When it comes to cosmetic dental treatments, teeth whitening is by far the most popular procedure and market analysts suggest that it’s already a $32 billion dollar industry. Moreover, it’s getting bigger as more and more people are looking to whiten their smile. But is teeth whitening safe?
Comparing the thousands of do-it-yourself teeth bleaching products that you can buy online or at your local store is a lot different from professional chairside teeth whitening carried out by an experienced dentist. So in order to answer the question of safety properly, we really need to break it down. So let’s do just that and take a closer look…
Firstly, over the counter teeth whitening kits
In Australia, the popularity of teeth whitening is surging. This is in part due to the relentless onslaught of celebrity endorsements and social media advertising. In fact, in 2016, teeth whitening became the biggest advertising craze on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. This led to a 50% increase in people under the age of 35 who opted to buy teeth bleaching products either online or from their local store.
The key point to take away here is that in Australia, store-bought whitening products such as whitening strips, whitening gels and whitening pens have to consist of hydrogen peroxide levels of 6% or less. For clarity, hydrogen peroxide is the bleaching or whitening agent that many products contain.
So why 6% or less?
This is considered a safe level of whitening agent for home use. Even then, people should read the instructions carefully and follow them. It’s worth noting that customers should not expect immediate results and a change in the whiteness of teeth can take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks to take effect. In most cases, manufacturers will give you timings on the packet. What you shouldn’t do is to wear them longer than instructed in the hope that results will be accelerated because overuse can lead to problems like burning gums and weakened teeth enamel.
So are over-the-counter teeth whitening products safe?
In a word yes, if you only buy those products with a hydrogen peroxide level at less than 6% and follow the instructions to the letter.
Be aware that places like the US can legally supply whitening products with concentration levels up to 10% but these are illegal to use here in Australia unless overseen by a registered dentist.
Professional teeth whitening kits for use at home
The next step up from over-the-counter whitening products are professional teeth whitening kits supplied by your dentist. These take-home whitening kits are legally allowed to contain higher quantities of bleaching agent and are supplied by a dental practice only. They are designed specifically to enable patients to whiten teeth in the comfort of their own home.
One advantage of this type of product is that any trays used to hold the whitening gel onto the teeth are individually custom-made. In most cases when you buy a store-bought whitening product you are buying a ‘one-size fits all kit’. The danger is that the trays may not fit your teeth exactly. On the contrary, made-to-measure trays will ensure any bleaching gel stays firmly on your teeth and away from your gums.
Another advantage is that before any professional take-home kits are sold, you’ll undergo a consultation by a dental professional. This way they can ensure that your teeth are in the best condition to enable any whitening to be carried out safely.
What about key safety points?
When it comes to usage, the key points are to follow the instructions carefully. Remember your dentist should take the time to explain how the process works and what you should expect. In some cases, teeth whitening kits are designed to be worn over the teeth overnight, while others are designed to be worn for a few hours a day, so don’t assume that wearing them longer will deliver better and speedier results, because this is not the case. Follow instructions carefully and most teeth can be whitened several shades or more within 7-14 days using this method.
Finally, you have professional chair-side teeth whitening
Sometimes known as laser teeth whitening or in-office whitening this is cosmetic teeth whitening that is carried out at the dentist.
Because Australian dentists are permitted to use stronger levels of hydrogen peroxide (usually somewhere around 30%-35%) results can appear noticeable in as little as a lunch hour. Naturally, this is a major advantage for those seeking a quick-fix whitening solution to brighten up their smile. The question is – when it comes to chairside cosmetic treatments – how safe is teeth whitening?
Given that the levels of bleaching gel used are far stronger than anything you might find on the shelf, chair-side teeth whitening is surprisingly safe but only if you adhere to the following point.
Only visit a dentist for cosmetic teeth whitening
According to the regulatory guidelines as set out in the Standards for Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (SUSMP) only registered dental professionals are legally allowed to offer cosmetic chairside teeth whitening services using higher concentrations of bleaching agent.
Some health and beauty spas may offer tooth whitening as part of their treatments, but to get around the legalities, they often carry out more than one application of a lesser bleaching gel in one sitting. Unfortunately, this can put the patient at risk and lead to problems. Moreover, salon operatives don’t necessarily have dental training and therefore can’t advise on whether the process is right for you.
So overall, is teeth whitening safe?
In a word…yes, but only if you follow the guidelines and if in doubt, always talk to a dental professional first.
If you would like to find out more about our teeth whitening procedures, or whether teeth whitening is safe then contact the team at Beyond Infinity Dental. We use the latest and safest teeth whitening methods to bring out the best in your smile. Call our trusted dentist in Castle Hill for a consultation: (02) 8806 3799.