(03) 9857 3988     |     333 Doncaster Road, Balwyn North VIC 3104
17 November 2022

Do whitening toothpastes work?

Brushing and flossing twice a day is a routine that was instilled in us from a young age. However, it takes more than diligent scrubbing to keep our teeth light and bright. Many foods and drinks contain colour agents that could potentially stain teeth. And as we age, our teeth age too, with the enamel – the whiter outer layer of the teeth – thinning away, exposing the underlying yellower dentine of the tooth.

The demand for whiter teeth has become one of today’s most popular cosmetic dentistry requests. Many treatments can offer you whiter teeth. One end of the spectrum is teeth whitening toothpaste, while the other is porcelain veneers to achieve your dream smile. With so many whitening treatments on the market (especially the tempting lower-cost options such as whitening toothpaste and at-home teeth whitening kits), knowing which is best for you might not be obvious.

So how do whitening treatments work? The majority of whitening products contain one of two active ingredients: hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide in varying concentrations. Put simply, they penetrate the enamel to reach the discolored molecules in your tooth. Oxygen molecules from the whitening agent react with the discolored molecules in your teeth, breaking the bonds that hold them together, making the color less concentrated and your teeth brighter.

Types of teeth whitening options:

  • Non-professional teeth whitening gels, strips, and toothpaste: There are a whole host of whitening gels, strips and toothpastes that are sold directly to consumers on the local supermarket shelves, pharmacies and the internet. Their efficacy and safety needs to be considered carefully – we will return to those later on!

  • Teeth whitening at beauty salons and non-dentist supervised establishments: While most beauticians offering teeth whitening treatments would undergo a quick training course in providing the treatment, they don’t have the required training to diagnose and address issues like cavities, hum disease and/or gum recession prior to administering whitening to your teeth. As a result of these concerns, this practice has already become illegal in many states of Australia.

  • Professionally-applied whitening procedures: These include take-home kits and in-chair whitening solutions. This is by far the safest option and can have a dramatic effect on the overall look of your smile.

    Whitening toothpaste considerations

    Whitening toothpaste has a limited ability to whiten
    Unfortunately, toothpastes advertising whitening powers often don’t do the trick, as their whitening solution doesn’t stay on the teeth long enough or is in high enough concentrations to deliver on the paste’s promise. Most of our clients report a minimal , if any, brightening of their smile with long term use of these toothpastes. Many whitening toothpastes also use abrasive ingredients to remove surface stains from stains due to coffee, red wine, and cigarette smoke, for instance. Over time, this abrasiveness can wear away tooth enamel, resulting in increased sensitivity and vulnerability to plaque, gum recession/disease and tooth decay.

    Dr Shawn Rama recommends using a toothpaste that isn’t abrasive: “When selecting any toothpaste, take a pea-sized drop of the product between your fingers. If it has a grainy texture, it’s too harsh and could damage the enamel and gums of your teeth in the medium to long term. Suppose you wish to use a non-abrasive whitening toothpaste. In that case, we advise you to use it as part of a maintenance regime after a professional whitening treatment to maintain the bright, white smile.”

    Choose toothpaste based on your needs
    You may long for white teeth; however, if you have a high risk of gum disease or cavities, toothpaste with the right therapeutic benefits might be more appropriate than teeth whitening. Your dentist can guide you with the right toothpaste to suit your needs.

    It may cost you more
    While it may seem time and cost-saving to opt for over-the-counter products, they can take forever to have any results and, even worse, could potentially do more damage to your teeth. Therefore you may be spending unnecessarily while growing frustrated at the lack of results. In addition, not all teeth whitening products are created equal, and the darker your teeth are, the stronger the whitener you may need; but this must be weighed against any deterioration of the teeth structure through the formulation. Through a cosmetic consultation at The Dental Room, we can discuss a range of safe teeth whitening options with you, including the best way to maintain your results.

    A dentist’s opinion is your best bet when it comes to whitening
    Whitening should be just one part of a wider oral care routine. A professional dentist will always be able to whiten better and quicker. Before considering any teeth whitening options, Dr Shawn recommends speaking with a cosmetic dentist about your concerns, goals, and expectations. This will help resolve the matter quickly, and your dentist can provide your desired whitening results more effectively.

    A dentist will first diagnose the cause of the discolouration of your teeth. There are many reasons teeth can be discoloured, which can be divided into intrinsic and extrinsic discolourations. Then, a recommendation can be provided depending on the cause, the health of your teeth, and your desired outcomes. Using other whitening methods on your own without the guidance of a cosmetic dentist may leave you shooting in the sky.

    What does teeth whitening at The Dental Room involve?

    Professional whitening is always the best and fastest form of teeth whitening. Whitening agents administered by your dental professional would have a higher percentage of active ingredients, producing more immediate and noticeable results. Professional teeth whitening treatments provided by your dentist are also a much safer option as they are approved by the Therapeutic Goods of Australia (TGA)’s safety standards.

