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How Teeth Whitening Works - Strips, Gels, and More

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    Millions of people suffer from varying degrees of tooth discolouration. Even those who maintain good oral hygiene and do not miss preventive dental exams may experience this problem. This is due to the fact that many other factors, such as diet and lifestyle, can have a negative impact on the natural colour and shine of the teeth.

    However, achieving pearly white teeth and a lovely smile is now easier than ever. There are numerous options available for teeth whitening in Singapore, ranging from over-the-counter (OTC) products for at-home whitening use to in-office procedures done by dental professionals.

    In this article, we will examine each method in depth, including its effectiveness, side effects, and cost. But, before we get there, let's look at the causes of teeth discolouration and the different types of stains you may have.

    Types of teeth stains and their causes

    In general, there are two kinds of stains you may encounter: those on the outside of your teeth, which are called extrinsic stains, and those on the inside of your tooth enamel, known as intrinsic stains.

    Extrinsic stains originate on the tooth surface. They typically appear as a result of environmental factors such as smoking or consuming too much coffee, red wine or other staining foods and drinks.

    Intrinsic stains originate within the tooth. They can be caused by fluoride overexposure, any dental trauma or severe tooth inflammation (pulpitis). In some cases, these stains may occur as a result of taking certain antibiotics.

    Extrinsic and intrinsic stains are treated differently. If you don't know which type of tooth stains you have and what treatment is best for your case, then consult a dental professional.

    What teeth whitening options are there?

    There are many teeth whitening treatments you can choose from if you want to improve your smile. You can opt for OTC teeth whitening products such as toothpastes, strips, whitening gels or at-home whitening kits. Such treatments are usually more gentle and contain a lower concentration of bleaching agents. They typically require a longer treatment time to provide visible results.

    Another option for achieving a brighter smile is to get your teeth whitened at the dentist's office or to purchase an at-home whitening kit from your dental provider. Chairside teeth whitening normally provides instant results. In addition, it can significantly lighten your permanent teeth since dentists usually use a higher concentration of bleaching agents such as carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide.

    Whatever teeth whitening treatment you choose to use, it is always best to consult a dental provider first. He or she will determine the type and severity of the staining and recommend the most suitable tooth whitening method for you, even discussing possible natural whitening methods.

    In-office teeth whitening

    Dentist applies a tooth whitening gel with a syringe

    In-office whitening is usually the fastest and most effective way to get whiter teeth. The procedure can be done by a dentist or dental hygienist.

    How does it work?

    During the treatment, the dentist uses powerful bleaching agents to remove any stains and whiten teeth. These whitening products will go into your tooth enamel and break down the pigment molecules responsible for discolouration. The provider may use a light or laser device to even further activate the lightening process. This will help the bleaching gel to penetrate deeper into the stubborn stains of the teeth and dissolves them.

    The complete whitening procedure shouldn't take longer than an hour and your teeth will appear whiter immediately.

    Are there any side effects?

    In-office whitening procedures are usually safe (see more in our post titled "Is Teeth Whitening Safe?"). However, they sometimes may cause some temporary complications. Experiencing tooth sensitivity is a very common side effect of the use of hydrogen peroxide. However, you should keep in mind that this is not a permanent sensitivity and not everyone will have it. Also, not everyone will experience it to the same level.

    Another possible adverse effect you may have after the treatment is gum irritation. You can expect this to resolve on its own in a few days. Your dentist may recommend you use saltwater rinses to alleviate the discomfort.

    How long do the results last?

    As long as you take good care of your teeth, the results of your teeth/ tooth whitening may last for up to 3 years. However, if you smoke or consume too much coffee and red wine, then your teeth may become stained sooner after the procedure. Practising good oral hygiene and avoiding staining foods and drinks will help you preserve the shiny appearance of your teeth for longer.

    How much does professional teeth whitening cost?

