Tooth whitening is the use of bleaching agents to lighten the colour of the teeth. The normal colour of tooth enamel (the hard outer surface of each tooth) varies, with most teeth ranging in colour from off-white to light yellow.
$495 teeth whitening*
*T&Cs: consultation and aftercare pack complimentary. If you require a check-up and clean, the teeth whitening cost does not cover this.
Teeth may be discoloured through various factors including:
- Surface stains due to lifestyle (for example, smoking, coffee, tea or red wine)
- Poor oral hygiene, with irregular brushing and flossing
- Certain medicines, for example – tetracycline (an antibiotic)
- Dental problems such as tooth decay, tooth injuries, thin enamel, tartar (hardened plaque, also called calculus) and old fillings, which can turn teeth yellowish, brown, grey or black
- Excessive fluoride, which can discolour and mottle teeth if taken during early childhood
Teeth discoloured by surface stains or age usually respond best to whitening treatment because the source of the stain/discolouration is close to the surface of the tooth and close to the applied bleach.
Cause of your tooth discolouration
A thorough dental and medical history allows the dentist to diagnose the cause of your tooth discolouration and may influence the decisions on bleaching products. Sometimes a patient has other dental problems such as decay or gum disease which must be treated either before or after bleaching and your dentist will discuss any additional treatment and costs.
Not everyone is a good candidate for tooth whitening. Factors that could make this treatment unsuitable include:
- Discolouration caused by medicines
- Severe tooth sensitivity to hot and cold food and drink
- Defective or absent tooth enamel
- Habitual use of tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars or chewing tobacco
- Gum disease (periodontitis)
- Habitual use of some alcoholic drinks
- Presence of dentures, dental implants, crowns, veneers or fillings
- Young age, if permanent teeth are still developing
- Pregnancy or breast feeding
Talk to your dentist
Realistic expectations: In general, over 70% of people experience a noticeable and significant colour change, about 20% experience only minor change and 10% experience almost no change. The determining factor is not the bleach concentration but the “bleachability” of each person’s teeth, which is determined by individual variations in tooth mineral content. We generally find yellow pigmented teeth bleach better than white, brown or grey teeth. All bleaching processes will involve a rebound process whereby final tooth colour stabilises 2-3 days after the last bleach application, but we take steps to ensure that this rebound effect is minimised.
All methods of bleaching will involve some tooth sensitivity and gum irritation, however there is no permanent damage to the teeth or gums. Unfortunately fillings, crowns and dentures will not bleach and may need to be replaced at the conclusion of the bleaching process.
Results from professional whitening treatments generally last between one to three years and most treatments can be reapplied, although most people only undergo one course of whitening treatment. Depending on a person’s smoking, drinking and oral hygiene habits, the results may last for only a few months. Good oral hygiene, regular professional cleaning and occasional bleaching will keep your teeth whiter for longer. Your smile may also benefit from other restoration treatments such as veneers, replacement crowns or fillings.
Your dentist will discuss the best whitening options for you depending on factors including you dental history, the cause of your tooth discolouration and the degree of discolouration. Your dentist may conclude with a topical fluoride treatment and/or a tooth-remineralising treatment to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce the risk of sensitivity to hot and cold.
Light-activated and laser bleaching (in-office bleaching)
Our practice uses the Zoom! method of in-office tooth whitening. Zoom! involves painting high concentrate bleach on the teeth, then heating the bleach with a blue UV light; this is often also referred to as laser whitening. The advantage of the light is it quickly heats the bleach to a high temperature, allowing it to penetrate deeper into the teeth. The bleaching process occurs through the release of oxygen from the hydrogen peroxide to bleach the discoloured or stained surfaces. Your gums, lips, cheeks and tongue are protected with specialised rubber and gauze seals to prevent burning. This type of bleaching takes about 1.5 hours to complete.
The cost of Zoom! is $650.
Bleaching trays (at-home bleaching)
This method of bleaching involves the use of medium concentrate hydrogen peroxide placed on the teeth with custom made trays. The trays are worn for anywhere from an hour to overnight for 3 weeks (this process is also known as take-home whitening). Due to the lower concentration of the bleach and lack of heat lamp, the oxygen from the hydrogen peroxide is unable to penetrate as far into the teeth, resulting in the bleach needing to be on the teeth for longer than Zoom!™ to maximise the penetration of the bleach into the teeth.
The cost of an at-home bleaching kit is $350.
Internal bleaching of a root-filled tooth
Your dentist may suggest internal bleaching for a tooth which has turned dark after root canal treatment. Your dentist drills a small hole in to the back of the tooth, removes some of the filling from the tooth’s root canal, and inserts the bleaching product. The hole is closed with a temporary filling. You will need to return to your dentist in about a week to have the bleaching product and temporary filling removed. To achieve a whiter tooth, the procedure may have to be done again. When treatment is complete, your dentist removes the bleaching product and seals the hole with a permanent filling.
Side-effects of tooth whitening may include*:
- Minor tooth discomfort or pain
- Sensitivity to hot and cold air, liquids and foods
- Sore or irritated gums and inner cheeks
- Whitened patches on the gum line
- Mouth ulcers
- Sore throat (rare)
- Nausea, if the bleaching agent is accidentally swallowed (rare)
Most side-effects are very mild and generally subside within days of completing bleaching without any treatment.
*All dental treatments carry some degree of risk. It is not usual for the dentist to outline every possible rare complication. However, it is important that you have enough information to fully weigh up the risks and benefits of any treatment. There may be other side effects not listed here.
Non-professional or over-the-counter treatments
Over-the-counter kits are cheaper than professional bleaching, but any damage they cause may be expensive to repair. For example, some bleaching products contain acids which can dissolve tooth enamel. Unsupervised, long term or repeated use of over-the-counter kits increases the risk of such side effects.
Whitening toothpaste contains abrasive, mild beaches or both which are usually only effective for surface stains such as coffee and red wine.
Various bleaching kits available from your pharmacist include:
- Sticky strips worn against the teeth
- Special “paint” applied with a brush
- “One-size-fits-all” plastic trays which are filled with bleaching gel. Depending on instructions, you use the bleaching kit for a certain period of time.
Bleaching booths at shopping centres use low concentration bleach to try and lighten the teeth. They are manned by staff with little or no dental experience who are not able to assess the true cause of your tooth discolouration or tailor treatment (including scaling and cleaning, bleaching and fillings) to address it. Shopping centre bleaching booths produce a similar short-term bleaching effect as over-the-counter treatments.
If you would like to know more about teeth whitening, please contact us today.