From greeting a new friend to nailing a selfie, who doesn’t want to rock a set of shining pearly whites? Alas, due to our deep-rooted kopi culture here in Singapore, our teeth are more often yellowish rather than milky white.
As a result, teeth whitening in Singapore is becoming more and more popular today. A bright captivating smile can lead to charming first impressions — and having a flawless set of white teeth to boot is a huge part of it.
Aesthetics aside, studies have also shown that having a beautiful smile can greatly influence someone’s self-image, confidence and even result in real, positive changes in personality.
Going for teeth whitening for a pretty set of teeth may seem frivolous at first, but the freedom in terms of self-expression that comes with it could be priceless. Great teeth, wide smiles, more confidence, even bigger smiles — sound good?
Does teeth whitening ruin our teeth?
Is teeth whitening safe? Will it damage my teeth in the long run? Obviously I don’t want to have a few moments of pretty pearly whites, only to suffer decades of repeated trips to the dentist.
Luckily, medical research has shown that teeth whitening via bleaching agents based on hydrogen or carbamide peroxide do not have any harmful effects on tooth enamel and dentin. So teeth whitening is generally safe — provided you do it in-clinic with a registered dentist or with legit products prescribed by your dentist!
Side effects include tooth sensitivity and gingival irritation, but they are temporary and do not last more than 24 hours post-treatment. One method dentists use to combat this is to apply fluoride before the bleaching treatment, or simply lower the concentration of bleaching agent used.
The chemistry behind teeth whitening.
Staining is caused largely by environmental and lifestyle factors, like smoking, consuming pigmented beverages and foods (like coffee and tea), and from metals like iron or copper. These coloured compounds are absorbed into the tooth, causing a stain to appear.
These darker-coloured compounds are also known as chromogens that are accumulated on the surface of the tooth or in the tooth.
When we go for a teeth whitening procedure, we are essentially applying a chemical reaction to lighten the colour of these compounds. In most whitening products and treatments, the active bleaching ingredient used is hydrogen peroxide.
Bleaching the chromogens with hydrogen peroxide involves oxidisation of the double bonds, resulting in whiter teeth.
Okay, simple chemistry, I get it. Can I DIY my own teeth whitening kit then?
Sure, it’s fascinating to consider that the promise of spanking white teeth can be easily and cheaply fulfilled from a self-concocted DIY whitening kit. Seems like a good idea even, considering it involves just a quick trip to your nearby NTUC Fairprice and some due diligence.
But just wait a moment before you start rubbing orange skin or baking soda over your teeth as part of your nightly routine.
Dealing with high concentrations of acids on your own is dangerous. Remember that weakened teeth from drinking copious amounts of citrus and sparkling juices?
Enamel, the protective layer surrounding our teeth, helps keep them strong and healthy. Unfortunately, while citrus compounds may lead to some whitening results, they are attained at the cost of weakened teeth due to the acidic fluids wearing enamel away.
Tooth discolouration may also lie in the tooth. Studies have shown that baking soda may work, but only if you have extrinsic stains — and you’ve also got to know the appropriate and safe amount to use.
We want nice bright teeth for a good and long time, so don’t take the risk.
Can I go for teeth whitening with beauty therapists? It’s so much cheaper…
Singapore Dental Association mentions that there has been an increasing number of non-dental establishments providing teeth whitening services to the public. These treatments are done by beauty therapists who are not trained in dentistry.
Unsupervised treatments may have a negative effect on the hard and soft tissues of your teeth over time due to dental erosion — an irreversible loss of tooth substance due to a chemical process without the presence of bacteria. and abrasion — so be careful!
Types of teeth whitening treatments in Singapore
To significantly whiten teeth by two shades or lighter, we have these two options:
1. In-clinic teeth whitening
The treatment is carried out by a registered dentist in Singapore. Typically, the bleaching is performed with concentrated gel of hydrogen peroxide, while protecting the gingiva and tongue and then activate it with an LED light source.
Generally, it takes about 1 to 1.5 hours for a teeth whitening session at the dental clinic. Results can usually be seen immediately after the session and differ from person to person. Multiple sessions may be required to maintain the light shade of the teeth.
2. Take-home teeth whitening kits
Teeth whitening kits can be bought online or assigned to you by official dental practitioners.
For the latter, you’ll feel safe knowing that you can trust their expertise. These kits usually come with customised dental impressions for complete coverage over your teeth.
Depending on the level of teeth discolouration, the dentist will advise on proper application and the duration you will have to spend daily applying the kit. Results will take a little longer, about a week or two.
3. Other over-the-counter (OTC) methods
According to the Singapore Dental Association, OTC whitening products are allowed to only contain up to 0.1% hydrogen peroxide (or 0.3% carbamide peroxide), so make sure the products you are buying adheres to that.
It’s possible to get your hands on at-home tooth whitening gels that contain up to 6% hydrogen peroxide (or 18% carbamide peroxide) if it’s prescribed by a registered dental practitioner in Singapore.
High concentrations of hydrogen peroxide in dubious teeth whitening products sold online can be corrosive, as cautioned by Health Science Authorities. There is also potential dangers of exacerbating pre-existing teeth and gum problems such as gingivitis, periodontal disease and gingival lesions, so it’s best to consult a dentist first.
It’s also important to take note that teeth whitening may not be suitable for everyone, so just do a quick check with your dentist to get the green light.
And that’s that. No more having to wonder if your teeth are actually getting whiter or if it’s just the lights playing tricks. And you get the assurance that you are in safe gloved hands to boot!
Cost of teeth whitening treatments
In-office teeth whitening costs about $1,000 in general for a few sessions and take-home teeth whitening kits costs about $400 at private dental clinics in Singapore. Polyclinic dentists do not provide teeth whitening services.
Prices of teeth whitening done by a dentist in Singapore are actually pretty affordable if you look at the cost. Think about it: you are essentially bleaching your teeth. Bleaching agents, whether for clothes or hair, are abrasive and need to be handled with care.
And you wouldn’t want to be penny wise, pound foolish by damaging your teeth with your own DIY teeth whitening kits — only to shell out even more cash for multiple trips to the dentist to fix it.
Does teeth whitening last forever?
Well, you’ll really have to do your part after your teeth whitening treatment. No more coffee breaks, and say goodbye to indulging in that glass of red before bed. Smoking also really stains the teeth, so you’d have to make serious lifestyle changes here to keep your teeth pearly white.
If you can’t survive without that cuppa joe, be mentally prepared that your teeth will become stained again overtime. Luckily, it’s always possible to pop in for another teeth whitening sesh to lighten the shade.
Overall, do what you feel comfortable with and if it gives you one more reason to smile. Our happiness (and safety) is what we should prioritise — and you don’t need to have perfectly white teeth or be perfect to be happy.
Here’s to wide, confident and happy smiles!
In her free time, Wan Ting reads a lot, does the occasional yoga, and enjoys waiting for bread dough to rise. She’s always up for learning new things (the latest endeavour: juggling) and challenging herself.