What teeth whitening options are there?
There is a wide range of teeth whitening options today. Here, we’ll explain the professional teeth whitening procedures offered by NTUC Health Denticare.
In-office teeth whitening treatment
In-office teeth whitening is an effective and safe way to get your teeth whitened. During in-office whitening treatments (or chairside teeth whitening), the dentist applies a professionally dispensed whitening gel on your teeth. The gel contains a high concentration of active ingredients and may be accompanied by the use of a light to speed up the action of the whitening agent. As a result, in-office treatments typically take less than an hour and are most likely to deliver reliable and noticeable results.
Take-home whitening kits
While both in-office whitening treatments and take-home kits involve a similar teeth whitening process, take-home whitening kits use whitening gels that are lower in concentration. They need to be applied multiple times for a teeth whitening effect.
The dentist will provide a custom mouth tray and prescription-strength gel kit. You can then easily administer the treatment at home by wearing the gel-filled bleaching tray at home, for 1 to 2 hours a day. Typically, results can be seen after 14 to 21 consecutive days of use. Bleaching trays and whitening gel refills can be purchased from our dental clinics too.
A bleaching tray being filled with prescribed whitening gel
A good time to use take-home teeth whitening is at night after thorough teeth brushing and before going to bed. Cleaning your teeth before using the whitening kit helps to prevent bacteria build-up. Additionally, giving your teeth a chance to rehydrate through the night while you are asleep helps to preserve the whitening results. You also reduce the chance of teeth staining as you won’t be eating during this time of the day.
In-office whitening treatment vs. take-home whitening kits
Both in-office treatment and take-home teeth whitening involve a similar procedure but differ with regards to several aspects. In the table below, we compare some of the pros and cons of both options.
||In-office whitening treatment
||Take-home whitening kit
- Done in one session, with more predictable results
- Safe administration by professional dentists
- Gradual whitening results allow greater control over the desired shade
- Can whiten teeth on your own schedule during non-office hours
- Lower incidence of tooth sensitivity due to lower concentrations of active ingredients (e.g. hydrogen peroxide)
- May be inconvenient to prepare bleaching trays and gels each time
- Takes 2-3 weeks to reach the desired shade
Whitening toothpastes usually contain abrasive ingredients, such as silica, that polish the teeth by physically removing extrinsic stains on the surface. However, the natural colour of your teeth remains unchanged.
Some whitening toothpaste may contain small amounts of hydrogen peroxides or other chemicals that might help to dissolve stains. Blue covarine, a bluish pigment that adheres to tooth surfaces and changes the apparent colour of the teeth, might be found in some whitening toothpaste as well.
It typically takes several weeks before you might see noticeable whitening results, and in some cases, not at all.
Whitening strips are plastic strips that contain a thin layer of whitening agent, often hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Compared to chairside teeth whitening procedures, they use a lower concentration of these active ingredients. Just like take-home whitening kits, they can be administered at home by placing them on your teeth for a short duration of time.
While they are typically safe, using whitening strips too frequently or for extended durations may lead to side effects, such as increased tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. It is also important that you check the list of ingredients, as some may contain chemicals like chlorine dioxide that can potentially damage your teeth. We recommend you consult a dentist before you begin using teeth whitening strips.
Natural teeth whitening methods
There are many homemade teeth whitening remedies available on the internet. However, we caution against using such homemade whitening pastes, as they can cause permanent and irreversible damage to your teeth.
If you prefer to avoid teeth whitening procedures altogether, you can begin by adopting lifestyle habits that help to keep your teeth naturally white. One strategy is to prevent extrinsic stains by using a straw to consume drinks that contain tannins, pigments or high acidic content, such as coffee and red wine. Practising good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist twice yearly for checkups, scaling and polishing are also crucial in maintaining white teeth.
An illustration of how porcelain veneers work.
Porcelain veneers (or more generally, dental veneers) are thin, tooth-coloured, custom-made shells that cover the front surface of your teeth. Veneering is an option for very extreme cases of multiple chipped teeth or intense discolouration that cannot be lightened by other methods. They are used to improve dental appearance and function by covering up stains or other imperfections on tooth surfaces. One tooth or multiple teeth may undergo veneering at the same time.
The veneering process may involve multiple visits to the dentist, as the porcelain veneers are made and applied on separate occasions. The dentist will first reshape the tooth surface, before making a model of the tooth, which will be sent to a laboratory for the veneer to be made. During your subsequent visit, the dentist will adjust the veneer before cementing it to your teeth.