The best way to answer this question would be to mention to your dental professional that you are considering whitening your teeth for advice specific to your mouth. Our SmartSmile Dental Hygienists can provide advice as to whether tooth whitening would be suitable for you and achieve the results you are seeking. When you as a patient ask us about whether you can have your teeth whitened we especially need to consider what it is that you don’t like about your smile and what you expect to get out of the tooth whitening process. It is also important to be familiar with the limitations of tooth whitening procedures. For many, tooth whitening is an ideal way to effectively create a whiter, brighter smile, while for others they will only get what they desire if they also have additional dental treatment to provide them with that fantastic smile that they're after.
Safety is paramount and it is also important to ensure oral health before proceeding with tooth whitening. We always prefer our patients to have had a recent dental examination and any necessary treatment completed and we can refer you back to the dentist should we feel any areas should be addressed prior to tooth whitening or if any x-rays (radiographs) and further investigation are required to assess whether any dark teeth are related to any abscesses, decay, previous treatment, or other problem associated with the root. In particular any areas where the tooth whitening material may enter into the inside of the tooth or soft tissues should be properly sealed or stabilised, this would include areas of decay, broken or leaking teeth or fillings, and ensuring professional gum maintenance is current to ensure gum health.
Most of our patients are great candidates for tooth whitening. A good rule of thumb to see if it is worthwhile according to tooth whitening authority Dr. Van Haywood is to check the colour of the whites of your eyes - the most natural look is when the colour of your teeth matches the sclera of your eyes and if your teeth are noticeable darker than your eyes then you'd benefit most from whiter teeth! If you are generally happy with your smile but feel your teeth could be a bit brighter then tooth whitening is likely to be ideal for you. It's good for people whose teeth have been darkened by aging, who were born with yellow teeth, or whose teeth have been stained by food and drink or drugs such as tetracycline. There are some things that whitening won’t fix. Tooth whitening is designed to whiten natural tooth structure. Whilst it may remove some of the surface stain off artificial fillings, porcelain veneers and crowns, and acrylic teeth, it will not alter the base colour of these materials. Some tooth defects and developmental discolourations within the tooth may also be much more difficult to whiten. Root filled, dead teeth usually require a separate whitening procedure from inside the tooth to obtain an improvement. Areas where the gum has receded and the yellowness of the root is showing through will not whiten. Worn, chipped or eroded edges of teeth where the enamel is missing and the underlying dentine of the tooth is showing through will also not whiten.
We tend to be cautious using tooth whitening for patients who exhibit any extreme dental sensitivity in their teeth, although the Opalescence PF gel formulation now contains potassium nitrate which has been shown to reduce tooth sensitivity and we can usually manage any transient sensitivity while bleaching. While there is no scientific evidence showing that women should not whiten their teeth while pregnant, the NZ Dental Association recommends minimising any elective dental treatment on pregnant ladies and we recommend tooth whitening when patients are not pregnant or lactating. Whitening is not generally recommended for children under 16, but in specific cases this can be done under the direction of a dentist.