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A brighter, whiter smile can increase a person’s confidence and make a smile look more healthy and vibrant, but the problem often lies in finding the right teeth whitening solution that best suits your needs. 

But before getting into the nitty-gritty of teeth whitening treatments, you may be asking the question how does teeth whitening work

Essentially, there are two methods of teeth whitening. Professional chairside teeth whitening supervised by your dentist and carried out either chairside or at home; or over the counter whitening treatments that you buy from your local store.  

Teeth whitening is, in reality, a very simple process utilising either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to whiten teeth – essentially though, these are one in the same thing. The difference lies in the concentration of peroxide contained within the whitening treatments. 

Here in Australia for example, it’s illegal to sell over-the-counter teeth whitening products that contain more than 6% hydrogen peroxide or 18% carbamide peroxide. However, dentists are allowed to use professional whitening treatments on patients containing between 15 to 38% hydrogen peroxide in a clinical setting. Inevitably, what this means is that patients typically see better results, faster, when they opt for professional teeth whitening methods.  


So how does teeth whitening work exactly?

treatment how does teeth whitening work west rydeIrrespective of whether you opt for dentist-supervised teeth whitening or over-the-counter products. The process should be the same.

Once applied to the teeth, the bleaching agents enter the tooth enamel through microscopic pores. This causes a chemical reaction that dissolves the staining compounds lifting them out of the enamel leaving the teeth looking cleaner and brighter. 

As already mentioned, several whitening treatments trigger this basic process. So, let’s take a look at the main ones. 


Chair-side Teeth Whitening

Chair-side teeth whitening treatments carried out at the dental clinic involve the use of hydrogen peroxide carefully tailored to the needs of the individual patient. 

Before carrying out teeth whitening, a dentist will ensure a patient’s teeth and gums are healthy. This means no gum disease and no cavities. Both may react to the whitening process causing sensitivity. 

Assuming that both teeth and gums are in good condition, a protective barrier is put on the gums and a hydrogen peroxide whitening gel is applied directly onto the teeth. Depending on the brand, some dentists use a high-intensity light to accelerate the chemical reaction to the bleach. 

Either way, the gel is left for several minutes, rinsed off and reapplied a few more times until the desired shade of whiteness is reached. The best thing about chairside teeth whitening is that teeth can appear several shades lighter in less than an hour. This makes it the perfect lunch-hour appointment.


Dentist-supervised take-home whitening trays

Take-home whitening trays are also provided by many dental clinics for those that prefer to whiten teeth at home. Patients are issued with custom trays and provided with the whitening gel to fill them with. These are worn over the teeth for around 2 hours during the day or overnight as a person sleeps, depending upon the brand. 

Since the concentration of peroxide is lower than that of chairside whitening, custom-trays typically need to be used for 10-14 days, and sometimes longer to achieve noticeable results. Most importantly though, patients need to ensure that they have the willpower and the time to get the results they want to achieve.


Finally, over the counter whitening treatments 

These products also utilise carbamide or hydrogen peroxide but the strength or whitening power is usually much less. While it isn’t always mentioned on the packet, it’s best to get your teeth cleaned at the dentist, have any cavities filled and ensure your gums are healthy before starting any teeth whitening procedure. 

The most popular DIY teeth whitening products are whitening strips which are easy to use and can be relatively effective. These are typically made from polyethylene and coated with peroxide and are applied to the front of the teeth according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Most teeth whitening strips are worn once or twice a day for the length of time stated on the packet and usually for around 2 weeks. Results may be seen within a few days and once complete, a maintained degree of whiteness may last around 4 months.

The biggest concern of using over the counter whitening treatments is that not every customer is a suitable candidate for teeth whitening plus you have no dental professional to supervise treatment should you run into any problems. 

Furthermore, not every mouth contains rows of perfectly straight teeth, so whitening strips might not cover all of the tooth surfaces. This often leads to uneven whitening, gum irritation, and disappointing results.


The takeaway

So now we have answered the question “how does teeth whitening work” it’s clear to see that dentist-supervised teeth whitening provide the better option for those seeking safe, reliable and long-lasting results. 

Sure, the cost may be slightly higher, but can you really afford to take risks with your oral health?

If you’re considering teeth whitening then why not book an appointment with the friendly dental team at MyDentist West Ryde. We provide Opalescence chairside whitening and Opalescence custom take-home trays for your convenience. 

Call us now at (02) 8073 9338.