Professional Teeth Whitening: Worth the Investment?

July 4, 20230



  1. Introduction


In a world where first impressions can make all the difference, a bright, white smile has become a sought-after attribute for many individuals. Not only can it boost confidence, but it can also be a reflection of good oral hygiene and health. This is particularly pertinent in a social and professional landscape where communication and interaction are central to our everyday lives.


Professional Teeth Whitening is a dental procedure that has gained considerable popularity in recent years, and for good reason. This safe and effective treatment offered by dental clinics, like ours here in Australia, provides a quick and noticeable improvement in the whiteness and brightness of one’s smile.


However, maintaining naturally white teeth can be a challenge due to a range of factors. Teeth staining is a common dental concern among Australians and can be attributed to a variety of reasons. Lifestyle habits such as smoking or consuming teeth-staining foods and beverages, like coffee, tea, and red wine, can lead to discolouration over time. In addition, factors such as age, medications, and certain health conditions can also result in tooth discolouration.


In this blog post, we’ll explore the intricacies of professional teeth whitening and discuss whether it’s a worthwhile investment for those seeking to refresh and enhance the appearance of their smile.


2.  Understanding Teeth Whitening 


Teeth Whitening


Teeth whitening is a popular dental treatment that aims to lighten teeth and remove stains and discolouration. This process involves the use of products that contain a bleaching agent, typically hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which works by breaking stains into smaller pieces, making the colour less concentrated and your teeth brighter.


There are primarily two types of whitening options: surface whiteners and bleaches


Surface whiteners are products like toothpastes and chewing gums. They work by using special abrasives that can remove surface stains on your teeth, but they can’t change the natural colour of your teeth or lighten a stain that goes deeper than a tooth’s surface.


Bleaches, on the other hand, are products that can alter the colour of your teeth to a lighter shade. Bleaching products contain peroxide(s) that can remove both deep and surface stains. In a professional teeth whitening session, dentists may use a higher concentration of bleaching agent for more effective and immediate results.


It’s also important to understand the reasons behind tooth discolouration to gain a better appreciation of teeth whitening. Teeth can discolour due to various reasons:


  1. Extrinsic factors: These are external factors such as consumption of certain foods and drinks (coffee, tea, red wine), tobacco use, and regular wear and tear.


  1. Intrinsic factors: These are internal factors that can cause tooth discolouration. This could be due to certain medications, trauma, ageing, certain types of infections, or even genetics.


  1. Age-related factors: This is a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors. The core tissue of your teeth, the dentin, naturally yellows over time. The enamel that covers the tooth also gets thinner with age, which allows the dentin to show through.


It’s crucial to note that not all types of discolouration can be successfully treated with teeth whitening procedures, and it’s always best to consult with your dental professional to explore your options.


3. The Professional Teeth Whitening Process


Professional teeth whitening is a multi-step procedure that requires expertise and precision. Here’s a step-by-step overview of what you can expect during a professional teeth whitening session at a dental clinic.


Initial Consultation: The first step in professional teeth whitening is an initial consultation with your dentist. This consultation allows your dentist to examine your teeth, assess your oral health, and determine if you are a suitable candidate for teeth whitening.


Cleaning: Before the actual whitening procedure begins, your dentist will clean your teeth to remove any plaque or tartar build-up. This step ensures the whitening treatment can effectively penetrate the teeth’s surface.


Protection of Gums: Your dentist will apply a gel or use a rubber shield to protect your gums from the whitening solution. This is crucial as the whitening solution can irritate or harm the gums if they come into direct contact.


Application of Whitening Agent: Once your gums are protected, your dentist will apply the whitening gel to your teeth. This gel contains a strong concentration of peroxide, usually hydrogen or carbamide peroxide, which is much higher than the amount found in over-the-counter whitening products.


Activation of Whitening Agent: In some cases, the dentist may use a special light or laser to activate the whitening gel. This accelerates the whitening process and enhances the final result.


Rinsing and Repeating: After the whitening agent has been activated and left on the teeth for a certain amount of time, usually between 15-30 minutes, the dentist will rinse it off. Depending on the degree of staining and your desired level of whitening, this process may be repeated one or more times in the same session.


Aftercare: Following the procedure, your dentist will provide you with specific aftercare instructions to help maintain the results. This can include avoiding certain foods and drinks that can stain teeth, as well as maintaining a good oral hygiene routine.


The entire professional teeth whitening process is typically completed in one session, but sometimes more than one visit may be required to achieve the desired shade of whiteness. The procedure is usually pain-free, but some people may experience temporary tooth sensitivity following the treatment.


Remember, it is always advisable to consult with a dental professional to understand the best teeth whitening option for you, taking into account your dental history, tooth health, and specific needs.



4. Comparing Professional and At-Home Teeth Whitening


professional teeth whitening


Both professional and at-home teeth whitening options can improve the appearance of your smile. However, the methods differ in various aspects, including their effectiveness, time commitment, side effects, risks, and costs.


Effectiveness: Professional teeth whitening typically offers more significant results in a shorter time frame compared to at-home kits. The strength of the bleaching agent used by dental professionals is much higher, resulting in a brighter smile after just one session. At-home kits, on the other hand, often require consistent use over several weeks or months to achieve noticeable results.


Time Commitment: A professional teeth whitening session usually takes about 60 to 90 minutes in the dental clinic, and noticeable results are seen immediately. Conversely, at-home kits require a commitment to apply the product regularly, often daily, over a few weeks. Therefore, professional teeth whitening might be more suitable for those seeking immediate results or those with busy schedules.


