Q&A With Dr Emma
Hi Dr Emma. What is the best way of whitening teeth? Steve from Yangebup, WA.
There are a few different ways of whitening teeth. The best way depends on what is causing your teeth to be discoloured. If it's staining built up on the surface of your teeth from smoking, tea, coffee etc, then a good scale and clean at the dentist may be all you need. Whitening toothpastes can also help prevent this type of staining from returning.
Teeth that have discoloured enamel, not just staining on the surface, won't become whiter with simply cleaning, or whitening toothpaste. Think of those discoloured teeth as being like a yellow t-shirt. No matter how many time you wash and clean it, it will still be yellow. If you want it to become white, you need to bleach it. This is where peroxide comes in.
Carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide can be applied to teeth to try and make them whiter. There are low concentration kits available from pharmacies, supermarkets, beauty salons and online in the form of gels, paint on liquids, strips… the range of products is vast and intimidating. You may be able to get a nice result from these types of treatments, but it's a bit of a gamble if you haven't had the cause of your discolouration diagnosed properly.
Higher concentration peroxides can be applied by a dentist to give more predictable results, but there are even variations in whitening treatments available from dentist to dentist. Some will use peroxide gel alone, sometimes a high powered light or a laser is used to activate the gel. Some dentists don't offer an in-the-chair option at all, but will provide and supervise the use of a home kit with custom-made trays.
Occasionally teeth won't respond to whitening treatments at all, and the best option is to cover up the discoloured teeth with veneers. Think of these as like semi-permanent false fingernails. Made from either composite resin or porcelain, they are bonded over the front of your teeth to cover up discolouration and give the teeth a different shape if desired.
If you want the best, my recommendation is to visit your dentist to discuss your individual teeth with their individual needs. Then you can determine which whitening treatment will get you closest to the pearly white smile you're looking for.