We all appreciate a good smile – one with perfectly aligned pearly whites that look and function well. Vanity prevails for good reason, so we have put together this one-stop guide to help you understand how teeth whitening can help you achieve that million-dollar smile.
In this article, we compare the different teeth whitening options available in Singapore according to budget, their respective effectiveness, and when you should consider other cosmetic dentistry options instead.
What causes teeth stains?
Tooth discolouration takes place over time due to external and internal factors like our diet, ageing, and tooth injuries.
We broadly categorise the type of tooth discolouration according to the location of the stain:
|Type of stain
|What it is
Apart from the above, tooth discolouration can occur as a natural byproduct of ageing. As we age, enamel wears out and exposes dentin, which gets yellower with age. In addition, dentin (which is the yellower, inner part of the tooth) gets denser over time. This makes teeth appear more discoloured.
How does teeth whitening work?
To achieve whiter teeth, bleaching agents – namely hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide – are used to lighten the colour of your teeth. Our teeth are semi-permeable, which allows the bleaching agents to penetrate past the surface into the tooth enamel and break down chromogenic molecules that cause stains. Once broken down, the chemical agents convert into water and oxygen molecules that are harmless to your body. This is how in-office teeth whitening treatments and take-home whitening kits usually work and is especially useful in removing intrinsic and extrinsic stains.
Whitening toothpaste, on the other hand, may contain components that gently remove stains on the surface of the teeth, or chemicals that help break down stains. However, its efficacy remains hotly debated – whitening toothpaste can only remove superficial stains and cannot lighten the shade of your teeth. Results are also short-lived. Furthermore, some toothpastes can be abrasive and might damage tooth surface over time. Avoid toothpastes which are gritty or contain salt or large particles which can be highly abrasive, which thins out the enamel layer permanently.
What are the teeth whitening options in Singapore?
There are three broad categories of teeth whitening options that you can consider.
|How it works
Over-the-counter (OTC) Products
Regardless of choice, regular visits to the dentist go a long way in maintaining healthy and clean teeth. This is why at Dental Designs, all four of our teeth whitening options under our WHITEN+ program start with a full dental scaling & polishing, followed by airflow prophyjet stain removal.
This allows us to remove existing surface stains on your teeth and whiten your teeth in a gentle, non-invasive manner, thus ensuring that your whitening treatment has the most optimal effect.
Is teeth whitening treatments safe?
Regardless of what teeth whitening procedure you opt for, we recommend that you consult a professional dentist who can guide you in making an informed decision.
In-office teeth whitening procedures executed by a qualified dentist are generally safe. Take-home whitening kits prescribed by your dentist would also be a safe option, as long as you follow your dentist’s directions.
However, you do want to be more cautious with whitening toothpaste, strips, and homemade bleaching agents – essentially OTC products that can be purchased without a dentist’s approval.
Always exercise caution when purchasing such products, especially those that promise instant results or results that sound too good to be true – those likely contain high levels of hydrogen peroxide, which can permanently damage teeth. Non customised trays can also cause leakage of the whitening gels that can burn gums and if used for a prolonged period, permanent damage.
If you have been using OTC teeth whitening products and experiencing the following adverse reactions, please see a dentist immediately:
- A burning sensation in your gums
- Burns around your mouth and skin
- increased tooth sensitivity
- Gum recession
- Mouth infections
Does teeth whitening hurt?
In-office teeth whitening performed by a qualified dentist is safe and painless. It is a minimally invasive procedure with no downtime. You may experience some teeth sensitivity initially, but this is temporary and will subside over time. To address this temporary sensitivity, your dentist may recommend products with potassium nitrate and sodium fluoride gel. A painkiller might be taken pre-treatment as a precautionary measure.
Other rare side effects of teeth whitening include:
- Gum irritation and burns
Your gums may become irritated if they come in contact with the whitening product. This is more likely to occur with take-home whitening kits or in-office treatments. When they occur, however, they are usually mild and should quickly resolve on their own, after your treatments.
- Whitened gums
In addition to gum irritation and burns, another side effect of the teeth whitening procedure is whitened gums. Similarly, this occurs when the gums come into contact with the bleaching agent. It can happen with more crowded teeth or where there is gum recession. The loss in colour is temporary and your gums should revert to its natural pink once the bleaching agent wears off.
- Gastrointestinal irritation
You may end up with an upset stomach if you accidentally swallow a whitening product. As these are bleaching agents, you may experience a burning sensation in your throat as well.
How long does teeth whitening last?
Teeth whitening treatments are designed to reduce stains, not prevent them. Hence, their effects are not permanent. How long effects last would depend on;
- The type of teeth whitening treatment you underwent
- Your lifestyle: Your lifestyle plays a significant role in keeping your teeth bright. Chromogenic food and drinks such as coffee and curry will stain your teeth faster without proper oral hygiene. In addition, smoking also greatly reduces the longevity of your whitening treatment.
As an average time span, both in-office and take-home treatments teeth whitening can last up to 3 years. However, this depends on a number of factors including how often coloured foods are consumed and tobacco use. To ensure longevity of results (regardless of procedure), it is recommended to undergo teeth whitening treatment every now and then to correct extrinsic and intrinsic discolouration.
Do’s and Don’ts after teeth whitening treatment in Singapore
For the first few days after treatment, it is important to:
Most importantly, good oral habits will keep your teeth clean and prolong its pristine colour for a long time. Keeping your teeth clean will also reduce the likelihood of cavities and gingivitis. Some good oral habits to practise include:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day and after meals, especially if you consume foods or drinks that stain
If you have consumed anything acidic, it is advisable to wait at least half an hour before brushing your teeth; and if brushing your teeth is not doable, then drinking or gargling some water can help to remove some particles that stain.