    At the Dental Room, we use the trusted Philips Zoom Teeth Whitening procedure, the very latest in laser teeth whitening treatments. It has been proven to whiten teeth up to eight shades lighter, and it is also completely safe when used to our instructions.

    We can offer clients three Philips Zoom teeth whitening options: either a 60-minute in-chair LED whitening procedure, or they can opt for a simple take-home whitening kit with custom trays designed for use for just 30 mins a day for two weeks. Both in-chair and take-home whitening treatments deliver the same end results in different ways. Alternatively, clients can opt for a combination of both.

    While the 60-minute in-chair whitening procedure is quick and can be done within a single session, you may experience temporary sensitivity for up to 24 hours because the concentration of the whitening agent we use is a lot higher. To minimise sensitivity issues, we recommend the take-home teeth whitening kit which offers the same results with a more gentle approach. Plus, it’s a more cost-effective option compared to the in-chair system!

    Alternatively, if you insist on getting the one-hour in-chair whitening system for convenience, we strongly recommend combining the treatment with take-home custom trays to help maintain your pearly whites every three months.

    The results of teeth whitening will vary between individuals. It isn’t realistic to expect an ‘Overly White Hollywood Smile’ after a teeth whitening session, and we don’t think it looks great anyway! What you can expect is a cleaner, fresher and more youthful smile.

    It is also important to note that while the results are permanent, they are not forever. Depending on your lifestyle, the teeth will gradually discolour. It is recommended to re-visit your dentist for another teeth whitening session every 12-24 months for maintenance.

    And how can The Dental Room naturally reduce teeth staining or discolouration?

    To make any form of whitening effective, Dr Shawn advises that you have your teeth and gums professionally cleaned. “This way, your teeth and gums are in top form, and absent of any accumulated plaque that could otherwise create a contrasting effect after the whitening efforts. And not to mention, you’ll also be on top of your dental health,” Dr Shawn says.

    You might not know that healthy gums are essential for brighter teeth. If your gum health isn’t in tip-top shape, bleaching is not advised. However, inflamed, puffy gums can indicate poor oral hygiene, leading to compromised brushing and flossing due to sensitivity.

    Am I too old for teeth whitening?

    You are never too old for teeth whitening. In fact, we highly recommend teeth whitening for our mature clients. Teeth whitening treatments can help improve the shades of your teeth regardless of your age to give you a fresher and cleaner smile. It is such a simple process and an effective way to combat the issue of aging yellow teeth.

    With age however, comes dental health issues that may get in the way of teeth whitening. If you have caps, crowns, and fillings, unfortunately they don’t respond well to teeth whitening agents. Injuries that impact the tooth’s root can also lead to discolouration, which can’t be whitened. Our team of dentists will be happy to assess your suitability and be able to give you realistic expectations and work out the best solution for you.

    Top tips for keeping your teeth brighter

    Beware of staining foods and drinks
    Instead of cutting back on the tooth-staining foods and drinks that you like, make mindful choices. Stay hydrated by drinking water; this will help maintain brightness. When drinking fizzy drinks, always use a straw to remove the liquid from the teeth. The phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ can ring true: biting into textured foods, such as an apple, can help to remove plaque in between brushing and flossing. After consuming items such as tomato sauce, coffee, wine, and fizzy drinks, try to brush as soon as possible. This can make a huge difference in reducing teeth stains.

    Following your whitening treatment, allow for a buffer
    For 48 hours after a teeth whitening treatment, allow your enamel to recover and rebuild. Teeth are porous; therefore, anything with staining powers can fester inside those pours much more easily during this vulnerable period, undoing the great work of the brightening process. Avoid foods with heavy colourings, such as tomato sauce, berries, coffee, and red wine.

    Use a Sonic / electric toothbrush
    Using an electric toothbrush such as a Sonic toothbrush allows for a deeper clean and enables you to reach between the tooth and gum line in a way that a manual toothbrush can’t. Ensure you are angling the brush, so it brushes right up to the gum line.

    Keep up a good daily brushing and flossing routine
    Brush twice daily and floss once daily to keep teeth brighter for longer. This will reduce staining but also ensure excellent oral health. And, of course – visit your dentist every six months for routine cleanings and checkups.

    Slow things down for longer-term teeth brightening results
    It is true what they say: slow and steady wins the race. It’s much safer to try slower, spaced-out treatments rather than quick fixes with unsafe formulas.

    To summarise, most teeth whitening products, including whitening toothpaste, can help brighten your teeth in several shades and are safe, as long as you choose the right abrasive level of toothpaste and never veer from the manufacturer’s instructions. However, to ensure ultimate safety and effective results, seek the help of a qualified cosmetic dentist such as Dr Shawn Rama at The Dental Room.

    If you are interested in hearing more about teeth whitening at The Dental Room, please give us a call on (03) 9857 3988 to book a cosmetic consultation. A $170 pre-payment fee is required to secure the appointment.

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