If you're thinking about whitening your smile, you should talk to your dentist to find out what the options are.
They can examine your mouth, discuss treatments that are suitable for you, and advise you about certain foods or activities that should be avoided to help your new smile last as long as possible.
Professional whitening: 45–90 minutes
Whitening treatments performed by your dentist are the quickest ways to make changes to your smile.
Unless you have a complex case, treatments can usually be completed in a single appointment at a dental clinic. This is because dentists are permitted to use a higher concentration of bleaching agents than is allowed for home use or beauticians.
The whitening treatment involves applying a bleaching agent to your teeth that's been specially formulated to help you achieve your desired results. Your dentist will apply this in stages, activated by a UV light or laser.
At Sydney CBD Dental, we use the Philips Zoom White Speed system that can brighten teeth up to 8 shades in 45 minutes, depending on the individual. Other treatments may take an hour or longer.
Home whitening: 1–2 weeks
If you prefer to have a treatment in the comfort of your home, this will take longer – usually up to 2 weeks, depending on your circumstances and how much whitening is needed.
You should still have a consultation with your dentist if you're considering a home whitening treatment. They can check that your mouth is healthy and provide you with a custom whitening tray and gel to help you achieve your desired results.
Adding more bleaching gel to the tray than your dentist recommends won't result in a faster treatment, but it will increase the risk of the gel contacting your gums and causing discomfort or injury.
Is teeth whitening safe?
Not everyone is suitable for whitening treatments. Your dentist will let you know if whitening is an option for you during your consultation. They'll also explain the possible risks and side-effects.
Some people find that their teeth feel more sensitive to temperature when eating or drinking after a bleaching procedure. This usually goes away within 48 hours. If you continue to feel discomfort or notice other unexpected side-effects, you should contact your dentist immediately.
The risks can be greater if whitening treatments are not carried out under the guidance of a dental professional. Improper use of home whitening kits can cause chemical burns or permanent damage to the teeth and gums.
How to help your smile last
Whichever option you choose, whitening treatments don't last forever. They may start to fade after a few months or up to a few years, depending on how well you look after your teeth and avoid sources of discolouration.
Tea and coffee, red and white wines and other food and drink with strong pigments or high acidity are common culprits for teeth stains, as is tobacco. You should also maintain good oral hygiene, making sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily, drink plenty of water and visit your dentist every 6-12 months for a check-up.
What are the alternatives?
If you're looking for a longer term solution for stained or discoloured teeth, your dentist may suggest dental veneers. Unlike teeth bleaching, this treatment involves permanently altering the surface of your teeth to create a new smile.
Porcelain veneers are longer-lasting and can look more like natural teeth enamel, but the treatment also takes longer to complete, as it takes time for the custom veneers to be made. Resin veneers may be completed in a single appointment, as they're built up directly on your teeth.
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 Australian Dental Association (ADA). Whitening, Crowns and Veneers [Online] 2017 [Accessed June 2018] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/Your-Dental-Health/Younger-Adults-18-30/Teeth-Whitening,-Crowns-and-Veneers
 ADA. Teeth Whitening: Getting the best result for your smile [Online] 2016 [Accessed June 2018] 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
 Philips. Philips Zoom teeth whitening [Online] 2013 [Accessed June 2018] Available from: https://www.philips.com.au/c-m-pe/oralhealthcare/consumer/teeth-whitening-zoom
 Oral Health Foundation. Tooth whitening [Online] 2017 [Accessed June 2018] Available from: https://www.dentalhealth.org/tooth-whitening
 Better Health Channel. Cosmetic dentistry [Online] 2018 [Accessed June 2018] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cosmetic-dentistry#lp-h-5