Bridget March in Harper’s Bazaar describes what to be aware of before whitening your teeth at home.
For most of us who enjoy a red wine, black coffee or green juice, our teeth can be far from the pearly whites of a “Hollywood smile”. But while quick-fix stain treatments sound tempting, the kickback can be the cost to our oral health.
Dr Peta Leigh from award-winning dental and orthodontic practice, Elleven, believes teeth whitening should always be carried out by a dentist, either as an in-chair treatment or with a professional at-home kit.
“Products available on the high street do not contain enough active ingredient of Hydrogen Peroxide or Carbamide Peroxide to have any real effect on the tooth colour,” Dr Leigh says. Not only that, they can be dangerous. Here, she explains the problems with some of the most popular DIY teeth-whitening tactics.
“Teeth whitening strips are reasonably priced and easy to order, and if you have used them you will have noticed a brighter and whiter smile. However these strips, when used excessively, can cause damage and painful sensitivity to your teeth. You may also find that white spots occur on your gums which is not ideal; the strips themselves do not actually get into the crevices between teeth so you may see uneven colour. If you are going to use whitening strips then it is best to stick to the recommended usage of no more than one course a year.”
Over-the-counter UV kits
“Although DIY kits bought over-the-counter claim to be safe, research has shown that they can lead to stomach problems, mouth infections, toothache, gum-shrinking and nerve damage. It is best not to use these kits as they can also cause spotted or patchy teeth due to an uneven spread of bleach.”RELATED STORYThe dos and don’ts of teeth whitening
“Paint-on teeth whitening pens are very commonly used to treat individual teeth that you might feel need to be whiter. This process may work but due to the small percentage of hydrogen peroxide in the solution, the effect will be minimal. You may experience some mild gum irritation and tooth sensitivity, however as these pens should not exceed the 6% of hydrogen peroxide legally available in the EU and are usually much lower. As a result, this also means that you probably will not see much improvement in the colour either so my advice is to steer clear except for the occasional quick fix.”
Bicarbonate of soda toothpaste
“Bicarbonate of soda is a natural teeth whitener, so using toothpaste that contains this ingredient will help to whiten your teeth in the short-term. However, these toothpastes can be more abrasive to the tooth’s enamel and if used repeatedly over time they can weaken the enamel which will make your teeth more sensitive and vulnerable to dental cavities. Cavities are irreversible and only get worse with time so if you are going to use a flouride-free toothpaste, limit it to once a week and if you experience any burning or tingling sensations then stop immediately and rinse your mouth out with water.”
“Oil pulling to whiten teeth and improve overall oral health has become increasingly popular with many celebrities endorsing the trend; however, there has been no evidence to date that this method works. Oil pulling involves swishing a tablespoon of oil around the mouth for 15-20 minutes; this then supposedly draws out toxins in your body and your mouth, improving your oral health and in turn, whitening teeth as stains are drawn out and removed. If you are going to try this technique make sure you do not substitute your regular visits to the dentist as it will not reverse tooth decay or help extensively to whiten teeth. Some stains may be removed, but regularly visits to the dentist are still essential and it is advised that whitening treatments must always be carried out by your dentist.”RELATED STORYThe surprising reason chin fillers are on the rise
So, what are the effective–and safe–options for a brighter smile?
Professional at-home teeth whitening: Elleven use custom fabricated whitening trays, and design a protocol for you to whiten your teeth at home with a range of different strength whitening gels to minimise sensitivity and maximise results. This option gives you control of your end result, usually achieved within three-four weeks.
In-chair teeth whitening: At Elleven they use a two-part whitening solution combining an active oxygen foam infused with nano-hydroyapatite (bio-bleaching) that is able to adhere to the tooth surface. The active foam repairs enamel and delivers six per cent hydrogen peroxide to the teeth. The results are a whiter, smoother tooth surface less likely to stain in the future. A concentrated nano-hydroxyapatite serum is then applied to the teeth which remineralises and repairs the tooth surface, leaving no sensitivity or damage to the enamel.