    In-office teeth whitening procedures are normally more expensive than at-home treatments. You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1000, depending on the severity of your staining and the dental clinic you choose. Despite the higher cost of the treatment, it might be worth getting it since the results are longer lasting.

    Another way dentists brighten our smiles is via the LED teeth whitening treatment.

    Take-home teeth whitening kit

    individual tooth tray for whitening

    In addition to chairside teeth whitening, many dental clinics and professionals offer take-home whitening kits, which can also help you get a brighter smile. These products usually come with teeth whitening gel and special trays which are custom moulded to fit your natural teeth.

    How does it work?

    This treatment works similarly to the whitening procedure at the dentist's office. It uses a bleaching agent to dissolve surface stains. The difference between take-home whitening kits and professional whitening treatments is that the first takes longer to achieve whiter teeth.

    On your initial appointment, your dentist will take an impression of your mouth and then send it to a lab where your bleaching trays will be made. On your second visit, you will receive the devices along with a bleaching gel. Your dentist will give you detailed instructions on how to use the teeth whitening system.

    Are there any side effects?

    There is a possibility to experience increased tooth sensitivity or gum irritation, especially if you use the trays for longer. It is important to use the teeth whitening kit exactly as your provider instructs you so that you avoid any complications.

    How long do the results last?

    The results of this whitening treatment may last six months to over a year, depending on your dental care and lifestyle habits. Smoking and poor oral hygiene can quickly diminish your outcomes.

    How much does take-home whitening kit cost?

    If you opt for an at-home teeth whitening kit you can expect to pay about $400 to $600. This treatment is a little bit cheaper than in-office whitening procedures.

    Teeth whitening strips

    This is an easy and one of the most affordable ways to whiten your teeth. It may take a bit longer, but you should still be able to have a whitening benefit.

    How do they work?

    The strips work in a similar way to the other teeth whitening methods. The products contain whitening ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide, which penetrate to the tooth enamel and break down the staining molecules. Most whitening strips should be worn twice a day for about 14 days to provide visible results.

    However, you should be aware that such whitening products typically contain a lower concentration of whitening agent, which means you may not achieve the same results as if you had your teeth whitened at the dentist's office.

    Are there any side effects?

    As with all products containing a bleaching agent, teeth whitening strips may also cause sensitive teeth or irritation to the gum tissue. You need to make sure you do not wear the strips longer than recommended.

    How long do the results last?

    The results of this treatment can last anywhere between 4 and 6 months. Again, you should be meticulous with your dental hygiene and avoid staining foods and drinks.

    How much do teeth whitening strips cost?

    The prices of the teeth whitening strips start at as little as $15 and can go over $50, depending on the brand you choose. This is one of the cheapest teeth whitening options. However, the strips may only help you if you have minor tooth discolouration. They cannot fix severe stains.

    Teeth whitening toothpaste

    woman using teeth whitening toothpaste

    Whitening toothpaste is another option for improving your smile. However, you need to understand that such items are more beneficial for preventing future stains rather than removing existing ones.

    How does it work?

    Whitening toothpaste normally contain mild abrasives such as hydrated silica, calcium carbonate, etc., which can be beneficial for improving discoloured teeth. When you use them on a daily basis, these abrasive ingredients can make your yellow teeth appear brighter. However, whitening toothpaste is usually not very effective at removing tough stains.

    Are there any side effects?

    Using whitening toothpaste every day for an extensive period of time can be too abrasive for your teeth, causing sensitivity and irritation. In addition, it is possible to make your enamel thinner and more susceptible to tooth decay and discolouration.

    How long do the results last?

    You can expect your results to last for about 3 to 4 months. However, you shouldn't expect any dramatic changes in the colour of your teeth. Toothpaste might be effective only on minor extrinsic stains.

    How much do whitening toothpastes cost?

    Most teeth whitening toothpaste are very affordable, costing around $5 to $20. How much you will pay depends on the brand and the intensity of the product you choose.

    Frequently asked questions

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