How does teeth whitening at home work?
Firstly, we’ll divide the teeth whitening at home techniques by their various approaches. Teeth whitening can be either mechanical or chemical. We could also further divide the methods into teeth whitening at home and chairside whitening.
Teeth Whitening with Abrasives (Mechanical Teeth Whitening)
Teeth whitening at home takes various forms. The Internet offers numerous home remedies that promise wonderful whitening effects. Such solutions are generally available at a low cost – unlike professional whitening. Most are based on abrasives that remove some of the healthy tooth enamel - as well as plaque and tartar – that teeth cannot naturally replace. Mechanical teeth whitening at home essentially comprises removing deposits from the teeth surfaces.
Abrasives frequently used for teeth whitening at home:
Teeth whitening baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
Toothpaste (containing abrasives)
Disadvantages of mechanical teeth whitening:
Potential permanent damage to the enamel due to frequent and careless cleaning
Increased teeth sensitivity after the procedures
Abrasions to the gums and irritated roots
Reduced resistance to dental cavities
The whitening effect is minimal
Teeth whitening at home using chemical products (chemical teeth whitening)
Another alternative is teeth whitening with products that are freely available and are primarily intended for teeth whitening. These are products that have been medically proven in pharmacies and regular drugstore products. They are mostly pastes and mouthwashes, as well as whitening pens and peroxide strips. Their effectiveness is mostly visible, but the durability is certainly lacking. Subsequent repeating of these teeth whitening procedures significantly weakens the tooth enamel, making the teeth fragile and susceptible to tooth enamel cracking. Chemical teeth whitening is more radical than the mechanical method. The most common active ingredient in teeth whitening chemicals is hydrogen peroxide. From the teeth whitening dentist’s perspective, uncontrolled teeth whitening with peroxide is very unsafe. The direct application of pure peroxide is dangerous to your body, and is absolutely excluded from a health perspective. Nonetheless, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) can be found in various concentrations as the active ingredient in numerous teeth whitening accessories. In over-the-counter products, the active compound concentration is usually up to 3%. The effects are a visible yet short-term teeth whitening. As a milder alternative to chemical teeth whitening, carbamide peroxide is used – it has a teeth whitening effect that is about three-times less, at the same concentration. In principle, the lower the concentration of the active ingredient in the teeth whitening product, the gentler the chemical whitening.
Chemical products and substances frequently used for teeth whitening at home:
Teeth whitening paste (containing peroxide or carbamide peroxide)
Teeth whitening gel (containing peroxide or carbamide peroxide)
Teeth whitening by the direct application of peroxide (health risk!)
Teeth whitening pen
Mouldable teeth whitening strips (containing peroxide or carbamide peroxide)
Disadvantages of chemical teeth whitening:
Increased tooth sensitivity and pain
Teeth more easily discoloured by food and dental stains that occur shortly after teeth whitening
With the direct application of peroxide – health risks and potential gum burns
that worsen the symptoms of dental caries after the application
Aesthetically necessary replacement of white fillings, dental bridges, dental restorations, dental fillings or dental crowns (ceramic and resin), due to a clear colour difference compared to the whitened teeth
Increased teeth sensitivity after teeth whitening, with eventual tearing or roughening of the tooth surface
Gum burns due to the improper application of whitening components with higher concentration of the active substance
Uneven teeth whitening effect (depending on the enamel layer, number of dead teeth, etc.)
Don’t chemically whiten teeth if:
You suffer from periodontitis
You suffer from high levels of teeth decay
You have many fillings, bridges or crowns
You're a heavy smoker
You frequently drink strong-coloured drinks
Chairside whitening alternatives
1. Chairside alternatives to chemical teeth whitening
A clinic provides chemical teeth whitening that is unavailable elsewhere. The whole procedure is a more intensive and professional version of the aforementioned teeth whitening process. Usually, the procedure consists of several sessions lasting up to 15 minutes (only after achieving the desired effect). More concentrated products (up to 6%) are used for the procedures, with on average a twice-higher content of whitening component than is found in home teeth whitening products. Therefore, the procedure is shorter and results are faster. In the clinic, the oxidation reaction is usually accelerated by a special light or by heating with LEDs and plasma lamps using various light wavelengths. This procedure is also known as laser teeth whitening. However, using only laser lights will not whiten your teeth.
The difference between household and chairside chemical teeth whitening
The main difference is the intensity, as well as the care during/post procedure. Since high concentrations of active substances are used in chairside whitening, comprehensive health care is necessary. The procedure is preceded by a thorough and complete examination, the removal of tartar and deposits, and the repair of diseased teeth. The actual teeth colour is then determined using the enamel colour scale. For safety, the gums and lips are also protected from teeth whitening prior to the process.
