A Tooth Doctor’s Journey to Whiter Teeth

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Keeping (or making) your teeth white is not an easy task. I have met patients who are totally oral hygiene compliant – they brush their teeth at least twice a day, they do not forget to floss, and they avoid drinking the coloured liquid as much as possible to shun teeth discolouration – but unfortunately, staining still occurs. Teeth discolouration can be caused by a lot of things. It could be by simply drinking wine and coffee, years of smoking, or even taking certain types of medication. It is so hard to maintain white teeth that even a dentist like me needs a little bleaching myself.

Good thing technology provides us with more options in keeping our teeth pretty and white in lesser time and in the lesser effort.  You can always opt to do a teeth whitening treatment. Teeth whitening treatments are not new in Singapore and has become quite common. I usually recommend this to my patients and it is also usual for them to have doubts before getting the treatment.

Here are a few frequently asked questions patients have prior the treatment:

  1. What is the teeth whitening treatment that suits me best?
  2. Will it be painful?
  3. How long will the treatment last?
  4. Will the whitening effect last a lifetime?
  5. How much does it cost?

Well, there are actually a lot of teeth whitening treatments a patient can choose – to name a few: In-office whitening, chairside whitening, and laser whitening. 

I can explain this to them in an academic and medical way but what makes a dentist more credible? It’s experiencing the treatment first hand. In this way, I cannot only sympathize and emphasize with my patients, but I can say that I have literally walked in their shoes. It makes understanding them as well as educating or convincing them easier.

Just like any patient, I also started with the basic – finding a good and reputable dentist to do the treatment. You may think that this was easy for me as I already know a lot of trusted colleagues, but no. This part was actually difficult because it was hard to par my schedule with them. Luckily, one Saturday afternoon, a colleague of mine finally matched with my schedule and I decided to go for an In-office whitening treatment.   

Here is a run through of my personal teeth whitening experience:

Before the Treatment

Tooth Whitening

Obviously, I am not new to the procedures but I realized that each dentist also has their own approach to their patients. Usually, what I do before starting the procedure I will do some scaling and polishing. This is done to maximize contact between your teeth and the whitening gel. This is equivalent to cleaning the teeth and will depend on my assessment of the teeth to the amount of effort I’ll exert. If it’s relatively clean, I’ll skip some parts of the process. However, for my colleague, he has a standard way of doing things, regardless of the current condition of the patient’s teeth. So for my treatment, we did scaling, some pumice polishing, followed by prophy jet spray.

It was quite an uncomfortable experience for me though. This is maybe because my teeth are a bit sensitive. I have been doing only Take Home teeth whitening procedure so that’s why it was also a different experience being the one in the patient’s chair.

At the same time, it was hard for me to keep my mouth open the whole duration of the cleaning process. It’s maybe because I have a small mouth. I was also kind of imagining my saliva coming out. Now I get the feeling of how uncomfortable this is for my patients.

Like most In-office teeth whitening procedures, light activating teeth whitening gel was used on me. This is also what I use for my clients. These gels are of a higher concentration so it can deliver a satisfying and noticeable result.

During the Treatment

The dentist will be using the technology of Zoom Whitespeed, thus whitening lamps were used for the treatment proper. I again felt a little discomfort due to the fact that I have sensitive teeth. I am already aware of that so I anticipated the feeling. But what is good about it is that the uncomfortable feeling does not linger for too long. A little getting used to the sensation is all you need. I believe this will be more tolerable or even a breeze for those people who do not have sensitive teeth.

The treatment proper took around 20 minutes to finish. The average time I get to finish the treatment with my patients is around 45 minutes. But I believe time will definitely vary depending on the extent of work to be done on your teeth. The more discoloured it is, the longer the session will be. So I guess, it’s safe to say that my teeth do not need much fixing.

The Zoom Whitespeed can whiten up to 8 shades from your current teeth colour. This kind of whitening is very much recommendable for those with deep teeth discolouration problem.

After the Treatment

Before-After Treatment

Right after the treatment, a post-treatment gel was covered in my teeth. It helped a lot in reducing sensitivity plus it will help protect the enamel of your teeth.

My dentist also warned me to expect mild sensitivity to cold or hot stimulus that would include, but not limited to cold or hot drinks and food. (True enough, I experienced it a few days after the treatment. I ate ice cream and it tingled!) Aside from the cold ones, you might also want to avoid food and drinks that may cause discolouration to your teeth – coffee, sodas, and even milk tea. If you are a lover of these drinks, I guess you have to make a little sacrifice to achieve that bright smile. Good thing I am not much of fond of such drinks, water will be fine for me.  (Probably also why it took a little lesser time and effort to do my treatment).

What struck me most is the satisfying feeling after the treatment, seeing that my teeth were indeed whiter compared to 20 minutes ago. The results are immediate. I now know why my patients cannot stop smiling while checking their selves in the mirror after treatment. You just can’t help it! But I say, go ahead because you earned that smile.

The thing with teeth whitening is it really never stops after you are done with the In-office treatment. For most people even, one session of teeth whitening treatment will not be enough to really whiten their teeth to their liking. It is possible that your dentist will schedule you for another session. You can take another session after 6 months of your treatment. However, most often, your dentist will recommend that you continue the treatment at home. You will be given instructions on how to use over-the-counter whitening kits. As for me, I was no longer given one since I am already actually doing this at home. But I believe, it was still essential for me to do the In-office procedure for myself. At least this time, I know exactly how it feels. I can give more realistic advice to my patients.

You might also be wondering how much did I spend, right? A treatment like this, In-office teeth whitening, would usually cause you $500-950. This will depend on the rate of your clinic and dentist of choice. However, if you opt for a Take-Home whitening treatment instead, it will cost you around $250-400. The only downside here is that it will not yield the same immediate and noticeable result compared to the In-office treatment.

I am very grateful to have had a first-hand experience of the treatment, most especially to my colleague. I did not only gain a deeper understanding of my work from a patient’s point of view but most importantly, I now have a picture perfect white smile.