What You Need To Know Before Getting A Teeth-Whitening Treatment

Teeth are like fallen angels: they come into the world pure and white, but their exposure to the world’s cavity-inducing evils taints their pristine complexion. Over time, it’s inevitable that teeth will ‘wear’ certain beverages—or even foods—you consume. Their natural white colour is the perfect ‘canvas’ for all these stronger, bolder hues. Drinkers of coffee, tea, cola, or red wine will be particularly affected. The darker the drink is, the deeper the stain will be.

If your teeth have seen better days, you may want to look into professional teeth whitening. Sure, there are over-the-counter solutions such as bleaching strips, teeth-whitening lights, and whitening toothpaste. However, these are more ‘surface’ fixes that neglect the root of the problem—pun not intended. Professional teeth-whitening procedures are safer, faster, and more thorough. Their customiseable nature ensures they delve beneath the surface (stains).

Image: Primary Dental

In a professional teeth-whitening session, your dentist will apply whitening gel to your set of pearly (albeit yellow-tinged) whites. They will activate the gel’s whitening effect by using clinical-grade UV or LED light technology. This speeds up the whitening process, and the appointment should take about 45 minutes in total. Though more expensive, this process is more timely and thorough than home-based treatments. It’s also safer, so the bleaching agent attacks stains without irritating ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide.

Is teeth whitening safe for my teeth?

So long as it’s done correctly, teeth whitening is a safe procedure. It’s for this reason that we recommend professional teeth-whitening treatments over over-the-counter solutions. The latter of these is high in hydrogen peroxide, which—along with similarly potent bleaching agents—can weaken tooth enamel. Compromised tooth enamel, of course, is a slippery slope to gum disease or teeth sensitivity.

Professional treatment, on the other hand, is performed by a dentist. They will prescribe home whitening kits for follow-up, home-based maintenance. These kits contain a customised tray, as well as lower doses of peroxide. You’ll have professional guidelines and lower doses of the enamel-attacking ingredient for an all-around safer experience. Plus, you can always speak to your dentist about any further concerns.

Your dentist will take a unique impression of your teeth to create your custom whitening tray.

How white are we talking?

Straight up: you may not look like celebrity teeth-whitening endorses—or any celebrity that boasts a literal million-dollar smile. (Heads up: some of them may have used the best teeth-whitener of all: Photoshop.) Seeing as teeth whitening is a process of stain removal, your teeth can only ever be as white as their original, ‘fallen angel’ selves. It’s important to manage your expectations in accordance with yourself and your genetics. Don’t look to fabricated Instagram snaps for inspiration, lest your results fall short of your expectations.

How long will my teeth stay like that?

Sorry to break it to you, but teeth-whitening is not a permanent solution. In a best-case scenario, you will walk out of your dental practice with a smile 15 shades white than before. However, expecting this to last forever is like expecting to stay toned after one workout. White teeth require maintenance.

How long before a pearly-white smile fades away? It varies from person to person. If you brush regularly and consume minimal teeth-staining beverages (i.e. coffee, black tea, or red wine), your smile could dazzle for six months straight. If you love your lattes, drink tea like it’s water (which, we suppose, it technically is), or enjoy a regular glass of red, then you’re probably looking at a life expectancy of a few weeks.

What should I do post-treatment?

If there ever were a time to abstain from the aforementioned caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, it would be the first seven days following treatment. During this time, your teeth’s pores are open and receptive to incoming colours. For this reason, it’s strongly advised you avoid consuming anything that could stain a white T-shirt. Common examples include:

  • Coffee
  • Black tea (that includes black tea with milk—which is arguably worse, anyway. Tea drinkers: ever notice that your white mug’s interior sustains worse stains from milky—rather than straight—black tea?)
  • Cola
  • Red wine
  • Berries
  • Fruit juices
  • Sauces
  • Smoking.

Once the seven days elapse, your teeth’s pores will close again, ‘locking in’ its current appearance. Throughout the seven-day period, the stains you sustain will be the stains you retain.

For a week following the treatment, think of your porous teeth as this table—only you won’t be able to wipe the stain clean.

Should I get my teeth whitened?

Unlike regular dental checkups, whitening is not typically a vital component of dental health. The treatment is cosmetic and ultimately optional. If, for instance, you’re not willing to part with your daily cuppas or lattes, teeth-whitening may not be a worthwhile investment. On the other hand, there may be cases for necessary treatment—for example, teeth dishevelled by years of tobacco smoking.

Ultimately, it comes down to you, your budget, and whether or not you are prepared to put the money and maintenance into a pearlier set of pearly whites.

Elaine Allen
the authorElaine Allen