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12 Teeth Whitening Mistakes to Avoid

If natural ageing or your diet and lifestyle have caused your teeth to turn yellow or darken over the years, you might like the sound of teeth whitening treatments. These treatments use bleaching agents that can cover up certain types of stains and lighten the shade of your teeth.

Teeth whitening could help you to feel happier about your smile, but like any treatment, it's important to know what's involved and what all your options are before you make your decision. This includes learning from other people's mistakes so you don't have to repeat them yourself.

To help you get an idea of whether teeth whitening in Sydney might be right for you and how to get the best results, read about these 12 common whitening mistakes:

  1. Not talking to a dentist first
  2. Not checking your eligibility
  3. Not knowing the risks
  4. Buying over-the-counter whitening products
  5. Trying home whitening remedies
  6. Using unqualified services
  7. Not cleaning your teeth first
  8. Not following instructions
  9. Using more than recommended
  10. Using whitening products on fillings and crowns
  11. Not avoiding stains
  12. Not topping up your smile

1. Not talking to a dentist first

If you're interested in a cosmetic whitening treatment, your first stop should be the dental clinic. Your dentist can check whether you have tooth decay, gum disease or other issues that could affect your results from whitening so these can be treated first.

While dentists are primarily concerned with helping people to maintain or improve their oral health, many also offer teeth whitening and other cosmetic treatments to help patients with healthy teeth make the aesthetic changes they want. Professional teeth whitening carried out by a dentist is faster, safer and can have better results than a treatment carried out at home, or your dentist may provide customised take-home whitening kits.

Even if your dentist doesn't offer cosmetic dentistry, they can give you reliable information about the different treatment options out there so you can make better informed decisions.

2. Not checking your eligibility

Another good reason to consult with a dentist is that they can tell you whether you're actually suitable for a whitening treatment. These treatments are not recommended if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, and people with sensitive teeth need to whiten them with care and avoid certain products.

Not all teeth are suitable for whitening either. Teeth bleaching gels and other whitening products are only effective at removing certain types of discolouration from teeth, such as those left by food and drink stains, tobacco and natural ageing.

If your teeth have discoloured due to trauma, side effects of medication or other reasons, your dentist may recommend alternative treatments. If you've had any root canal treatments in the past, these teeth can only be whitened by internal bleaching carried out by a dentist.

3. Not knowing the risks

It's important to find out all the possible complications and side effects before you start any treatment, and teeth whitening is no exception. These risks will be minimised when your treatment is provided by a qualified and experienced dentist or using a customised kit following your dentist's guidance. The risks will be greater if you use generic whitening products and don't consult a dentist.

It's normal for teeth to feel more sensitive to hot and cold after exposure to bleaching gels, but this shouldn't last for more than 48 hours. If you have other unexpected side effects or you're in pain, you should make an emergency dental appointment.

4. Buying over-the-counter whitening products

With teeth whitening being highly in demand, a wide variety of products are now available in pharmacies and other stores that claim to offer whitening benefits. Many of these products, such as toothpastes and strips, usually offer negligible or disappointing results.

Kits that use whitening gels and bleaching trays worn over the teeth can offer better results, but a one-size-fits-all tray can lead to uneven whitening. Worse, a poorly fitted tray risks the bleaching gel spilling over and burning the gums and mouth.

The safest way to whiten teeth at home is to use a personalised kit provided by your dentist. These include custom-fitted trays that fit comfortably over your teeth to prevent spills and ensure even coverage.

5. Trying home whitening remedies

While store-bought whitening treatments can pose risks, products sold in Australia are still strictly regulated. The dangers can be greater if you try home remedies using everyday products that are not designed for use on teeth.

This includes lemon juice, which is acidic and can erode teeth enamel through prolonged contact, and household bleach, which can cause severe burns in the mouth or stomach if ingested.

6. Using unqualified services

If you prefer to trust your whitening treatment to a professional rather than do it yourself, you should check that they are actually qualified to provide the treatment. Salons and other businesses that sometimes offer whitening treatments are not suitably qualified, as they lack the knowledge and experience of working with teeth and what to do if something goes wrong.

