Options for teeth whitening

Dental patient getting teeth whitened

There’s no question a beautiful smile with white teeth is appealing. White teeth give a healthy, youthful appearance. However naturally our teeth aren’t a particularly white shade and years of staining foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, red wine and curry can leave our teeth yellower than they once were. That’s where tooth whitening comes in to give us a little boost in the cosmetic department. It is an increasingly common procedure requested by dental patients. And no wonder, a good whitening treatment can take years off of someone’s face and give them that confidence to smile a little wider.
Often the questions surrounding teeth whitening are what method is best and what is the process. There are different products and approaches to take. Let’s take a look into what could be the best option for you.

In-chair dental whitening

In-chair dental whitening, as the name suggests, is done in a single appointment in the dental chair. After protecting the gums and soft tissue in the mouth with a special plastic coating, a hydrogen peroxide gel is applied to the teeth. Sometimes a blue LED light is shone on the teeth to accelerate the process, but often the safe chemical gel is enough. These 20 minute applications are repeated 2-3 times in the one sitting or until the teeth get to the desired whiteness. This can leave your teeth up to 8 shades whiter in the one sitting!

PROS of in-chair whitening

  • One sitting and you’re done
  • Bleach your dentist can use is much stronger than what you can get over the counter
  • Applied by your dental practitioner so you know it’s done right without damaging your teeth!

Cons of in-chair whitening

  • The procedure can become increasingly sensitive as the 20-minute sessions progress, with some patients only able to tolerate 1-2 sessions (which can still give some incredible results)
  • It is a long procedure to be in the dental chair for, taking 1- 1.5 hours to complete
  • More costly than take-home whitening trays
  • Post procedure sensitivity which may take 1-2 weeks of sensitive toothpaste use to subside
  • Usually initial whiteness will darken slightly after a few days and weeks
Dental in-chair teeth whitening

Take-home whitening trays

Take-home bleach trays are trays custom made to your teeth. This requires an initial visit to your dentist to take molds of your teeth and then, usually within a week, your custom trays are ready for the dentist to fit and teach you how to use at home. At home, you place a small amount of bleach gel (either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide) in the trays and then wear the trays for 30-60 mins (depending on the strength of bleach used). This process is continued daily for 10-14 days. Your teeth can be whitened up to 8 shades and leave you with a beautiful white smile. Then, you get to keep the trays so that if you’d like to do a ‘maintenance bleach’ every 6 month or a year, you can! You would either use your leftover bleach gel or buy some more tubes from us.

PROS of take-home bleach trays

  • Longer lasting results than in-chair whitening
  • Done in the privacy of your own home
  • Convenient for time-poor individuals
  • Can touch up results every year or two when the need arises
  • Less costly than in-chair whitening

Cons of take-home whitening trays

  • Patients need to follow their dental practitioner’s instructions closely in order to achieve optimal results
  • Missing days is easy when a busy schedule gets in the way of our daily bleaching session
  • Takes about 2 weeks of committed daily bleaching to get results
  • Post procedure sensitivity which may take the use of a sensitive tooth paste and 1 to 2 weeks to subside
Teeth whitening strip

Do I need to get any outstanding dental work done before tooth whitening?

Yes, you do. As per usual, any procedures needed to restore full oral health need to be completed before any cosmetic work is carried out. Other than prioritizing health over cosmetics, it’s also important for the reason that if any cavities are left untreated it can make for a very painful whitening experience. Gum problems also need to be addressed before any cosmetic procedures.

I have crowns or fillings in my front teeth, do they whiten as well?

No, any synthetic material doesn’t whiten like enamel does. So, if there are any fillings or crowns on the front teeth that match your current shade of white, they may stand out as yellow after you bleach the rest of the teeth. That’s why it’s always a good idea to do any cosmetic treatment, such as crowns or veneers, after whitening so they can be matched to your best shade.

Are the results of teeth whitening permanent?

No, teeth can always stain over time, the rate of which is dependent on the amount of staining foods, staining liquids and staining habits we have. Someone who drinks lots of black coffee or tea will stain a lot quicker than someone who doesn’t. Smokers will stain a lot quicker than non-smokers. Most patients find doing a “top-up” bleach with take-home trays worn for several days done every year or so, sufficient to keep up their preferred white shade.

Does teeth whitening damage enamel?

This is a common and very valid question and one a number of studies have been conducted to answer. Contrary to popular belief, hydrogen peroxide doesn’t remove the surface layer of enamel. The way it actually whitens is by penetrating between the microscopic enamel crystals, where stains live, and oxidising the stains. A 2015 study, on the effect teeth whitening has on the structure of the tooth, concluded that teeth whitening does initially alter the composition of enamel but found this is totally reversible with remineralizing toothpastes. These toothpastes are widely available in supermarkets and are recommended to be used after teeth whitening procedures. Therefore, you can get the white smile you are after without worry about permanent damage to your precious pearly whites!

Is tooth whitening an option for me?

There are many factors involved in what makes someone a good candidate for teeth whitening. The best way to assess whether you’re a candidate is to book in with us for a tooth whitening consult or ask at your next active maintenance appointment. At Crows Nest Dentists we offer both in-chair whitening and take-home whitening and are ready to help you start smiling with confidence!


Samara K.S.C.F. Moura, Milena L.V. dos Santos, Lucas A. do Nascimento, Mariana F.A. da Silva, Glória M. de França, Lucas M. da Costa, Aldo C. Medeiros, Raimundo F. Araújo-Júnior, Aurigena A. de Araújo, Cláudia N. Oliveira, André L. Dorini, Rejane A. de Carvalho, Boniek C.D. Borges, Arnóbio A. da Silva-Júnior, Hébel C. Galvão, Design of a thermosensitive ibuprofen-loaded nanogel as smart material applied as anti-inflammatory in tooth bleaching: An in vivo study, Journal of Drug Delivery Science and Technology, 10.1016/j.jddst.2022.103123, 68, (103123), (2022