Teeth Whitening Is for Everybody
These days, dental patients are a little more savvy about teeth whitening. They’re not usually after a sparkling Hollywood smile, which is good because we’re not trying to achieve that unnatural look. What patients typically want are better-looking teeth.
My patients can achieve younger-looking teeth in two ways. We can do it in-house, using the Zoom in-chair whitening system, which whitens their teeth in about 90 minutes or so. The other option is we can make them some trays that are like thin mouthguards that they take home to whiten their teeth themselves over a period of time.
Who is teeth whitening for?
So, who gets whitening treatments done these days? Well, basically everyone who knows about it. We see the full range of people coming in for teeth whitening. I’ve done the procedure for people in their 20s. I’ve done whitening for people in their 50s and 60s. I think it’s just that people are aware that there is a service out there, that they can do it.
Some people will undergo teeth whitening specifically for a wedding or because they know they’re going to be having some photos done in the near future—and they want to have white teeth for the shoot because they’re conscious of the way they’d like to look for posterity.
What whitening can’t do
One important thing to consider if you’re thinking about getting your teeth whitened is that the teeth whitening process doesn’t whiten your fillings. We do make patients aware of that. If restorations and fillings don’t look right alongside your new whiter teeth, they may need to be replaced.
It’s an unfortunate fact for all of us that, as we get older, our teeth do get darker, whether we like it or not. The reason is that the nerve inside our tooth gets smaller and smaller with age; it actually shrinks. And it’s the nerve that gives our teeth their whiteness and vitality.
When we’re young, that nerve’s quite large and the teeth look whiter. As we get older and our lifestyle changes, so do our teeth. Wine drinking, cigarette smoking, some of the things we eat—all these things make their mark. Our teeth become stained over time, and they also naturally get darker with age.
Combating tetracycline staining
Another thing to consider is how well teeth whitening can combat tetracycline staining. Tetracycline is an element in an antibiotic that has been used for many years to treat conditions including acne, among other things. It tends to bind to the enamel on teeth and leave a greenish mark.
Many people look to whitening because it can deal quite effectively with tetracycline staining, which is notoriously hard to get rid of. This is where the technology is starting to mature.
How long does teeth whitening last?
Teeth whitening treatments are not permanent. You do need to reapply them over time. But, they’re an easy way and probably an economical solution for many patients, providing the case is right to whiten your teeth, instead of spending a lot of money on cosmetic dentistry.
Having said that, you’re going to a more permanent solution if you do decide to go down the cosmetic route. An example of that is porcelain veneers.
The benchmark for us—the best recommendation that we can get—is if a patient has had teeth whitening performed, and they tell us that a friend or colleague has seen them out and about and tells them they look different. It’s a subtle change, virtually undetectable, but it’s there. And it gives them a lift.