Once only an option for those that had thousands of dollars, tooth whitening has now become very affordable, with a vast array of options for whitening your teeth available at our fingertips, including in-clinic whitening performed by a dentist, dentist-made home whitening trays, and DIY-home whitening kits available over-the-counter from your pharmacy. So which is the best treatment method for you? Let’s take a look into why our teeth stain, and how we can access the teeth-whitening treatment that best suits your needs, no matter your financial situation.
What Causes Teeth To Stain?
Our teeth are porous, which means they have minuscule holes in the surface which can take hold of stains, and cause them to take on a yellow or even brown colour. Our teeth can discolour for many reasons, some of which can include:
- Poor dental hygiene: If you don’t brush and floss your teeth regularly, this can allow bacteria and food particles to hang around in your mouth and cling to your teeth, which can lead to staining.
- Eating strongly-coloured foods: Including red wine, tea, coffee, pasta sauces, beetroots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries and more. As a general rule, if a food will stain your clothes, it’s also likely to stain your teeth.
- Tobacco use: Smoking cigarettes, pipes, or even chewing tobacco can yellow your teeth as well as cause gum disease.
- Ageing: It’s natural for our tooth enamel to slowly wear down over time, which can mean that the next layer of our tooth called the dentin, begins to show through. Dentin is yellowish in colour, which means that many people’s teeth start to look yellower as they age.
- Medications: Certain medications can contribute to tooth discolouration, including anti-histamines, anti-depressants, anti-psychotic drugs, and drugs used to treat high blood pressure. Exposure to the antibiotics tetracycline or doxycycline while in the womb or before the age of eight can also affect the colour of your teeth, as well as chemotherapy and head and neck radiation.
- Genetics: Some are just genetically predisposed to having yellower teeth, no matter what they do to try to avoid it.
How Can Dentists Whiten Your Teeth?
Dentists can help to whiten your teeth up to eight shades lighter in two key ways – either in their clinic, or by creating custom-made teeth whitening trays that you can use with their guidance at home.
Before undergoing whitening treatment a dentist will usually examine your teeth and gums and advise you if they are healthy enough to go through a whitening process. Your dentist may start by asking about your lifestyle and medical history to find out how your teeth became discoloured, as different stains respond differently to treatment. They can also check your teeth and repair any cavities or cracks, before starting treatment.
In-Clinic Teeth Whitening
In-clinic teeth whitening happens in the dental chair, and it’s by far the fastest and most effective way to whiten teeth, as dentists are able to use a higher percentage of hydrogen peroxide than other methods, so it’s the best option if you want instant results. Your dentist will often apply a protective gel to your lips and gums, followed by a whitening hydrogen-peroxide gel on to your teeth, which is then activated by a specialised LED light. This process usually takes up to two hours to complete, and takes place over one or two sessions, depending on how severe your stains are – most stains are normally removed fully after two treatments.
Custom-Made Home Whitening Trays
Dentists can also create custom-made trays that you use in your own time at home. Your dentist will create impressions of your teeth and gums, and create a home-whitening kit that you can use within the comfort of your own home.This will often contain two trays for your top and bottom teeth, syringes of whitening gel and a set of instructions as to how long and how often to apply the gel. At home, you can apply the gel inside each tray which you then place on your teeth, then relax while the whitening gel does its job.
After your whitening session, you’ll be able to remove and rinse your trays, and brush your teeth. This is often repeated daily over one or two weeks until your teeth reach the level of whitening that you desire. On average, it takes around 7-14 days to remove many surface stains.
DIY Pharmacy Teeth Whitening Treatments
There are many teeth whitening systems and products available to purchase over-the-counter at your local pharmacy, including whitening toothpastes, over-the-counter gels, rinses, strips, trays, and more. These treatments will whiten your teeth, but not as much or as quickly as treatments provided by your dentist, because the amount of active ingredient in DIY pharmacy whitening kits is significantly less than the gel used at a dentist. It’s recommended to limit the use of your DIY whitening treatment to a maximum of two weeks. That’s because continuous bleaching can damage your tooth enamel, and doing it for longer than that may not even cause your teeth to become any whiter.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Teeth Whitening Treatments
While teeth whitening can provide incredible results, it’s important to remember that the length of time that your results will last will depend on how well you look after your oral health, your brushing and flossing habits, and how much you expose your teeth to foods and drinks that cause staining – which is why it’s so important to keep looking after your teeth for best results.
The results of your whitening will also vary from person to person depending on the condition of your teeth, the level of staining, and the type of whitening treatments used.
Here are some tips to optimise your whitening treatments:
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily, floss to remove yellow plaque, and rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash to kill bacteria that cause plaque. Use a whitening toothpaste to remove surface stains and prevent yellowing.
- Get your teeth cleaned regularly at your dentist. Professional cleanings will remove plaque, which can pick up stains from what you eat and drink.
- Avoid foods and drinks that stain – go easy on red wine, sports drinks, carbonated beverages, black tea and coffee, berries and other strongly colored foods, including tomato-based sauces, and soy sauce or curries.
- Try sipping through a straw to reduce how much your teeth are exposed to drinks that might stain your teeth.
- Brush or rinse after consuming stain-causing beverages or foods.
- Avoid cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and tobacco.
- If you need to have crowns or veneers, get your teeth whitened beforehand, so that your dentist can match the colour of your crown or veneer to the whiter shade of your teeth.
Ready To Get A Brighter Smile From Your Dentist Or Pharmacy But Can’t Manage The Full Cost?
While tooth whitening is a safe and effective way to improve the appearance of teeth, and in turn, a person’s confidence, many people don’t have the funds available to pay for these whitening treatments up front. This is where New Zealand’s first health focussed Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) platform, HealthNow, is dedicated to bridging the gap between a person’s health and the money they have in their bank account – at absolutely no cost to New Zealand health consumers. This is a big change from traditional BNPL services that charge users interest on their purchases, hiking up the cost of their purchases and leaving them with less money to put towards their health each month.
HealthNow is accessed as a free app, splitting the total cost of your healthcare services, including dentistry appointments and pharmacy purchases, over up to six weeks, so the amount you have to pay on the day is a fraction of the total price. With your dentist or pharmacist getting paid in full on the day by HealthNow, it’s a win-win for all.
Starting with HealthNow is free and easy – just sign up on the app and start using it to pay for your health products and services. You can also check out HealthNow’s full benefits and features, including a health wallet to store funds set aside for health services that can be contributed to by others including your employer.