Do you want to try teeth whitening but are unsure what to expect? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Here are five things you should know before making your first appointment!

1. Does teeth whitening damage your teeth?

Contrary to popular misconception, teeth whitening does not thin the enamel and is not hazardous to your teeth! A substance known as hydrogen peroxide/urea peroxide is the primary active component in teeth-whitening materials. Hydrogen peroxide breaks up and releases free radicals during oxidation, which breaks down stains on your teeth into smaller molecules. Because these molecules have a larger surface area, they reflect more light, making your teeth appear brighter.

2. Can you whiten your teeth at home?

You certainly can. However, getting your teeth whitened by a professional will be far more effective than a home whitening product. This is due to the significantly greater dosage of hydrogen peroxide that can only be used by dentists. If you take the required measures, such as avoiding smoke, coffee, or tea, the whitening effect can last up to three years.

If you plan to do it at home, you should visit a dentist before beginning the process. Then, obtain the pre-fabricated/custom-made tray and apply the whitening gel as directed. The procedure typically takes 1 to 2 hours (some products may be left overnight) and can be done as many times as necessary to get the desired shade. The disadvantage of this procedure is that it takes time and may take up to a week to see effects.

3. How long will the effects last?

It is usual for the whitening effects to return slightly in their shading following therapy. This is normal and should happen gradually, but it can be sped up by exposing the teeth to different staining agents.

Coffee, teas, tobacco products, ketchup, red wine, or any food/beverage with colourings should be avoided if you want your teeth to stay brighter for longer. Wearing a take-home tray or using whitening toothpaste as maintenance is also advised.

4. What are the potential side effects of teeth whitening?

Teeth sensitivity is one of the most prevalent symptoms following teeth whitening. In fact, 75% of patients have experienced varying degrees of sensitivity, mainly when their teeth touch cold liquids.

However, the sensitivity is very temporary, lasting up to three days. It will not affect the pulp in any way (which contains nerve endings). This may be avoided by using anti-sensitivity toothpaste containing potassium nitrate and sodium fluoride.

If the whitening gel penetrates the gums, it may cause inflammation. However, the impact will wear off after 3 hours. Dental teeth whitening treatments are generally safe to use every 6 to 12 months.

5. Why are my teeth discoloured? Is teeth whitening effective?

Teeth discolouration can be addressed by teeth whitening or other solutions, depending on the underlying reason.

Intrinsic staining occurs while a tooth is still growing or has already erupted into the mouth. This type of discolouration is more difficult to cure with whitening alone. Unfortunately, multi-coloured/two-toned teeth, such as tetracycline staining (or similar) caused by drugs, are tough to whiten.

Extrinsic staining is less challenging to remove. Food particles bond to plaque coating on your teeth’s surface and enter through minor fractures and crevices. Teeth whitening, particularly chairside teeth whitening, is typically more successful against mild-moderate extrinsic discolouration than over-the-counter solutions.