A dazzling white smile is one look that never goes out of style. Magazines, TV, and social media are crammed with images of celebrities showing off their pearly whites. Chances are few of these stars are naturally blessed with perfect teeth, and there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to help them achieve these results. Cosmetic treatments are becoming more affordable, and DIY alternatives are more prevalent – but how much do we really know about the safety of these procedures and are the results ever guaranteed? Between 2015 and 2019, the global teeth whitening industry is expected to grow by 3.4%, thanks to the long-held belief that a beautiful smile is a powerful social asset. From laser teeth whitening to specialist toothpaste, the industry is booming. With this growth comes the increase in cosmetic dentistry claims as more and more people fall foul of unregulated and unlicensed products and practitioners. Being fully educated about the various options available for teeth whitening is the best way to ensure a safe and effective experience.
What works? The most effective form of teeth whitening is bleaching carried out by a dental professional. The first method uses a hydrogen peroxide solution and a strong light to activate the ingredients. The second method involves fitting custom mouth trays and periodically using a hydrogen peroxide gel to gradually whiten the teeth.
Both methods are highly effective, but might not be suitable for everyone.These methods will only work on natural teeth, and won’t work if the enamel is excessively worn, or if the teeth are already very sensitive. Provided the treatment is administered by a registered dentist or dental hygienist, it is a very safe and effective treatment. What doesn’t work? Although teeth whitening toothpaste and mouthwashes may help to remove some surface stains and prevent further staining, there is little evidence that they can lighten the teeth by any measurable amount. Although some may contain small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, the concentration and stability are rarely enough to be effective. That said, they are effective at maintaining good oral hygiene, which is often the first step to stopping dental stains in their tracks.
What are the risks?
As with any cosmetic treatment, the results of teeth whitening can vary depending on a range of factors. The biggest complaint following a teeth whitening procedure is increased sensitivity, which can vary from slightly increased irritation when eating hot or cold food, with sharp pains in the teeth which last for several minutes. This will often go away with time, but the use of whitening trays should be discontinued if the sensitivity is problematic. Another possible side-effect is gum irritation or inflammation, which is considered a chemical burn. This is comparable to sunburn, which can be a strange sensation to feel on the gums.
This is a particularly common problem with unregulated practitioners carrying out the procedure, as the concentration of hydrogen peroxide can often be too high, or the gums may not be protected. And finally, another potentially damaging effect is uneven whitening. This can happen as a result of the improper application, or when the teeth are unsuitable for whitening procedures, but an inexperienced practitioner carries out the whitening anyway.