Understanding The Teeth Whitening Facts & Myths

Chairside Teeth Whitening
15 May 2017

Understanding The Teeth Whitening Facts & Myths

I was having dinner with my usual girlfriends and some new acquaintances when the conversation shifted to my interesting occupation as a dentist. New friends always get amused when they find out I am a dentist. They are always interested to know how one can stare at teeth for almost 365 days a year.

Surely the conversation will shift to personal dental questions (best way to get a free dental consult). Over the years, I have been asked countless times “I am afraid to whiten my teeth as I heard it can harm my teeth and make them thinner.”

Today, let’s debunk the teeth whitening myths and learn more about how the teeth whitening process works.

Is Teeth Whitening Safe and Does It Damage Teeth Enamel?

In short, professional teeth whitening does not damage your teeth enamel.

But firstly, let us understand what makes a tooth appear white.

The outer part of a human tooth is made of a tissue known as the enamel. The enamel is composed of different minerals – hydroxyapatite, which is a phosphate of calcium, is the most prominent mineral. Calcium is naturally white in colour, and this explains the colour of our teeth.

teeth whitening enamel

However, the enamel is not perfectly white and contains shades of grey and yellow as well. Though it’s the hardest human tissue, it allows light to travel through it and is translucent. This brings the layer under the enamel called dentin, into the picture. Darker and more yellow than enamel, dentin plays a role in imparting colour to your teeth. So, it’s a simple enough relationship – the thicker the enamel of the teeth, the whiter they are.

With this understanding, it definitely would not make sense to have a teeth whitening procedure that removes enamel, as the teeth will appear more and more yellow.

Teeth whitening gels that are made of either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide are very safe for your teeth.

25% hydrogen peroxide is commonly used for Chair-side whitening such as Zoom, while the milder carbamide peroxide is used for take-home kits.

The products I use are often carefully curated and I would try procedures on myself first before deciding on the system of choice. Zoom whitening kits include a syringe of Relief® ACP Oral Care Gel which contains potassium nitrate, to help manage sensitivity. This is given to patients to bring home.

I use Opalescence gel for take-home whitening kits. Opalescence whitening gel contains PF (potassium nitrate and fluoride), which helps maintain the health of enamel throughout the whitening process. All gels are of neutral pH and are not acidic, which is the common misconception.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

Oxygen molecules from the whitening agents react with the discoloured molecules in your teeth, breaking the bonds that hold them together. The oxygen molecules spread, whitening the entire tooth. The other byproduct of the gel is water so the whole whitening process is really safe and non-invasive.

teeth whitening science

Will Teeth Whitening Cause Sensitive Teeth?

After the teeth whitening session, the teeth will temporarily become more sensitive for around 24 hours. This teeth sensitivity is due to the dehydration of the teeth as we whiten. As such, sensitivity is mild and temporary. Once the moisture returns over 24 hours, the sensitivity disappears.

There are many ways to manage teeth sensitivity. We give patients desensitising toothpaste to brush with over a week before whitening, desensitisers post-treatment and if you are really nervous, we also offer anti-inflammatories you can take just before the whitening.

How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?

Well, I always tell patients, teeth whitening is the reverse of suntanning. The teeth whitening effects can fade and it really depends on our diet and social habits.

Does it mean we can no longer drink coffee and red wine? No, not at all. I do not abstain. I tell patients if you are not fussy, and just like things whiter than before, then just come in once a year, sit on the chair, enjoy movies on our overhead TV, relax, and leave with whiter teeth.

If you are fussy and really want your pearly whites white all the time, you have the option to get a customised take-home maintenance kit.

take home teeth whitening kit

Image: The Take-Home Teeth Whitening Kit consists of a clear custom-made tray and a whitening gel

I personally use the take-home maintenance kit for a touch-up. The trays are customised for comfort and it ensures an even layer of gel over the teeth. I have a choice of doing it for 15 minutes a day, or to wear it overnight, depending on the gel concentration. I only need to do it every 3 months over 3 days to get my smile back to va va voom status.

Should You Go For Teeth Whitening?

I recently had a new mom come in. She said her daughter’s first-month celebration was a week away. Being a new mom, she was planning the full works, with a huge party, and a photographer to capture every precious moment.

The only problem was she did not lose the weight as fast as she liked (I definitely felt that pressure—to look skinny like all those celebrities straight after popping a little human being out!)

She said she was feeling depressed, before it dawned upon her that she could do other things to look pretty. She did her hair, went for a facial and decided to whiten her teeth! She knew there was no way she could lose 5kg in 1 week, but she knew there were many things she could do in a short time to look good. What a smart lady!

Teeth whitening is one of the best options to go for. You feel good about yourself, it makes you want to smile at everyone you meet, to show off those white teeth. And when you smile, your whole body fills up with natural feel-good hormones.

Interested to get your teeth whitened? Check out our teeth whitening services here!

Want to show off a gorgeous white smile?

Get your appointment with Dr Lynette Ng today. Your brighter smile is a click away!

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About Author


Dr Lynette Ng

Dr Lynette Ng is an experienced Prosthodontist and Dental Director at The Dental Studio (TDS). She manages a team of associate dental surgeons specialising in Orthodontics, Prosthodontics, Periodontics, and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Dr Ng graduated with numerous awards, including the IADR Gold Medal and Dean's List, from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery. She also completed specialist training in Prosthodontics through a conjoint Masters of Dental Surgery with the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.

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