Many of us feel insecure about the colour of our teeth. If you want a brighter smile, you may be researching your teeth whitening options. But is teeth whitening safe?
The rise of the perfect smile
The increase in social media stars and celebrities with ‘perfect’ smiles combined with easier access to teeth whitening products has led to a global market worth around 6.14 billion US dollars in 2020 and is forecast to grow to 8.21 billion US dollars by 2026.
Where once a dazzling white smile was a luxury limited to the super-rich that could afford teeth whitening treatment, nowadays you only have to walk down the aisles of any local supermarket to find an array of teeth whitening strips, whitening toothpaste and kits.
Why do teeth discolour?
If your teeth are looking yellow, there’s no need to feel distressed. It isn’t always an indicator of how healthy or unhealthy your teeth are.
Teeth naturally darken with age as tooth enamel thins, and the foods and beverages we consume also affect the colour of our teeth. Conversely, a gleaming smile doesn’t mean that your teeth are free from cavities.
So, now you know the reason for tooth discolouration, let’s get back to the question of safety.
Is teeth whitening safe?
The quick answer is yes, provided it’s carried out by a qualified dental professional.
While professional teeth whitening is the most expensive option, it offers the best and longest-lasting results. The cost of professional teeth whitening does, however, depend on the type of treatment, the location of the clinic, and the clinician’s experience.
How safe is teeth whitening?
Professional teeth whitening means just that –a skilled clinician must carry it out. You could be putting your oral health at risk by having your teeth whitened by anyone else.
Teeth whitening is a form of cosmetic dentistry and should only be conducted by qualified dental professionals – something you may not be aware of.
In Australia, only dentists are allowed to use teeth whitening products containing over 6% hydrogen peroxide and 18% carbamide peroxide. Teeth whitening carried out by anyone without dental qualifications not only puts your oral health at risk but is illegal.
While you may save money on booking a teeth whitening treatment with your local beauty salon, it could cost more to have any damage repaired by a dentist than to pay for professional teeth whitening in the first place.
Some materials used by non-dental professionals to illegally whiten teeth can cause complications such as tooth sensitivity, burns to the mouth and gums, and swelling to the lips and tongue. This can leave a person in great pain, and in some cases, may cause surface damage to the tooth enamel.
You can quickly check if the person whitening your teeth is registered by visiting the Ahpra Register of Practitioners.
Explore your options
You will find that you have options even in professional hands. Some dentists offer in-chair (at the clinic) teeth whitening, or they may prescribe a custom teeth-whitening kit for you to take home.
Home whitening prescribed by a dental professional is equally as effective as in-chair whitening. It depends on whether you would prefer instantly whiter teeth or would rather whiten your teeth at a time convenient to you and have more control over the end result. Generally speaking, take-home whitening is the cheaper of the two options.
With in-chair teeth whitening, patients can expect their teeth to lighten by several shades. In most cases, results should last for a good six months or longer. We usually recommend patients top up their treatment with at-home whitening to keep their smile brighter for longer.
Other teeth whitening treatments
Over the counter whitening – Whitening kits available from your pharmacist or supermarket will contain less than 6% peroxide and, therefore, won’t be as effective as professional teeth whitening. These products are safe when used as instructed, although there is a risk of the whitening gel coming into contact with gums if the whitening trays are not a good fit.
Whitening toothpaste – is another option out there, but it will take several weeks or months of regular use before any change in the colour of your teeth is noticeable.
DIY teeth whitening – methods for sparkling teeth, including baking powder, lemon juice, and hydrogen peroxide, are ineffective and can be dangerous. So steer clear of them.
Can anyone have their teeth whitened?
Not everyone is suited to teeth whitening. We ask patients to attend an initial consultation to ensure their teeth are in good shape. People with untreated cavities, gum disease or sensitive teeth need to resolve these issues before going ahead with teeth whitening treatment. Pregnant or breastfeeding mums or anyone allergic to hydrogen peroxide should also avoid teeth whitening.
Patients need to be aware that existing restorations, including fillings, veneers and crowns, won’t respond to bleaching, so it’s best to talk to your dentist and work with them to achieve your desired result.
Hopefully, this has answered your question, “Is teeth whitening safe?”
Your best bet for whiter teeth is to seek professional advice from the friendly, experienced dental team at Beyond Dental Care. We provide take-home whitening kits using Pola Night and can discuss other teeth whitening options.