Whiten your way to a dazzling smile

(Published in The Observer on Sunday, 26 February, 2012)


We all want a brighter, whiter smile. Teeth whitening is now one of the most popular cosmetic procedures around, ensuring we all have access to a Hollywood smile.

This simple procedure can whiten your smile up to seven shades, turning dull, yellow stained teeth to a brilliant shade of smile-worthy white. Whether you opt to whiten your gnashers under the guidance of a dentist, or choose from one of the many at home whitening products, you’re bound to find one to suit your needs.

While the procedure will whiten your smile, remember the results aren’t permanent and you’ll need to do touch–up treatments. The length of time between these touch-up treatments will depend heavily on lifestyle. For example, if you smoke, drink red wine, tea and cola – known to stain teeth – expect to have to touch-up your smile more often.

Before whitening your teeth visit your dentist to ensure you are a good candidate. Your dentist will also professionally clean your teeth to remove surface stains and plaque to ensure optimum results.

There are a variety of teeth whitening methods around. Read on to find out which one will suit you best.

 In office whitening

Opt for this method if you are looking for the quickest way to whiten your smile. In-practice treatments can include laser whitening procedures that involves coating the teeth with a gel before a laser is applied, which makes a smile appear whiter in around an hour. Professional in office teeth whitening delivers optimum whitening results in a short amount of time. This method of tooth whitening is gaining popularity, despite the fact that it is considered the most expensive method of whitening your teeth.

 Take home kit

This method offers great results in about two weeks and is often cheaper than an in office whitening procedure. Professional take-home teeth whitening kits contain a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Custom-fit trays, made by your dentist, keep the whitening solution on the surface of the tooth to be whitened, and allow for only slight exposure of the solution to the sensitive gingival area. The gel is normally applied for up to an hour each day for a period of about two weeks.

DIY dazzlers

The most purse friendly method, there are numerous over the counter one-size-fits-all whitening products to choose from, including toothpastes, mouthwashes, gels, pens and strips. But, not all are made equal. Be sure to look for a product that contains hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide – the chemical that actively whitens the tooth. Many over the counter products – in particular toothpastes – merely contain a light abrasive material which will only remove surface stains. While this is the most cost effective method results will take longer due to the lower concentration of active ingredients.

Here’s some simple steps to ensure a dazzling smile year round:

  • Wherever possible, avoid dark coloured foods and drinks, which can stain teeth
  • Brush and floss teeth at least twice a day with a whitening toothpaste
  • Visit your dentist every six months for a professional clean and check-up
  • Touch up with a professional whitening product about once a year

Is tooth whitening for everyone?

Most people will respond well to tooth whitening. Teeth that have restorations, such as veneers or those that have white fillings, cannot be whitened with hydrogen or carbamide peroxide. Old or discoloured restorations can be replaced to match newly whitened teeth. Those with hypersensitive teeth should also avoid this procedure.

Why do teeth appear yellow?

Despite the demand for ultra-white teeth, off-white or yellow is the natural colour for most people.

Dentin, a hard, yellow sub-stance that surrounds the pulp, shows through the enamel, which is why most teeth appear slightly yellow. Other factors that can affect tooth colour include ageing, some prescription drugs, over-fluoridated water and chemicals in coffee, tea and carbonated drinks.

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