues if not carefully applied and monitored. Therefore it’s safer to be done under supervision of the dentist. This tends to have a quicker whitening effect, but it does require re-attendance at the practice for a top-up if needed.
What can you expect in a whitening appointment?
Jerome: You will have a full oral examination, checking for possible cavities or gum problems that may need resolving before the whitening treatment. A full mouth hygiene check will also be completed to make sure all the stains and plaque are removed before the whitening process begins. Possible allergies and teeth sensitivity will be checked to ensure you’ll have no pain or problems while undergoing the whitening procedure.
Amelia: If you are dentally fit for bleaching, then the first appointment will be to take moulds of the teeth. This involves using a putty-like material in a tray, which is placed at separate times in your upper and lower jaw for roughly one minute and then removed. This provides a mould of the teeth which the dental lab will make the bleaching tray on. The second appointment will change depending on whether you have chosen to do at-home or in-chair bleaching.
And how long does it last?
Amelia: How long your teeth stay white is hugely variable. Ultimately it depends on the colour and status of a person’d teeth prior to the whitening process and also any existing long-term habits. If you smoke or drink lots of red wine after your whitening, they will fade quicker. Case by case, the dentist should have a rough idea on what to expect in terms of lasting effects. Most often top-ups are needed within a year from initial treatment.