Laser teeth whitening can ensure a dazzling smile.

There’s something about a smile, especially one that shows beautiful white teeth. A bright smile can make a person more confident and outgoing in social situations. However, for many, discoloured teeth make them self-conscious if their teeth show when they smile. Years of drinking dark beverages like coffee, tea, soda and red wine, smoking, and aging take their toll on the colour of tooth enamel. The good news is that, now, anyone can have a dazzling white smile.

Teeth whitening is a routine procedure, which removes stains and discolouration from the teeth and improves the colour through a bleaching process to make them look “whiter”. There are several ways to whiten the teeth from whitening gels and toothpaste to bleaching strips/gel with a fitted mouth tray. But the most effective is through the use of laser.

Laser teeth whitening is sometimes called in-office bleaching. Essentially the procedure uses a laser to activate the tooth whitening gel. The treatment session lasts about an hour and the results are very noticeable; teeth can be up to five or six shades lighter. However, in the case of badly stained teeth, an additional sitting may be necessary.

Conventional teeth whitening treatment involves the wearing of custom-fitted mouth trays containing bleaching gel for a period of time ranging from 30 minutes to several hours — sometimes overnight — for five to 14 days. Most of these at-home teeth whitening kits use the slow-acting carbamide peroxide as base ingredient. It needs to stay on the teeth longer before it can start oxidising the stains and discolouration. Therefore, it takes several weeks before any difference is noticed. In contrast, in laser teeth whitening treatment, highly reactive hydrogen peroxide is applied on the surface of each tooth and laser is beamed on the bleaching compound to hasten the oxidation process.

The minimum age for teeth whitening is 18, as it is not recommended for children and young adults. Pregnant women should also avoid this procedure. The effects can last for up to 12-24 months depending on the lifestyle. A combination of good dental care including brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist will increase the length of time that whitening can last.

Laser whitening is a completely safe procedure when done under the supervision of a qualified dentist. The only side effect is short-term sensitivity, which lasts for a few hours after the treatment.

How it works

The dentist will first clean, scale and polish the teeth and remove any surface stains and tartar.

Next is to record the shade/colour of the teeth before the procedure to show the patient the difference.

The area is then prepared. Since the bleaching compound usually contains a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the dentist will place some form of protection around the gums so that only the teeth are exposed to the compound. This is to prevent burning of the soft tissue. The eyes should also be protected.

The whitening gel will be applied directly to the teeth and the laser activated. This allows the crystals contained in the gel to penetrate stains quickly. Some dentists argue that laser is not required for activation of the bleaching compound.

Finally the whitening gel is washed off and the result is evaluated by taking a photograph or using a shade chart.