Teeth whitening by bleaching

A radiant white smile is not only an aesthetic eye-catcher, but also an expression of health and self-confidence. Teeth whitening, also known as bleaching, is becoming increasingly popular. People are looking for effective methods to whiten their teeth and remove unsightly discolouration. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about bleaching, the different methods of teeth whitening and how you can safely whiten your teeth. Discover the secrets of a radiant smile with teeth whitening.

Bleaching Requirements and What Needs to be Considered

Before you decide to have your teeth whitened, it is important to consider a few basic requirements. First of all, your oral health should be in a stable condition to avoid unwanted side effects. Gum inflammation or tooth decay should be treated before bleaching. It is also advisable to have your teeth professionally cleaned to remove surface impurities.

It is also important to note that only healthy tooth structure (enamel) can be whitened. Fillings, veneers, crowns or bridges are not lightened by bleaching and can become clearly visible after bleaching.

In rare cases, there are colour changes in the teeth caused by the mother taking medication during pregnancy or as a child:

  • Tetracycline discolouration: As a result of taking a certain antibiotic during pregnancy, discolouration may appear in the teeth of children in the form of yellowish to brownish cross streaks.
  • Fluorosis: An overdose of fluoride in childhood can lead to so-called fluorosis of the permanent teeth, among other negative effects. This is characterised by white, chalky stains on the teeth.

Such drug-induced discolouration can often only be mitigated by bleaching, but not completely eliminated, as it strongly depends on how pronounced the discolouration is.

It is therefore advisable to have a dentist check whether your teeth are suitable for bleaching before undergoing bleaching.

Bleaching at the Dentist

Dental bleaching methods offer an effective and safe way to achieve a radiant white smile. Professional whitening procedures under the supervision of a dentist include various methods to effectively whiten teeth and remove discolouration:

Power Bleaching / In-office Bleaching

A particularly quick and effective method of teeth whitening is in-office bleaching, also known as power bleaching. Here, the dentist carries out the bleaching directly in the practice. This method offers quickly visible results and is particularly suitable for people who have little time but still want a radiant smile.

To achieve this quick effect, hydrogen peroxide concentrations of between 20 and 40% are used. As hydrogen peroxide in this high concentration can lead to unpleasant effects on the gums, these products should only be used under the professional supervision of a dentist.

Biological Bleaching

Biological bleaching is a mild bleaching method based on ozone and plasma medicine.

As a positive side effect, the entire oral cavity is flooded with oxygen molecules and ions, which kills pathological bacteria.

Biological bleaching is preceded by a brief professional tooth cleaning, during which existing plaque and tartar or calculus are removed without traumatising the gums.

Home Bleaching from the Dentist

For those who prefer to have their teeth whitened in the comfort of their own home, dentists also offer home bleaching. In this case, the patient receives a customised bleaching tray and the appropriate bleaching gel. Under the guidance of the dentist, the patient can carry out the bleaching in the comfort of their own home without having to forego professional care. The gel used for home bleaching is significantly less concentrated. Therefore, on the one hand, less negative side effects can occur on the gums. On the other hand, it must be used for several days (5-10 days) in a row for 1-2 hours daily to achieve the desired effect.

With these dental bleaching options, effective methods are available to achieve a radiant white smile, whether in the dentist’s treatment room or in the comfort of your own home under expert guidance.

Teeth Whitening at Home

As tooth whitening is an ever-growing trend, there are also numerous products and options offered by the cosmetics and beauty industry to whiten your own teeth at home without a dentist. Numerous bleaching kits are offered on the internet that promise simple teeth whitening at home.
However, as already mentioned, there are a few things to bear in mind if you want to whiten your teeth yourself at home.

Whitening Teeth with Products from Drugstores and the Internet

Since 2012, an EU directive on the Cosmetics Regulation has been in force, which precisely regulates which products are freely available for sale and which bleaching preparations may only be used under dental supervision.
Only bleaching products containing less than 0.5% hydrogen peroxide are authorised for home and cosmetic use.
If you compare this with professional products for home use with 6-10% hydrogen peroxide or the highly concentrated power bleaching products with up to 40% hydrogen peroxide, it quickly becomes clear that these tooth bleaching kits for home use can only have a minor effect.

In addition to well-known online retailers, drugstores also offer bleaching pens or bleaching creams. These are often sold, especially online, in combination with LED lamps that are supposed to intensify the bleaching effect.

However, due to the very low concentration of actual bleaching agent in all these products, the actual effect is usually very limited. In addition, improper application can result in patchy, uneven whitening.

Whiten teeth naturally with home remedies

The internet also offers numerous methods and recipes on how to whiten or bleach your teeth with all kinds of home remedies.

However, caution is advised with many of these recipes, as they use substances that can whiten teeth, but can also cause lasting damage.

Hydrogen peroxide in liquid concentrations of 3% is freely available in pharmacies and there are numerous recipes, e.g. for mouthwashes. However, in order to achieve a relevant effect, the hydrogen peroxide must be left on the teeth for at least 60 minutes or longer. Therefore, professional home bleaching products are applied in gel form using trays to ensure that hydrogen peroxide remains on the tooth. This is not possible with liquids. Thus, repeated use over several days can lead to irritation of the oral mucosa.