After the procedure has just taken place, and your teeth and the enamel may be frosted. The teeth whitening dentist must therefore re-mineralise, hydrate and soothe the enamel after the procedure. For this purpose, special toothpastes are also used to treat freshly-whitened teeth. After the procedure, the patient must avoid eating foods that will stain the dental enamel, as well as smoking. It is necessary to avoid drinks like coffee, black tea, green tea, wine, various herbal infusions, etc. High-pigment foods like beets, blueberries, carrots, soy sauce and coloured oil must also be avoided.
There’s another alternative to chairside chemical teeth whitening. This is professional teeth whitening at home - which is performed under the professional supervision of a teeth whitening dentist. An individual tray can be made for the whitening gel, based on the individual’s impression of client´s teeth. According to the teeth whitening dentist's exact instructions, the patient will then apply the teeth whitening gel at home, allowing it to work for the prescribed time. The results are regularly checked by a teeth whitening dentist. Such cooperation may also work by a higher concentration of gel being applied by a teeth whitening dentist at the clinic, with a lower concentration being applied by the patient at home (this type of gel is not freely available). The best results are obtained when the teeth are first professionally whitened at home, and are then enhanced at a dental clinic.
VIDEO: Professional teeth whitening at home
2. Chairside alternatives to mechanical teeth whitening
A dental cleaning procedure, or air-flow, is a method performed by a professional dental hygienist. It is an abrasive and mechanical method of teeth whitening. It effectively removes the pigment spots found on the enamel that result from strongly-coloured foods and products. These products include wine, turmeric and soy, as well as smoking. Over the long-term, the tooth enamel is regularly exposed to dyeing effects that leave pigment spots on the teeth. After airflow, the teeth are polished and re-mineralised to smooth any roughening and make the enamel surface smooth and free of residues.
The dental cleaning procedure also frees the teeth of deposits and plaque on the tooth enamel. Teeth yellowing is the most typical result of not removing such deposits. The saliva in the oral cavity contains minerals and, in response to plaque, results in the subsequent mineralisation of these impurities. The result is strong yellowing – most often at the tooth root – which airflow can remove.
Benefits of a dental cleaning procedure
A dental cleaning procedure offers advantages that are also important for medical dentistry. In addition to providing preventive solutions for patients suffering from periodontitis, the air-flow method is also advantageous for dental cavity prevention. This method is based on small sand particles that mechanically remove bacteria from the enamel surface. In other words, the bacteria on the enamel surface is mechanically removed.
This process also has a direct effect on the enamel. It reveals the fine pores that are filled with fluoride gel at the end of the procedure. Therefore, the patient is freed from ugly pigment spots and the teeth enamel is regenerated.
3. Dental veneers – an chairside alternative to teeth whitening
Dental veneers are a part of aesthetic dentistry. They are primarily aimed at those with enamel so damaged that further chemical teeth whitening could destroy the teeth. The veneers overlap the outer teeth surface (the visible side of the teeth when smiling) by applying composite materials. This aesthetic treatment corrects the colour and shape of the teeth and conceals defects and injuries. Tooth veneers are a more costly alternative to teeth whitening, yet can solve problems with the teeth colour and shape immediately and permanently.
Teeth whitening from a dental perspective
The tooth enamel surrounds the entire crown of the tooth and its visible part above the gum. The primary task is to provide protection for the tooth from mechanical stress and acids. It protects the softer pad of the tooth - dentine. Its hardness and colour are similar to that of human bones. Bone is naturally rather yellow, as is the dentine. Teeth whitening is therefore only possible with a sufficient enamel layer. During teeth whitening, the amount of the tooth enamel either decreases (mechanical whitening) or weakens (chemical whitening). Therefore, the tooth enamel can break to the point where the dentine reveals its natural colour. If the patient's dentine is naturally yellow, the result will be the opposite of that intended.
In principle, teeth whitening at home is a sequence of traps that can have a detrimental effect on a patient’s health.
Taking care of the tooth enamel
Teeth whitening at home always effects the tooth enamel – the tooth’s only protection. Also, the procedure is conducted without expert supervision and with variable efficiency. As a result, teeth whitening at home is often accompanied by trying various methods with questionable effectiveness and health benefits. Such experiments result in severe enamel weakening, increased tooth sensitivity and reduced strength. These are associated with a higher incidence of dental cavities and gingivitis, which can cause periodontitis. This disease is irreversible. The financial costs and health problems resulting from the treatment and care of such weakened dentition are not worth the few euros that are saved. Overall, we don't recommend teeth whitening at home.
Schill Dental Clinic Recommendations
Teeth whitening can, however, be done under the supervision of professionals who are familiar with the patient's health and can recommend the best option. Before any teeth whitening, consult your teeth whitening dentist who will recommend the best way forward. By far the most effective teeth whitening method is a home whitening solution recommended by a teeth whitening dentist. However, after the teeth whitening potential problems may still occur. Your teeth whitening dentist can evaluate the potential risks and complications. Schill Dental Clinic provides a combination of home and chairside whitening services.