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Teeth whitening at home: the pros and cons

By : on : 10th September 2013 comments : (Comments Off on Teeth whitening at home: the pros and cons)

Teeth whitening at home, professionally monitored by your dentist is probably the most widely used whitening technique. It’s simple to use, relatively low cost, safe and offers highly successful results. The ability for patients to stop and start at will without having to commit to a regimented daily routine due to the cumulative nature of the whitening process and the various products available means this technique has become the gold standard by which other techniques are judged by. However, it is by no means without disadvantages as active patient participation is always required for success and in the past there have been high dropout rates in certain studies done. Since the colour change is dependent on wear of the whitening trays, less than ideal compliance by patients leads to poor results.


Patient Assessment and expectations

The most important aspect of any form of bleaching is an assessment of what the patient expects from the procedure and to avoid problems the first thing that should be established is the patient’s expectation level in the form of a simple question such as “What do you expect to achieve with this procedure?” if the answer is a dazzling brilliant white smile or I want them to look like a TV star often Simon Cowell is mentioned, then the patient’s expectations may never be satisfied.  The more realistic answers would be 1 or 2 shades lighter or I just want to freshen them up or words to that effect. These patients can successfully have their teeth whitened while those with a higher expectation could consider alternative treatments such as cosmetic veneers.

All forms of whitening are not advised when there is decay or other pathological conditions within the mouth as the bleaching agent which is perfectly safe on sound and restored teeth gains access to deeper tissues causing the condition to get worse. Once the decay and other pathology is treated within the mouth it is perfectly safe to carry out the whitening treatment. Hence the need to see the dentist prior to any whitening treatment, even if it is the use of an over the counter preparation.

Advantages of using dentist monitored Teeth Whitening at home

  • It is a simple and fast way for patients to bleach their teeth
  • Simple for the dentist to monitor taking less chair time
  • Hence lower costs for the patient
  • Patients can bleach at their own pace stopping and starting when they like knowing thatit is a cumulative effect so some patients prefer to whiten their teeth over a 2 month gradual period rather than 2 weeks.
  • Whitening is seen within days and in fact for most people the majority of the whitening takes place within 3 to 4 days

Disadvantages of professional home teeth whitening

The main disadvantages of any whitening technique is the transient sensitivity experienced by some patients to hot and cold while bleaching but these are usually successfully managed by the dentist. Other less important issues are

  • Patient participation needed with few patients failing to wear the trays enough to cause a good whitening effect
  • Some patients retch when wearing trays
  • Excessive use of whitening agents by some patients makes teeth look translucent

Generally teeth whitening at home is the most favoured option for both dentists and patients but success is dependent on a number of factors including the materials used, the design and quality of trays used as well as the regimen advised by the clinician. In essence not all home whitening is the same and with the increased promotion of this technique by many dental practices sadly patients are sometime driven by the cheapest offer thinking all home whitening is the same. At Merton Dental we tailor treatment to the needs of the patient and recommend the best whitening treatment depending on the degree of discoloration of the teeth and the patients’ lifestyle, while all the same time making sure affordability is never forgotten.

Munther Suleiman


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