Recipes that suggest mixing with baking soda (baking powder) can permanently damage teeth as the baking soda can abrade the tooth surface like sandpaper with repeated use. Although the teeth become whiter, they are also permanently damaged. This can lead to extreme sensitivity and even severe pain.
The same applies to whitening toothpastes. This type of toothpaste also usually works with relatively coarse cleaning agents that remove superficial deposits as well as tooth enamel.

Cosmetic tooth whitening

The same applies to so-called cosmetic tooth whitening, as offered by beauty parlours and beauty studios. This method is advertised as “particularly gentle”, which is simply due to the fact that the hydrogen peroxide concentration must not be greater than 0.5%. As with all free bleaching products, this raises the question of effectiveness.

How Long Does Tooth Whitening Last?

It is difficult to say exactly how long the bleaching effect will last, as it depends very much on personal dietary and lifestyle habits, for example.

Smoking and strongly colouring foods such as red wine, black or green tea can accelerate the re-discolouration of the teeth.

Experience has shown that professional home bleaching by a dentist using trays has the most lasting effect.
Multiple, repeated applications over 5-10 days ensure that even deep-seated discolouration is detected and lightened. In addition, bleaching can be “refreshed” relatively easily, e.g. every 6-12 months, by wearing the trays for 1-2 applications.

Risks, Side Effects and Disadvantages of Bleaching

Although bleaching is considered an effective method of teeth whitening, there are some potential risks and disadvantages that should be considered. Some people report negative experiences, including sensitivity or pain during or after bleaching. The question arises: is bleaching harmful to teeth? Some studies suggest that excessive bleaching can lead to tooth sensitivity. Gum irritation can also occur, especially if bleaching is carried out incorrectly. It is important to emphasise that professional guidance and compliance with the application instructions are crucial in order to minimise or rule out possible damage.

If bleaching is applied correctly, no permanent damage can occur. Sensitivity is usually temporary and lasts from a few hours to 1-2 days.
The higher the hydrogen peroxide concentration of the bleaching gel, the more likely the tooth sensitivity is temporary. The sensitivities are often exacerbated by the use of heat lamps, as this causes the teeth to dry out. These lamps are intended to speed up the bleaching process or enhance its effect, but if used incorrectly they can actually cause thermal and therefore, even permanent damage to the teeth.

Costs for Teeth Whitening

As there are many variants, no generalised statement can be made here either.

In principle, professional bleaching at the dentist is of course more complex and therefore more expensive than cheap bleaching kits from the internet.
However, as over-the-counter products show in most cases hardly any effect, a one-off investment in a professional procedure with the help of a dentist is often much more sustainable and pays off in the long term.

In-office or power bleaching in the dental practice usually takes 90-120 minutes. As the treatment room is occupied for this time and the dentist cannot carry out any other treatments, bleaching costs of CHF 500-900 may be incurred, depending on the practice and location.

It is important to keep in mind, whether the costs for a mandatory professional teeth cleaning before bleaching are already included in the costs or are charged separately.

Home bleaching with customised bleaching trays incurs one-off costs for the production of the customised bleaching trays, the material and the consultation with the dentist. In contrast to in-office bleaching, bleaching can be repeated later at a low cost, as the trays are already available and only the new bleaching gel needs to be purchased.

Even if it can initially be a little more expensive than in-office bleaching due to the production of the trays, the initial investment quickly pays off if you want to have a permanently bright white smile and the opportunity to “refresh” your smile every 6-12 months for little money and even under professional dental care.

We will be happy to provide you with a personalised offer for professional bleaching as part of a dental examination, depending on your initial situation and the most suitable option for you.

Dr. med. dent. Tobias Steinherr M. Sc.

Teeth can be whitened with the help of bleaching. We will gladly inform you about the different possibilities.

Dr. Tobias Steinherr Dentist St. Gallen

Frequently Asked Questions About Teeth Whitening

Below we answer the most frequently asked questions about tooth whitening:

Yes, teeth whitening is possible without damaging your own teeth. It is important that the right method is chosen and applied correctly.

Caution is advised when using strong bleaching lamps, as too much heat can lead to thermal, permanent damage to the tooth or dental nerve.

Home remedies based on baking soda or lemon juice etc. should also be avoided, as these agents can permanently damage the enamel due to their strong abrasiveness or acidity.

Bleaching is generally understood as the whitening of teeth using appropriate preparations, usually based on hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide, i.e. H2O2, together with carbamide peroxide, is the most commonly used agent to achieve tooth whitening.

The hydrogen peroxide penetrates the tooth surface and splits into H2O, i.e. water, and a single oxygen atom O. This single oxygen atom has the ability to whiten teeth, because it dissolves discolouration.

Carbamide peroxide (NH₂)₂CO₂H₂O₂ is a derivative of hydrogen peroxide and is chemically more stable. It is therefore often used for home bleaching products as it can release the hydrogen peroxide over a longer period of time. As with hydrogen peroxide, it is ultimately the oxygen atom O that is responsible for whitening the teeth.

Further information

The information listed contains relevant topics for a better understanding.