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Perfecting your smile with teeth whitening

Brighten your smile with Raffles Dental’s teeth whitening treatment. PHOTO: 123RF
The dental surgeons and specialists use advanced technology to treat your dental needs. PHOTO: Raffles Medical Group
Take home teeth whitening kits are available at all of Raffles Dental's clinics. PHOTO: 123RF

Whiten your teeth in the comfort of Raffles Dental's clinics located island wide.
PHOTO: Raffles Medical Group

You'll have more reason to smile if yours is an enviable, megawatt one. As American celebrity Connie Stevens says it best: "Nothing you wear is more important than your smile."

Get an extra boost of confidence with teeth whitening and be on your way to a winning smile.

Dr Edgar Kieu, a dental surgeon from Raffles Dental, answers queries on teeth whitening:

Question 1: What are the different kinds of stains we can have on our teeth?

Dr Kieu: Stains can be broadly classified as intrinsic or extrinsic stains.

Intrinsic stains
Intrinsic staining takes place at the deeper layer of the enamel and the dentin, which is the tissue lying below the enamel. These stains give your teeth a yellowish or greyish hue. This may happen due to several factors:

  • Antibiotics. Giving certain antibiotics to children whose teeth are still developing can stain their teeth, which will carry into their adult lives.
  • Dental trauma. Teeth can be discoloured from the inside out due to bleeding within the tooth itself, which decomposes and forms a blueish-brown stain.
  • Genetic factors. A small number of people who suffer from congenital issues may also have discoloured teeth.
  • Environmental factors. Fluoride is known to cause teeth discolouration if consumed excessively when adult teeth are developing in children.
  • Age-related factors. The outer layer of the enamel on our teeth gets eroded as we age, exposing the dentin. As the dentin also turns yellow with age, our teeth will appear stained.

Extrinsic stains
Extrinsic stains occur when the outer layer of the tooth, also known as the enamel, is stained. Similar to intrinsic stains, there are also many causes for this:

  • Diet. Frequently consuming coloured foods like coffee, tea, cola or red wine stains your teeth over time.
  • Smoking. Nicotine and tar in tobacco stains the necks of the teeth above the gum-line, giving the teeth a yellowish-brown colour.
  • Poor dental hygiene. Accumulated dental plaque and calculus formed on the teeth due to poor dental hygiene can turn coloured, which varies between grey, yellow, black or brown.

Question 2: What are some treatment options available for teeth whitening?

Dr Kieu: Extrinsic stains are best removed through routine scaling and polishing, while intrinsic and age-related discolourations can be treated with professionally prescribed teeth whitening procedures. Here are some teeth whitening options available:

In-office teeth whitening
People who wish to see instant results may prefer this option, as your teeth may turn noticeably whiter after a single session:

  • Before the procedure, routine scaling and polishing will be done to maximise contact between your teeth and the whitening gel.
  • The dentist will apply the whitening gel onto your teeth, which is then "activated" by a light source.
  • Multiple sessions may be required, depending on the extent of discolouration of your teeth.

Take home teeth whitening kit
A take home teeth whitening kit is an alternate option. Compared to in-office teeth whitening, results for this are more gradual, which can be seen after a few weeks.

  • Dental impressions will be taken to create customised trays for your teeth during your first visit.
  • At the second visit, the trays, together with syringes of bleaching gels prescribed by the dentist, will be given to you. A round of routine scaling and polishing will be done at this visit to ensure maximum contact between the gel and the teeth.
  • Depending on your teeth's condition and the bleaching gel's concentration, you will be required to bleach the teeth between 20 minutes to two hours daily.

Question 3: Why can't toothpastes with "whitening effect" do the trick?

Dr Kieu: Toothpastes claiming to have a whitening effect contain abrasives that can help reduce the appearance or slow down the build-up of extrinsic stains. They do not have a direct impact on intrinsic stains.

Question 4: How do we manage the side effects of teeth whitening (if any)?

Dr Kieu: Some potential side effects include:

  • Tooth sensitivity. This can be managed with sensitivity toothpaste and professional topical fluoride applications.
  • Oral irritation. As the whitening gel is caustic, they can irritate soft oral tissues like the gums, lips or tongue if the gel comes in contact with them.

Question 5: How lasting is the effect of teeth whitening?

Dr Kieu: The intrinsic whitening effect can last two to three years or more. However, extrinsic staining, which occur after the whitening treatment can mask the inner, bleached teeth. Regular scaling and polishing and avoidance of food that stain teeth will allow the effect to last longer.

Question 6: What are the common myths regarding whitening?

Dr Kieu: It is not true that whitening will thin the teeth. Gels used in professionally prescribed tooth whitening agents contain fluoride and that has shown to increase the hardness of the teeth and resistance to decay after use.

Question 7: Are there any contraindications to the treatment?

Dr Kieu: Patients with active oral disease like unhealthy gums or decayed teeth are not suitable for treatment. These need to be resolved before whitening treatments can be considered. Patients with fillings, crowns, bridges or veneers in areas to be bleached will need to know that these will not turn whiter and may need replacement when the desired shade is attained. Patients with allergies to ingredients in the whitening gel are also not suitable.

This article provides general information only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult medical or healthcare professionals for advice on health-related matters.

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