Side Effects and Risks: While both methods can cause tooth sensitivity or gum irritation, these side effects are often more manageable in a professional setting. This is because your dentist can take measures to protect your gums and can adjust the strength of the whitening agent if you experience discomfort. With at-home kits, there is a higher risk of improper use, which can lead to uneven whitening, gum irritation, and even damage to tooth enamel if used excessively.


Cost Comparison: At-home teeth whitening kits are typically cheaper upfront than professional teeth whitening services. However, due to the higher effectiveness and long-lasting results of professional whitening, many people find that the initial investment pays off in the long run. Moreover, considering the potential for misuse or overuse with at-home kits, professional whitening can also be seen as a safer investment.


Ultimately, the choice between professional and at-home teeth whitening depends on individual factors such as your budget, time availability, degree of tooth discolouration, and personal preference. It’s always recommended to consult with a dental professional to understand what would work best for you.


 5. Advantages of Professional Teeth Whitening


Opting for professional teeth whitening comes with numerous benefits that set it apart from over-the-counter products. Here’s why it is an appealing choice for many:


Immediate and Long-lasting Results: One of the biggest advantages of professional teeth whitening is the immediacy of results. While at-home products can take weeks or even months to show noticeable effects, professional teeth whitening typically offers significant improvement in a single session. The whitening effect also tends to be more durable and can last up to a few years, depending on your oral care habits and lifestyle choices.


Professional Supervision and Safe Procedures: With professional teeth whitening, you’re under the care of a trained dental professional throughout the process. This ensures that the procedure is not only performed safely, but any potential issues or complications can be addressed promptly. Furthermore, your dentist can take preventive measures to reduce side effects such as gum irritation or tooth sensitivity that might occur due to the whitening agents.


Personalized Treatment Plans: Everyone’s teeth are different, not just in terms of colour and staining, but also in terms of sensitivity, shape, and overall oral health. A dental professional can customize a teeth whitening treatment plan that caters to your specific needs and goals. This means the strength of the whitening gel, the duration of the procedure, and the number of sessions required can all be tailored to you. The goal is to ensure that you get the desired results, whether you’re looking for a dramatic change or just a few shades of improvement.


 6. Potential Downsides of Professional Teeth Whitening


While professional teeth whitening comes with numerous advantages, it’s important to acknowledge potential downsides that may affect some individuals. Here are a few points to consider:


Possible Side Effects and How They Are Managed: Professional teeth whitening can occasionally lead to temporary side effects, such as tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. This is typically due to the strong bleaching agents used in the procedure. Tooth sensitivity may manifest as a mild tingling sensation or a sharp twinge when consuming hot or cold foods and beverages. Gum irritation can occur if the protective barriers fail to fully shield the gums from the whitening gel.


However, these side effects are usually transient and disappear within a few days. Dentists can manage these issues during the procedure by adjusting the concentration of the bleaching agent or by using desensitizing treatments before or after the whitening procedure. They can also recommend specific at-home care, such as using a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth.


Higher Upfront Cost: Compared to at-home whitening kits, professional teeth whitening has a higher upfront cost. The exact price can vary depending on your location, the specific dental clinic, and the extent of your treatment plan. However, many people find the immediate and impressive results, along with the professional supervision, to be worth the investment.


Maintenance After Whitening: After investing in professional teeth whitening, maintenance is crucial to prolong the results. This might involve making changes to your lifestyle, such as reducing the consumption of staining foods and beverages (like coffee, tea, red wine) or quitting smoking. Regular brushing, flossing, and routine dental check-ups are also critical to maintaining your brightened smile. Your dentist might also recommend periodic touch-up treatments, either at the clinic or at home, depending on the condition of your teeth.


It’s important to have a thorough discussion with your dental professional before opting for teeth whitening. They can provide you with detailed information tailored to your specific circumstances, helping you make an informed decision about whether the treatment is right for you.


Frequently Asked Questions



  1. Is professional teeth whitening safe?

Yes, when performed by a qualified dental professional, teeth whitening is safe. Your dentist will take steps to protect your gums and mouth from the whitening agents, and monitor the progress of your treatment to ensure everything is proceeding as it should.


  1. Does professional teeth whitening hurt?

While the procedure itself is generally painless, some people may experience tooth sensitivity or mild gum irritation during or after the treatment. These side effects are usually temporary and subside within a few days.


  1. How long does professional teeth whitening last?

The effects of professional teeth whitening can last from several months up to a few years, depending on factors like your diet, oral hygiene habits, and whether you smoke. Regular touch-ups can help maintain the brightness of your smile.


  1. Can everyone have their teeth professionally whitened?

Not everyone is a suitable candidate for professional teeth whitening. Certain conditions, such as gum disease, cavities, or extremely sensitive teeth, may need to be addressed before considering teeth whitening. In addition, teeth whitening might not be effective on certain types of discolouration, such as that caused by tetracycline antibiotics or tooth injury.


  1. Can professional teeth whitening damage my enamel?

When performed correctly, professional teeth whitening does not damage the enamel. The whitening agents penetrate the enamel to reach the discoloured molecules inside your teeth, but they do not erode or harm the enamel.


  1. What can I do to maintain my results after professional teeth whitening?

To maintain your brightened smile, try to avoid foods and drinks that can stain your teeth, like coffee, tea, red wine, and tobacco. Maintain good oral hygiene habits, including regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings. Your dentist might also recommend at-home touch-ups with a custom-fitted whitening tray.


  1. Will professional teeth whitening work on dental restorations like crowns or veneers?

Teeth whitening treatments do not change the colour of dental restorations such as crowns, veneers, or fillings. If you’re considering professional teeth whitening and have visible dental restorations, discuss this with your dentist to ensure a consistent and aesthetically pleasing result..


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