- Flossing daily
A water floss has proven to be exceptionally effective in removing pesky particles.
- Add a mouth rinse or whitening toothpaste to your dental routine
Try to opt for one that has ingredients like alcohol, menthol, or eucalyptol. These ingredients are useful against bacteria in your mouth and on your teeth, but cannot and should not be used in place of brushing or flossing.
Everyday habits play an important role in maintaining healthy and clean teeth. You should also see your dentist every 6 months for routine cleaning.
Also keep in mind that teeth whitening treatments work only for natural teeth. If you have dentures, implants, crowns, or bridges, you will need to speak to your dentist about how to achieve a uniform colour.
How soon can I see results?
|Immediate results, as they involve using a strong bleaching agent with whitening content higher than most take-home kits and OTC products
|About a week, with maximum results achieved in 2 to 4 weeks. The degree of whitening will vary based on the amount of bleaching agent used and the length of time you wear the custom-made tray.
|Over-the-counter (OTC) products
How white should my teeth be?
Teeth whitening treatments can surely help you achieve brighter, white teeth. However, how white your teeth can be is dependent on the current state of your teeth, extent of stain, and most importantly, genetics.
Although teeth whitening solutions can brighten your teeth by up to 8 shades, the natural colour of our teeth is actually inherent. While these solutions brighten the surface of your teeth, you may sometimes notice a yellowish tint remains because the inside layer of your teeth, dentine, is naturally yellow. Essentially, what teeth whitening treatments do is to remove stains and help you go back to your natural-coloured teeth as much as possible – whatever that shade may be.
In terms of the level of whiteness for your teeth, it really depends on your personal preference. However, a good gauge is by comparing the teeth colour to the whites of your eyes. The colour of your teeth should not be brighter than the whites of your eyes.
What happens if I have tried whitening so many times and I still dislike the colour of my teeth?
As mentioned, your teeth can only be whitened so much before it reaches its limit. That limit is defined by the structure of your teeth, its composition and genetic factors. Multiple dental fillings also prevent your teeth from whitening to an optimal level. Blemishes or structural defects on your teeth may also not be removed by whitening agents.
At that point of time, you may consider having dental veneers done, which allow you to choose any shade that is as white as you prefer.
Can I whiten a single tooth?
If you have just a single discoloured tooth, that may indicate a condition beyond superficial discolouration that cannot be resolved with teeth whitening.
You may notice that this single discoloured tooth has:
- Traces of black or brown spots
- Extra sensitivity
- A persistent ache that is aggravated while eating
- A hole or pit in the affected tooth. This is likely tooth decay and may require fillings/root canal procedure to clean out the decay
In selected cases, your dentist might elect to do a single tooth whitening procedure called Internal Bleaching (also known as Walking Bleach Technique). This technique is used to whiten teeth that have had root canal treatments but are not badly damaged. It involves bleaching the tooth from the inside of the tooth.
Am I able to permanently whiten my teeth?
Unfortunately, no teeth whitening process will give you permanently white teeth. The good news is, however, permanently white teeth are achievable with dental veneers.
Dental veneers are thin, tooth-coloured shells customised to fit over the surface of your teeth. They are used in extreme cases of discolouration that cannot be lightened through other methods. Apart from discolouration, veneers are also an option for those looking to cover up any other imperfections on their tooth surface.
Veneers can be applied to one tooth or multiple teeth at the same time, depending on your needs and preference.
Is teeth whitening suitable for everyone?
Those with active cavities, other dental works in progress, or existing medical conditions may not be eligible for in-office teeth whitening treatments, especially if these treatments involve UV light and bleaching gel.
Apart from the above groups of persons, please also bear in mind that teeth whitening treatments tend to work better on extrinsic stains.
Relatedly then, teeth whitening treatment might not be suitable if you have intrinsic stains, cracked or damaged teeth that leave dentin exposed.
It is best that you consult your dentist who would be best-placed to assess if you are a suitable candidate for teeth whitening treatment.
How much does teeth whitening cost in Singapore?
|A single in-office treatment can cost between $800 to $1,300 per session.
|A take-home kit prescribed by your dentist can cost around $400 to $600.
|There is a wide range of over-the-counter products.
On the cheaper end of the scale, whitening strips can be purchased for as low as $11.80. Whitening strips are readily available online and in many stores around Singapore. Several other at-home treatments, such as gel with an LED light, are available for $33.90 and in your regular drug stores like Watson’s and Guardian.
*Disclaimer: The prices listed above are specific to Dental Designs Clinic as of 2024. Prices may differ at other clinics in Singapore.
Is teeth whitening MediSave claimable?
According to the CPF Board, you will be able to use your MediSave for surgical dental treatments that are carried out for medical reasons. Hence, you will be able to claim for treatments like wisdom tooth removal, dental implants, or surgical removal of damaged teeth.
As teeth whitening is considered a cosmetic procedure, you will not be able to tap onto your MediSave for this treatment. Other similar cosmetic procedures include dental crowns and bridges, dentures, and braces.
If you have any questions regarding teeth whitening, feel free to reach out to us and we will get back to you!
- Maran, B. M., Burey, A., de Paris Matos, T., Loguercio, A. D., & Reis, A. (2018). In-office dental bleaching with light vs. without light: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of dentistry, 70, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdent.2017.11.007