Tooth whitening is an ever growing beauty trend and is one of the top questions I am asked daily. With so many different “whitening products” or “whitening providers” on the market it’s hard to know which ones are safe, effective and won’t leave you out of pocket. There are two methods used to whiten teeth: in-chair whitening and home kit whitening.
Tooth Whitening Legislation
Let us crush the legality surrounding whitening first, as it is pretty important. Before 2012 tooth whitening was unregulated. The EU passed legislation that only dental professionals are able to deliver whitening, providing they have had the correct training. Even as a dental hygienist, I still need a prescription from a dentist to confirm you are dentally sound for me to whiten your teeth. If you see whitening offered in a shopping mall or your local beauty salon – it is illegal!
EU regulation has capped the level of the active ingredient used in whitening – we will cover the Breaking Bad science in just a moment. Once upon a time, the active ingredient, either Hydrogen Peroxide or Carbimide Peroxide, was as high as 38%. Today the maximum amount of active ingredient allowed is 6% for Hydrogen Peroxide or 16% Carbimide Peroxide. These are the only two chemicals that will actually change the colour of your teeth.
How Does It Work?
Get comfy because I am about to break the chemistry down for you. The above ingredients simply cause a chemical reaction in the teeth that breaks apart the carbon bond that creates yellow stains. Once the bonds are broken, they no longer reflect a yellow colour.
So which tooth whitening method is best for you? It simply depends on your preference.
Professional Tooth Whitening
In-chair whitening requires you to sit in the dental chair with the whitening agent applied to the teeth and a light used to accelerate the product for approximately an hour. Your teeth will be noticeably whiter after treatment but you will still need to whiten them at home to improve the efficiency. This option is great if you need an immediate result, however it requires further whitening and maintenance and will cost more due to the surgery time required and extra materials.
Home Tooth Whitening
Home tooth whitening involves skipping the hour in the dental chair and simply having two custom made whitening trays made. These are worn with the whitening agent in them. You wear the trays for anywhere from an hour to overnight for ten days. Results should last 1-2 years, but depending on lifestyle choices your teeth may darken sooner. You can top up your colour with just a few nights of whitening to restore them. This option is generally favoured as you are in control, there is less reported sensitivity and it costs less.
Is Tooth Whitening Safe?
Yes, evidence suggests when carried out with the correct products and with the correct training is a safe procedure.
Will it hurt? Possibly. Whitening can cause varying sensitivity. This only lasts while you are whitening your teeth and there are products available to help manage such symptoms.