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Advice for adults

Teeth whitening

What is teeth whitening?

A teeth whitening treatment consists of applying a peroxide-based gel on the teeth in order to make all undesirable stains disappear.

The etiology of a vital tooth’s staining is varied. First, teeth can be superficially tainted by an accumulation of dental plaque or tartar that is coloured by cigarette usage, as well as coffee, tea or red wine consumption. These stains are said to be superficial and can be removed with a simple cleaning and polishing treatment.

However, the stains can sometimes have directly affected the teeth’s enamel and dentine. The causes of discolouration within the tooth are: aging, diet, tobacco consumption, certain medicine of the tetracycline family, intake of a large quantity of fluoride as a child, etc. This type of problem can be fixed with teeth whitening.

However, please note that certain kinds of stains have a better reaction to the treatment than others; a dental appointment should therefore always be taken beforehand to obtain a diagnosis and advice from the dentist.  

What are the different methods of treatment?

  • Customized home teeth whitening kit with a mouth tray
  • At the dental clinic
  • Over-the-counter kits

Talk to your dentist about the different ways to whiten your teeth, their efficiency, risks, benefits and costs. We will hereby describe the custom home kit to use under the supervision of a dental professional.

What are the steps of the teeth whitening treatment at home?

Your dentist must first clean your teeth and do a full dental exam to make sure that you have no cavity nor defective restoration, to then determine the cause of your discolouration. This is a crucial part because the length and cost of the treatment depends on the type and intensity of the staining. 

The dentist will then make an impression of your teeth and a stone model will be manufactured from it. A plastic mouth tray fitting to your dentition will then be made. The peroxide-based gel will be put in this tray that you will wear according to your dentist’s prescription. 

The average treatment lasts between two and six weeks. However, for staining caused by nicotine or medicine of the tetracycline family, the process can take many weeks, even months.

For how long do my teeth remain white after the treatment?

It depends on the patient and his or her habits. For most people, the results of the treatment will last for one to three years. For some, the teeth will stay bright for many years and will not require another whitening procedure. If needed, touch-ups can be done every six months by wearing the mouth tray for a few days. 

What are the risks of the home teeth whitening treatment?

Possible side effects of the home teeth whitening procedure are:

Teeth hypersensitivity: Two patients out of three develop teeth sensitivity during the procedure. It is usually temporary and will go away at the end of treatment. If sensitivity to cold, heat or breathing is felt during the treatment, pause it and talk to your dentist. He or she will prescribe a desensitizing product that you can put in your mouth tray for 30 minutes over a period of a few days to eliminate all sensitivity. Your dentist will tell you how to proceed for the remaining of the whitening treatment. 

Gum irritation: Gum sensitivity can be the result of the tray damaging your gums and the surrounding soft tissue (cheeks, oral mucous membranes). You may also be putting too much whitening gel in your mouth tray and the overflowing agent irritates your gum to the point of creating small canker sores. In any case, stop the treatment and talk to your dentist to fix the situation.

Throat irritation: Using a large quantity of gel leads to the product dripping out of the tray when inserted in the mouth. If instead of spitting out the whitening agent you swallow it, it can cause throat irritation. It is generally temporary, but remember that you must not ingest the gel.

Articulation discomfort: You may feel uncomfortable articulating your jawbones during the treatment. This sensation probably happens when you are wearing the plastic mouth tray, as your teeth do not close together because of the thickness of the tray. If you have any worries, talk to your dentist.   

The contraindication of teeth whitening

  • pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Crohn’s disease (ulcerative colitis)
  • chronic heartburn
  • weakened immune system due to cancer, AIDS, an autoimmune disease, etc.
  • important problems with the temporomandibular articulation (TMA) or bruxism
  • braces

Recommendations to follow

  • Thoroughly brush your teeth and floss prior to each treatment.
  • Do not smoke while using the product or in the following hours.
  • Do not eat or drink during the treatment or in the following hours.
  • Keep the whitening agent away from heat or light.
  • Unused syringes can be put in the refrigerator.

Teeth whitening should always be done under the supervision of your dentist.

A dental exam allows the dentist to ask all necessary questions and proceed to the right tests to determine the cause of discolouration and assess the length, cost and chances of success. As for the final result, it is hard to predict and no guarantee can be given. However, most patients are satisfied and notice an improvement within one to four weeks into the treatment.