Teeth whitening has evolved quite a bit in the last 15 years but has actually been around for thousands of years. Many substances from sand to urine have been tried and tested to keep gnashers looking pearly white. Luckily in this day and age the process is a lot more straightforward and much more hygienic!
When I started out in dentistry, the way to bleach your teeth was to take impressions of your upper and lower teeth, and make custom trays from these moulds. You then placed the bleach into these trays, and slept with them in overnight. Normally over a period of two weeks.
Since then many other methods have become popular, mostly involving laser or LED light bleaching. This method of tooth whitening was done in the dental chair and could take up to an hour. The drawback however was that the results were often unpredictable, and the bleaching effect was lost very quickly. Sometimes within two weeks. The teeth did certainly seem to be whiter initially but we now know this was mostly down to the tooth becoming dehydrated. So when the bleach was removed, and the patient’s teeth rehydrated the colour seemed to darken again.
Which Teeth Whitening Method is Best Now?
So in the last 5-7 years I have slowly stopped the in house whitening and concentrated on the at home whitening method that I used when I first graduated! The method is the same but the bleach is even better. You can see on the photo below the results we can get from home whitening kits. This was a patient who did two weeks home bleaching with our ‘Boutique’ bleach. I can also assure you that the photo has not been tampered with at all. It’s that good!
Is Teeth Whitening Safe?
A new European Council Directive which regulates the use of hydrogen peroxide – the chemical used in tooth whitening products – came into force on 31st October 2012.
Tooth whitening products containing over 6% of hydrogen peroxide are now illegal and their sale is prohibited. Patients must also be over the age of 18 to get their teeth professionally bleached.
Whitening gels and toothpastes that you can buy over the counter or purchase at whitening centres or beauty clinics can only contain up to 0.1% hydrogen peroxide. Products containing more than 0.1% and up to 6% can only be administered in the first instance by a dentist, and thereafter on the prescription of a dentist.
Tom Feeney, the IDA representative on the Council of European Dentists, said the new regulations enhance patient safety by stipulating how and by whom tooth whitening should be carried out.
“If someone wants to have their teeth whitened they will have to have a clinical examination and first treatment by a dentist. The dentist must examine the patient to determine whether tooth whitening is a suitable treatment option and to ensure the absence of risk factors in the mouth. After that the patient will be able to continue the treatment by him or herself.
Bleaching must be Carried Out by a Dentist
There is still a lot of illegal bleaching being carried out by non health professionals. This is very dangerous for many reasons. Firstly there is a big danger of cross infection from patient to provider and vice versa if the provider is not trained correctly. Secondly if the provider is not a dentist, a proper examination of the mouth is not carried out. Undiagnosed caries, gum disease, exposed roots, and dental infections can cause the patient to have extreme pain if bleaching is carried out.
Are There Any Teeth Whitening Methods Available Apart From Bleach?
There are of course other over the counter whitening methods available if you don’t want to bleach your teeth. There are many good toothpastes, mouthwashes, and dental strips that you can use to help improve the colour.