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Teeth whitening is a very popular cosmetic procedure designed to give you a whiter, brighter smile! The confidence and healthier, youthful, and more energetic appearance one gains from a beautiful smile can be quite impactful. The fact that all of this can all be achieved at a very modest cost compared to other more elaborate cosmetic procedures is part of teeth whitening’s appeal, no doubt!

The challenge to the consumer is ensuring they receive the best possible results in a safe, professional, and welcoming environment – at a fair price.

Consumers today have an abundance of choice, some effective, many less so, when deciding to whiten their teeth. A walk through any drug store reveals a myriad of take-home options – whitening toothpaste, mouthwash, whitening kits (strips, trays …), as well as signs on most street corners advertising “free” whitening (is anything really free?).

To help demystify the good from the not-so-good, we have listed below a few of the questions we most hear often from clients, with responses drawn from a wide body of published papers including Health Canada, the Ontario Dental Hygienists Association (ODHA), the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association (CDHA), as well as technology suppliers, and the vast experiences of The Perfect Smile™ staff.

In Canada, all teeth whitening systems that do not contain fluoride are considered cosmetic. As such, manufacturers are simply required to notify Health Canada of the product’s availability and provide safety information. Ultimately, the safety of the product is the responsibility of the manufacturer, with no regulation in effect in Canada whatsoever as to who can perform a treatment.

Toothpastes, mouthwash and similar consumables have the lowest concentration of active ingredients and as such, it would take quite a long time to see any effect as the whitening agent is in contact with the teeth for such a short period, diluted with saliva and water.

Home kits, similar in appearance, and sometimes effect, to those used by many dental offices, have concentrations of active ingredients lower than in-office formulas. Whitening strips do not whiten entire arches – generally they only cover the front teeth. Users tell us that home kits produce modest results at best. This may be somewhat attributable to the length of time required to complete the treatment – typically 7 – 21 days.

Higher concentrations of the whitening agent are permitted in in-office formulas because they can be applied by a Registered Dental Hygienist who has control over the application and understands how the technology works!

Many dental offices use an approach whereby the client is custom-fitted with a plastic tray, the user filling the tray each evening with the whitening agent, and wearing the tray every night for 14 days. Many find this approach disturbing to established sleep patterns.

To begin with, the trained dental professional (RDH) will assess each individual situation prior to treatment. Teeth crowding and tipping, age, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) soreness, mouth size, current shade can all affect the treatment procedure. Once the assessment is completed and the approach agreed to, sensitive areas of the mouth and gums are isolated, and progress throughout the procedure is monitored for safety and effectiveness.

The Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) may also recommend treatment prior to or after the whitening to deal with any supplementary oral concerns.

It is very important to note that only dental professionals are trained, licensed, and insured to provide oral healthcare in Canada. Furthermore, in most independent dental hygiene clinics and dental offices, the RDH is the primary teeth whitening treatment provider.

Relatively new is a safe and very effective in-office teeth whitening treatment pioneered by The Perfect Smile™ that takes a total of ~ 1 hour. In today’s busy world, this approach appeals to many. The treatment approach includes the combination of the whitening agent directly applied to the teeth by the RDH, along with an LED light used to accelerate the whitening process. Research published by the American Dental Association concluded that the agent-light treatment lightened the color of teeth to a greater extent than did the agent or light used independently.

Teeth become stained as a result of age, smoking, coffee, tea, red wine, dental fluorosis i.e. swallowing too much fluoride, use of antibiotics e.g. tetracycline … many of these items are staples of the adult North American diet.

Health Canada and others report that if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have mouth or gum disease, enamel erosion, or are allergic to peroxide, you should not use tooth whiteners. If you have had dental problems, infections or recent work done, talk to your Registered Dental Hygienist first to see if teeth whitening is right for you. The Ontario Dental Hygiene Association (ODHA) recommends a thorough examination and a cleaning from a Registered Dental Hygienist prior to teeth whitening for optimum results.

Education is the #1 tool against gum and periodontal disease. Making sure your teeth are free of plaque and calculus (tartar) will provide the best teeth whitening results.

Unfortunately, only natural teeth can whiten. What can happen though, is that the teeth surrounding the caps, crowns or veneers may be whitened to match the color of the restored tooth.

After reviewing clinical studies, Health Canada reported that there is no concern about possible adverse effects on tooth structure or enamel hardness. For many, teeth whitening is part of a complete oral healthcare program.

The result you achieve is dependent on several factors including your genetic make-up, the concentration of the active ingredient in the whitener, the treatment approach, and the skills and experience of your treatment provider. Those whitening “guarantees” are marketing boasts, plain and simple.

As we resume our food consumption habits, staining will begin to re-occur. To maintain their new shade, we find consumers using all kinds of strategies to mitigate teeth staining, Exmaples include reducing consumption of certain drinks or foods and increasing the use of resusable straws. One of the most effective strategies is to return for a brief touch up once a year – a safe, effective and convenient way to maintain your new smile!