Safe And Unsafe Teeth Whitening Methods
Dr Mani Virdee discusses the risks some people take with unsafe tooth whitening methods.
First of all, let us be clear; a teeth whitening procedure when done correctly, is both perfectly safe and a really effective way of improving a smile.
Unfortunately, perhaps because it is not an invasive procedure, some people try to find shortcuts or cheap ways of whitening their teeth. This is a very risky approach and is likely to lead to damage and pain.
This is probably a good time to remind patients of our Addlestone dental practice, that teeth are a living thing. They are not like our fingernails, for example, which have no nerves. A tooth is made out of three main components; a hard protective enamel surface, a softer and more porous dentin layer beneath it, and finally, the pulp and root canals where blood vessels and nerves are located. If you cut your fingernails, you will feel nothing. If you damage a tooth, you almost certainly will.
Illegal teeth whitening
For some time now, it has been illegal for anyone but a qualified dentist to administer a tooth whitening treatment. Despite this, there are still a few illegal outlets offering this, presumably, because the risk of being caught is financially deemed to be worth it. In many of these places, the staff may not be qualified and there have been some horrifying stories in the press regarding the damage done. One of the problems is that, in order to produce a brilliant white smile, the strength of the bleaching agent used is often well above the recommended safe level. This has left some patients in agony and can cause very significant long term sensitivity.
We would also exercise caution about buying any teeth whitening products online. Although some of these may be relatively safe, such as those bought from chemists, this is not always the case as can be seen by the prosecution of Samuel Madine in Ireland who was said to be selling whitening products that would be the equivalent of “brushing your teeth with bleach”. (reference 1)
In addition to the illegal route to whiter (damaged) teeth, a lot of people will, no doubt, have googled it and come up with a wide array of ‘alternatives’. Many of these are based on natural products and it is therefore likely that most people will deem them to be safe. It is worth pointing out that there are many plants that are perfectly natural, but are potentially deadly when eaten. Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘natural’ always equals ‘safe’!
So what are the most common ‘natural’ ways to whiten your teeth?
Whilst there are some ways that appear to be relatively harmless, they, and most natural ones are also usually ineffective and will achieve nowhere near the whiteness of the treatment that we offer at the Synergy Clinic (more of that later). It is worth taking a look at the risks of one of the most common ‘natural’ teeth whitening treatments, and that is the use of lemon juice to whiten the teeth.
Lemon juice teeth whitening
What could be harmful about using lemon juice? After all, it is something that we include in our drinks, use on pancakes etc, so surely it is, at the very least, harmless? It is true that lemon juice is medically harmless, and a good source of vitamin C, but it is also an acid.
It is this acidity that can allow lemon juice to lighten the colour of the teeth, essentially ‘bleaching’ the stained tooth surface. So far, so good, but brushing lemon juice onto your teeth is also a very effective way of stripping away the enamel layer that protects the teeth. Once this layer has been compromised or damaged, the dentin layer is exposed. This then makes the risk of tooth decay much higher than with healthy enamel. Root canal infections may also follow. Even if you avoid tooth decay, many people will find that their teeth become more sensitive and uncomfortable.
We strongly recommend that patients do not attempt to do any DIY cosmetic dentistry, however innocuous it may seem, and, instead, ask our Addlestone cosmetic dentists about how we can help you to achieve the smile that you want.
Professional teeth whitening
At the Synergy Clinic, patient safety is our priority. All of our cosmetic dental team are fully trained and qualified, and you can be sure that safe levels of the whitening agent will be used.
We offer both an in-house whitening treatment and one that you can safely use at home. Both of these are highly effective and the choice is largely patient preference.
The in-house one is convenient for many patients, and the process, from start to finish, lasts around an hour. Your gums will first be protected to avoid contact with the whitening agent which will then be applied to the teeth. A special light is then used to activate it and after an hour or so, you will be able to see a significant boost to the brightness of your smile.
The ‘at home’ whitening treatment is similarly effective and is carried out by providing you with a set of custom trays that fit over your teeth. A whitening solution is then put in these and you wear them for a few hours each day whilst reading, watching TV or listening to music etc. The results are usually seen after around a fortnight.
In both cases, we can adjust the treatment to the level of whiteness that you desire. Some people want the maximum effect possible, whilst others prefer a more subtle approach. The choice is yours!
If you would like to have your teeth whitened safely and effectively, we are always happy to discuss this with you. To make an appointment to see a cosmetic dentist at the Synergy Clinic, please call our Addlestone practice on 01932 856541.