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What is Teeth Whitening and Teeth Bleaching?

Want to know how ex- Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and current manager Jurgen Klopps’ teeth went from ugly yellow to bleach white in a matter of months? (Hint: it cost a lot of money)


Well, you are not alone. Researchers show that 50% of people surveyed in the UK are dissatisfied with their teeth colour. Many people whom I see on a daily basis have asked me about tooth whitening in one way or another.

Causes of stained teeth

Discolouration of our teeth are due to either extrinsic or intrinsic stains. Extrinsic stains are found on the outer layer of the teeth. This is most commonly due to the foods we consume, such as coffee, tea, wine, tobacco and certain vegetables (i.e. beetroot and spinach).

Intrinsic stains, as the name suggests, is staining that occurs within the teeth. This occurs when teeth form small cracks over time, allowing stains to penetrate deeper into the teeth. This is why older people usually have yellower teeth. Intrinsic stains cannot be polished off and require certain chemicals to infiltrate the teeth. This is where bleaching plays a role.

Ways to whiten your teeth

There are various techniques to make your teeth whiter. For easy to remove stains, we commonly do a simple scaling and polishing first. More stubborn stains will see us explore the options of bleaching and/or microabrasion. For really bad stains or dark teeth, veneers and crowns are the only options.

Scaling and polishing

Largely used to remove surface, extrinsic stains. During polishing, dentists use a special polishing paste which contains abrasives and rough particles. This helps us remove the stains that you would not normally be able to remove by normal toothbrushing.

Difficulty level: Easy to remove

Bleaching

By and far the most popular and most asked about whitening technique. This is due to the influx of do-it-yourself bleaching kits that are widely available nowadays, as well as an increasing number of non qualified professionals offering these bleaching services.

Bleaching is used for certain types of intrinsic, or internal, stains. Bleaching basically involves soaking your teeth in a chemical, usually hydrogen or carbamid peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide – which is also used as a disinfecting agent – enters the tooth and breaks up the molecules causing the stains.

For a more more in-depth discussion of this topic, please look forward to the next posts on bleaching (here and here)!

Difficulty level: Moderately difficult stains

Crowns and Veneers

The most expensive option, and the option responsible for 99% of the perfect, photogenic, Instagram-friendly smiles you see so prevalent in models, actors and famous people.Crowns and veneers are white porcelain caps placed over teeth. They can be shaped to best suit the patient’s smile and preference, and can also be manufactured to the degree of whiteness that the patient desires.We usually use as a last resort if you have badly stained and dark teeth.

Managing expectations

Polishing and bleaching can whiten your teeth, but not to the degree that many of you are expecting.


Take the example of this colour guide for teeth. If your teeth has a starting colour at 10, you may possibly only achieve a 7 or 8 with bleaching. Correspondingly, if your teeth is naturally whiter to begin with, you will end up with a lighter result. It is highly unlikely to go from a 10 to a 1… which brings us back to the question:

What did Brendan Rodgers have to get his teeth looking that way?

If you think that he managed to achieve such white teeth with bleaching, you’re wrong! He had veneers done for 10 of his teeth. In Singapore, that will cost you anywhere from $5000 upwards. As such, do have realistic expectations and establish good communication with your dentist.

Keep smiling!
The dentist

Check out our bleaching trilogy
1: Can your teeth be whitened?
2: More about bleaching.
3: Not everyone’s teeth can be bleached!
Photo credits: 1 2

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