How long do the effects of teeth whitening last?

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Oral Hygiene and Dental Therapy
Dip. OHT (Melb), ADOH (Adel)

teethMost teeth whitening processes are designed to have a long-lasting effect. However, relapse is not uncommon, usually due to personal behaviours; and while for some people it is possible to achieve a whiteness that’s several shades brighter than their existing tooth colour, others may only achieve a few shades’ difference. Results can never be the same for any two people.

Another variable is the range of teeth whitening options available today. Over-the-counter products include whitening toothpastes, mouthwashes and strips; and then there are the professional services provided by dental practitioners, such as in-chair whitening and DIY kits for home whitening. Each option can produce differing degrees of permanency.

Your dentist will advise on the degree of whitening, and the process, that’s best for your teeth.

It should be noted that not everyone’s teeth are suitable for whitening. Dentists are the only people trained and qualified to make an assessment of your teeth and gums. They will check for any gum recession, sensitivity, tooth decay, existing restorations (e.g. fillings, crowns and veneers) or oral conditions that might act as an impediment, as well as measuring your enamel thickness. They will also assess the cause of your tooth discoloration (e.g. diet or aging).

Is it safe?

Whitening is a chemical process that breaks the carbon bonds that give tooth enamel its yellowish tinge. Once these bonds have been broken they no longer reflect the colour yellow and this makes the teeth look whiter.

Whitening is generally safe and when used in the correct way can produce very satisfying results. However, if you choose the wrong treatment – or a suitable treatment is applied incorrectly – then you can risk damaging your teeth.

Some of the side effects of whitening can be damage to and blistering of the gums, tooth sensitivity, and irritation and possibly bleeding in the oesophagus and stomach if the bleaching agent is swallowed. It is also important to know that crowns, veneers or fillings will not change colour after whitening, so you could end up with “multicoloured” teeth. Without professional assessment, it is not possible to rule out any permanent side effects or other risks associated with whitening.

Things to avoid pre and post whitening are smoking; drinking tea, coffee and red wine; eating highly coloured foods; and using mouthwashes. All of these can stain the teeth, reversing the effectiveness of both home whitening and in-chair whitening. Your dentist will advise you when it’s appropriate to resume any of the above (although smoking is to be avoided at all times due to the overall health risks).

Ultimately, the only way to maintain your teeth whitening and general health of your teeth and gums is to see your dentist and hygienist regularly – ideally every six months.

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