registred dental hygienist talking about teeth whitening

Teeth whitening is a very popular cosmetic procedure designed to give you a whiter, brighter smile! The confidence and assurance one gains from a beautiful smile can be quite startling. Clients who have their teeth whitened report a newfound confidence, excited about their healthier, youthful, and more energetic appearance. Surprisingly, this can all be achieved at a very modest cost compared to more elaborate cosmetic procedures - part of teeth whitening’s appeal no doubt!

The challenge the client faces is insuring that they receive the best possible results (all teeth are different!), at a fair price, in a safe and welcoming environment. To this end, we have drawn from a wide body of knowledge published in Canada and abroad to de-mystify many of the questions we regularly hear from clients considering having their teeth whitened.

The information presented has been drawn from many sources including Health Canada, the Ontario Dental Hygienists Association (ODHA), the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association (CDHA) other regulatory bodies, technology suppliers, and the personal experiences of the authors.

Consumers in Ottawa today have an abundance of choice, some effective, many less so, when deciding to have their teeth whitened. A walk through any Drug Mart reveals a myriad of take-home options – whitening toothpaste, mouthwash, and take home whitening kits (strips, paint-on, trays …) As well, we see the emergence of “mall whiteners”, a phenomenon migrating from the US where attendants (e.g. spa attendants?) apply a whitening treatment to your teeth. Is this safe?

In Canada, all teeth whitening systems that do not contain fluoride are considered cosmetics. As such, manufacturers simply have to notify Health Canada of the product’s availability and provide safety information. Ultimately, the safety of the product is the responsibility of the manufacturer, with no regulation in effect as to who can perform a treatment.

Toothpastes, mouthwash and similar consumables have the lowest concentration of active ingredients and as such, it would take quite a long time to see any effect as the whitening agent is in contact with the teeth for such a short period, diluted with saliva and water.

Home kits are similar in appearance to those a dental professional would use, with the concentration of active ingredients lower than in-office formulas however. One approach, strips, do not whiten entire arches – generally they only cover the front teeth. In talking to users, it is our feeling that most home kits produce modest results at best. This may be somewhat attributable to the length of time required to complete the treatment - typically 7 - 21 days.

Higher concentrations of the whitening agent are permitted in in-office formulas because they are applied by a Registered Dental Hygienist who has precise control over the application and understands how it works!

Many dental offices use an approach whereby the client is custom-fitted for a tray, filing the tray each evening with the agent for 14 days and wearing the tray at night.

Relatively new is an in-office teeth whitening treatment that takes 1 hour (1 appointment), is safe, and very effective. In today’s busy world, this approach appeals to many consumers. The treatment includes the combination of the whitening agent and an LED light to accelerate the whitening process. Research published by the American Dental Association concluded that the agent-light treatment lightened the color of teeth to a greater extent than did the agent or light alone.

In Ottawa, knowledgeable consumers choose to have their teeth whitened by a Registered Dental Hygienist. Why?

The trained dental professional (for example, the Registered Dental Hygienist, Dentist...) will assess each individual situation prior to treatment (e.g. crowding, tipping of teeth, shade, age, TMJ soreness, mouth size...), select the proper treatment method, effectively isolate sensitive areas of the mouth and gums, and monitor progress throughout the procedure. Your professional Registered Dental Hygienist may also recommend treatment prior to or after the whitening to deal with any supplementary oral concerns - an added bonus. A dental professional is trained, licensed, and insured to provide the highest quality oral care. In most dental offices and independent dental hygiene clinics, a Registered Dental Hygienist is the primary teeth whitening treatment provider.

Why do teeth become stained? Teeth become stained as a result of age, tobacco smoking, coffee, tea, red wine, dental fluorosis (swallowing too much fluoride), antibiotic use (e.g. tetracycline) … many of these staples of the North American diet .

Who is a good candidate for teeth whitening? Health Canada and others report that if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have mouth or gum disease, enamel erosion, or teeth stained by medication, or are allergic to peroxide, you should not use tooth whiteners. If you have had dental problems, infections or recent work done, talk to your Registered Dental Hygienist first to see if teeth whitening is right for you. The Ontario Dental Hygiene Association recommends a thorough examination and a cleaning from a Registered Dental Hygienist prior to teeth whitening for optimum results.

Education is the #1 tool against gum and periodontal disease. Making sure your teeth are free of plaque and calculus (tartar) will provide the best teeth whitening results.

Can tooth whiteners whiten caps, crowns, veneers, bonding or dentures? No, only natural teeth can whiten. What can happen though is that the teeth surrounding the caps, crown … may whiten to the color of the crown, caps.

Is teeth whitening safe? After reviewing clinical studies, Health Canada reported that there is no concern about possible adverse effects on tooth structure or enamel hardness. We respectfully suggest that only your Registered Dental Hygienist / dentist understands how whitening is part of a complete oral healthcare program.

Can I be guaranteed how many shades I will whiten? It is a fact that the result you achieve is dependent on several factors, your genetic make-up, the whitening agent (concentration of the active ingredient…), the treatment approach, and competence of your treatment provider. The mall whitener “guarantee” is marketing, plain and simple.

To find out more about teeth whitening, we invite you to contact me at The Perfect Smile (Ottawa) – your Ottawa Independent Dental Hygiene Practice committed to providing oral healthcare and teeth whitening services in a safe, spa-like environment, at a very competitive rate. Please click here to visit our website