Only dentists have the training and experience necessary to provide a high standard of teeth whitening, and not all dentists are equally skilled. Check your dentist's background or ask about their expertise so you can find a practitioner you trust to help you get the results you want.

7. Not cleaning your teeth first

One simple step that many people forget or ignore when using home teeth whitening products is to clean their teeth first. Plaque, food and other debris that remains on tooth surfaces will prevent the bleaching gel from reaching all the places it's supposed to, which can affect your results.

It's also important to visit a dentist for professional cleaning and scaling to remove hardened plaque before beginning your treatment.

8. Not following instructions

If you're whitening your teeth using a take-home kit provided by your dentist, they will give you precise instructions on how to use it safely and for the best results. Even if you're using an over-the-counter whitening system, make sure you follow the instructions on the packaging or on the manufacturer's website.

Skipping parts of the process or wearing your trays for longer than recommended can produce uneven results or lead to more serious issues. Improper use can cause damage or discolouration of teeth or chemical burns to the gums and other soft tissues in the mouth and throat.

Aftercare is an important part of any treatment, and you should also follow your dentist's advice about food, drink and other things to avoid. This includes avoiding teeth-staining food and drink for at least a few hours after your teeth are exposed to bleaching products and not smoking for at least 24 hours.

9. Using more than recommended

If you're using a home whitening kit, your dentist will tell you how often to wear your trays, how long for and how much bleaching gel to include to reach your desired level of whiteness in several weeks. Adding more whitening gel or wearing your trays for longer than recommended may seem like a shortcut to faster whitening, but this can stain or even damage your teeth or gums through prolonged contact.

The same goes for over-the-counter whitening toothpastes and strips, which can cause pain and sensitivity in teeth and gums through overuse. Charcoal toothpaste contains abrasive agents that can strip enamel from the teeth and cause gums to recede.

10. Using whitening products on fillings and crowns

If you have any dental crowns, fillings, veneers or other restorations or prosthetic teeth, these will not be affected by teeth bleaching treatments that are designed to work on natural tooth enamel. This can be an issue if these restorations have become stained or discoloured over time or if they don't match the whiteness of your new smile.

If you want a seamless smile, your dentist can discuss placing new white fillings and crowns or placing other restorations that match your new tooth colour. Of course, you will then need to maintain your white smile so your fillings won't stand out as it fades.

11. Not avoiding stains

Avoiding staining substances such as tea, coffee, red wine and tobacco can help your teeth to stay white so you may not need a whitening treatment in the first place. If you do have your teeth whitened, it's just as important to avoid these sources of stains to help your new white smile last for as long as possible.

You should also maintain good oral hygiene with twice-daily brushing, daily flossing and avoiding too much sugar. This helps to prevent problems such as tooth decay and gum disease that could affect your cosmetic results.

12. Not topping up your smile

Even if you do your best to avoid stains, teeth whitening isn't a permanent treatment. How long it lasts can vary from person to person, but it's usually between 6 months and 2 years.

Your dentist may provide a whitening toothpaste that can be used regularly to top up your smile, but restoring the former whiteness will require a repeat treatment every so often. If you're looking for a longer-term solution, your dentist may discuss alternatives to whitening such as placing porcelain veneers on your teeth, but these cost more.

Find out more about teeth whitening in Sydney CBD

If you have more questions about what's involved in teeth whitening or you're interested in booking a treatment with our experienced cosmetic dentists, call Sydney CBD Dental today on (02) 9232 3900. You can also book online to schedule an initial consultation at our George Street dental clinic.

References

Australian Dental Association. Teeth Whitening: Getting the best result for your smile [Online] 2016 [Accessed August 2021] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/getattachment/Your-Dental-Health/Resources-for-Professionals/Resources-for-Teens-12-17/Teeth-whitening-the-best-result-for-your-smile/Teeth-whitening,-getting-the-best-result-for-your-smile.pdf.aspx

Better Health Channel. Cosmetic dentistry [Online] 2018 [Accessed August 2021] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cosmetic-dentistry