Let’s talk teeth whitening!
Actual proper whitening, not “whitening” toothpastes that are pretty much regular toothpaste – read this blog for my take on that.
How does “proper” teeth whitening work?
Well, to have any effect on intrinsic staining – that’s stains inside the tooth – you need to use an agent that can penetrate the layers of the tooth. Plain old oxygen is what 99% of whitening products use. It’s well researched, and safe. Carbamide peroxide (aka urea hydrogen peroxide) or hydrogen peroxide are what you’ll see on the ingredients list. Once applied to teeth, these agents break down and release oxygen. These oxygen molecules then react with the discoloured molecules inside your teeth, breaking the chemical bonds that hold them together.
We’re all different, and so are our teeth. As we age, our teeth will appear less white. Some people’s teeth respond better to whitening than others. It’s easier to whiten yellowish or brownish discolouration, and harder to whiten greyish discolouration. Some types of staining, like tetracycline staining, are very hard to treat and should be assessed individually by your dentist.
I’ve been asked how some people get those blinding white teeth. Usually, the answer is veneers. Or, they get regular, in-chair power whitening at their dentist. Or, maybe they just won the genetic lottery.
Teeth whitening isn’t for everyone
It’s a very personal thing, like our choice of makeup or hair colour. Clean teeth that appear yellowish are not in any way unhealthy teeth. Canine teeth will always appear more yellow than front teeth due to their thicker dentine layer. Personally, I know that I feel happier when I have whiter teeth. And there’s nothing wrong with that either!
As for the best way to whiten teeth? Basically, there are two effective ways. You can have your teeth whitened by your dentist or hygienist – this is called in chair whitening. The benefit of this is that they have assessed you and your teeth, and can personalise the treatment. They can use a much stronger whitening gel as they will apply a barrier that prevents the gel from touching and irritating the gum tissue. This of course means a quicker, whiter result. The negatives – it’s expensive and more likely to cause sensitivity.
The second option is a low to mid strength home whitening kit. These will often come as gel inside a syringe with some mouth trays, or sometimes the gel will be inside a pen or impregnated into a strip. The benefits are less sensitivity, lower cost, and you can do it in your own time. It will take longer as the whitening is gradual, and you’re unlikely to end up with blinding white teeth. However, you can still get a really nice, natural white result.
Is tooth whitening safe?
Yes, when used as directed. There are a lot of studies looking at the safety of tooth whitening. The most common side effects are temporary tooth sensitivity and mild gum tissue irritation. These can be prevented or minimised by carefully following the whitening instructions you’re given. And I always smear our sensitive toothpaste over my teeth immediately after whitening.
Once you have safely whitened your teeth to the shade you want, they can stay that way for 6 months up to a year. Here’s a couple of tips to get the most out of your whitening, and prevent future staining: Avoid strong coloured foods and drinks, or use a (reusable) straw. Don’t smoke – if you need another reason to give up!
Tooth whitening has been regulated in NZ since 2010 and this is a very good thing
I remember buying a dodgy high strength home kit online when I was younger and sillier. I got white teeth, but also very sore, white gum tissue!
I’ve just developed a teeth whitening kit for Solid. I wanted to make something that worked but was gentle and simple to use. It’s a low-mid strength hydrogen peroxide paint on system, which eliminates the need for mouth trays and UV lights. And it’s not the plastic filled nightmare that most other whitening kits are. Like all Solid products, it had to be something I’d use on my own teeth. We’ll be releasing this in the next month or two, so hop onto our mailing list to get notified if you’re not already.
June 2023 update: We have just released Solid Teeth Whitening 🥳
Note: I don’t recommend using sodium chlorite or phthalimidoperoxycaproic (PAP) acid whiteners these as there is less research on their long term effects.