The bleaching that results from any teeth whitening process – whether in-chair whitening or at-home whitening – will last several years. Some rebound of your original tooth colour can be expected from both methods. The most significant relapse occurs initially in the first month, usually in the first 24 hours. Colour relapse is slower between 6 months and 24 months. Even with this relapse, your teeth will probably be lighter than they were before whitening.
The procedure of teeth whitening
Tooth whitening is normally achieved by bringing a dental bleach such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide into contact with the teeth. This may be done using high concentrations in one visit to your dentist, or by using lower concentrations over a period of weeks at home. At Smile Solutions we do not provide any other methods of whitening, such as charcoal or abrasion.
Studies of at-home whitening effects
One of the longest studies of the effects of teeth whitening assessed participants 9 to 12 years after they had undergone six weeks of overnight home whitening using 10% carbamide peroxide. Of these patients 33% reported no obvious change, 27% reported a slight change and 6% reported moderate to severe change. Remaining participants stated they had already redone the bleach process.
Other studies tend to follow patients for two years, and they perform surveys of patient experiences as well as light/colour measurement with devices. Patient experiences have been shown to vary, while objective measurements with the devices tend to show that lightening persists, but shades of yellow and red can return.
Studies of in-chair whitening effects
Many follow-up studies of whitening treatments performed in the dental chair have also shown that teeth are still lighter two years after treatment but are not as white as immediately after treatment. The general consensus is that use of an activation light can reduce treatment time overall but it does not extend the duration of the whitening.
Studies comparing home- and in-chair whitening
The studies that compare at-home and in-chair whitening show a similar rate of colour rebound after the two processes, regardless of the length of initial treatment. This holds true for 45 minute in-chair whitening, 10 day home whitening and 4 week home whitening.
Factors affecting longevity of results
The duration of your results can be affected by your original shade, dental health, previous experience with whitening, diet and smoking.
The main factors that you can control are dental health, diet and smoking. Dental health issues can be identified and prevented with regular check-ups and cleans.
Most studies looking at the effect of drenching teeth in coloured liquids suggest that red wine, cola and tea are worse than coffee for changing the colour of your teeth. Smoking can change the internal colour of teeth, but also (more noticeably) will usually leave an external stain, which can only be removed by dental prophylaxis (performed by a hygienist or dentist).
Maintaining your results
Aside from maintaining your dental health, having a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking, there are some other things you can do.
Touch-ups of in-chair whitening can be performed after a minimum of 12 months or by using shorter courses of home whitening. Additionally, some studies suggest that hydrogen peroxide mouth rinses or whitening toothpastes may recover the whitening effect following staining. As with all dental treatments, it is best to speak with a dentist face-to-face about the suitability of these options in your particular case.