Cheese! From greeting a new friend to nailing a selfie, who doesn’t want to rock a set of pearly whites?
A bright confident smile can lead to charming first impressions, and having a flawless set of milky white teeth to flaunt is always a good idea. Studies have also shown that smiling more leads to a boost in self-confidence.  Great teeth, wide smiles, more confidence, even bigger smiles — sounds good?
“But, my teeth aren’t white.”
Don’t worry. Hardly anyone’s teeth naturally are. Stained teeth can arise from a variety of reasons: from that daily cup of tea, to smoking habits, and even to — simply — genetics.
But that doesn’t mean that all is lost. Over the years, more and more treatments for teeth whitening are cropping up and promising sets of reborn, unstained teeth. Saw that Instagram ad for teeth whitening kits going on sale? Or that hopeful Before/After photo during your recent dentist trip? With such a wide variety of treatments available, you might wonder where’s the best place to start on your journey towards that confident smile.
For all your burning questions, we’ve got just the thing for you. Read on as we tackle the various teeth whitening treatments available in Singapore.
“So about that citrus home solution…”
Sure, it’s fascinating to consider that the promise of spanking white teeth can come from items on a Fairprice grocery list and due diligence. But wait just a moment before you start rubbing orange skin or baking soda over your teeth as part of your nightly routine.
Enamel loss is not ideal. Enamel, that protective layer surrounding our teeth, helps keep them strong and healthy. And, unfortunately, while citrus juices may lead to some whitening results, these are attained at the cost of weakened teeth due to the acidic fluids wearing enamel away. Let’s enjoy that ice-cold orange juice without having to shudder at every sip because of sensitive teeth.
The discolouration might lie deeper. Tooth discolouration can be external or internal. Baking soda works if you have only extrinsic stains.  If bottles of baking soda aren’t doing the trick, you’ll have to seek other remedies to tackle a more internal stain lying below the surface.
“Okay, what about that professional-looking Do-It-Yourself (DIY) teeth whitening kit that I saw online?”
Maybe…but be careful. Firstly, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) states that only “tooth whitening products that contain concentrations up to 0.1% hydrogen peroxide…is allowed in oral hygiene products for application by consumer.”  Including whitening toothpastes and over-the-top counter kits, these DIY whitening kits are more likely to be as effective as rubbing baking soda daily, and only target external tooth stains.
And if you do find kits that offer higher percentages of hydrogen peroxide (a bleaching agent), steer clear. For one, that’s illegal. It is also very dangerous to be dealing with such high concentrations of acids on your own. Remember that weakened teeth from copious citrus juices? Now add on gum problems.  We want nice bright teeth for a good and long time, so don’t take the risk.
“Beauty salons then! They should know what they are doing, right?”
Same as above. Beauty salons are not considered as registered dental practitioners so they are unlikely to offer remedies that can target internal stains quickly and effectively.
“So after all that, what you’re saying is…”
Yes, seek the professionals. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts or cheap deals, and you wouldn’t want to risk your health too for that quick trick. Your teeth! Imagine what you are ingesting into your body when you apply things on your teeth and what you could afford to lose more by mistreating them.
Teeth whitening can only be an investment for safe and effective treatments. 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. What are the chances of risking your hair by bleaching it on your own at home? And what more, bleaching your teeth?
These dental practitioners that you will need to seek the help from are professionals for a reason. They know what they are doing and they are able to prescribe more effective whitening kits under their supervision. Results will also be more consistent since the treatments are customised to the unique teeth shapes that each and everyone of us has.
Do take note too that teeth whitening may not be suitable for everyone and it is important to check with the dentist first before proceeding with any kinds of treatment.
There are also two types of treatments that dentists can offer for teeth whitening:
|In-office teeth whitening||~$1000|
|Take-home teeth whitening kits||~$400|
(Rates are based on private dental clinics in Singapore. Polyclinic dentists are unable to provide teeth whitening services.)
1. In-office teeth whitening
Generally, you will spend about 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes for a session at the dental clinic. The dentist will then rub whitening gel over your teeth and activate it with a light source. Results can usually be seen immediately after the session and differ from person to person. (Multiple sessions may be required at times.)
2. Take-home teeth whitening kits
You’ll be able to legally get your hands on teeth whitening kits assigned to you by official dental practitioners and know 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.
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!
“That’s it? Where should I go then?”
We’re almost there but there are some expectations to manage.
- There are temporary side effects. As we have talked about, you are essentially bleaching your teeth. Teeth whitening treatments may lead to various levels of sensitivity or irritation, but these are only short-term. Ultimately, teeth whitening with dental professionals is a safe and non-invasive procedure.
- Teeth whitening does not last forever. And you need to do your part after the treatment. Right at the beginning, we’ve discussed the various reasons leading to teeth stains. So if things don’t change in your life, it’s likely that the stains will come back. Changes in lifestyle choices that should be considered include drinking less tea or coffee, maintaining good oral hygiene, and quitting smoking. Some dentists advise that if you really need that daily caffeine, perhaps drink with a straw to minimise contact with your new pearly whites.
- Teeth whitening is not for everyone. Sometimes, the results may not be as prominent as you have hoped for. Make sure to speak with your dentist about realistic achievements and about whether the treatments available are suitable for you.
And now, which dentist should you approach? Of course, make sure that you are looking at registered dental practitioners and you can do so by doing a quick check at the Singapore Dental Council. Remember, only they are legally allowed to provide whitening treatments with higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide for effective results.
Here’s to a wide confident smile! Smile away!
 Raghu, R., Shetty, A., Manjunath, G. P., Roy, C. K. S., Puneetha, P. G., & Reddy, S. N. (2014). Smile rejuvenation: A case report. Journal of conservative dentistry: JCD, 17(5), 495.
 Ghassemi, A., Hooper, W., Vorwerk, L., Domke, T., DeSciscio, P., & Nathoo, S. (2012). Effectiveness of a new dentifrice with baking soda and peroxide in removing extrinsic stain and whitening teeth. Journal of Clinical Dentistry, 23( 3), 86.
 Singapore Dental Association. (2013, Jan 21). Tooth Whitening / Bleaching: Guidelines and Recommendations on Tooth Whitening/Bleaching procedures in Singapore. http://sda.org.sg/public-interest/tooth-whitening-bleaching/.
 Health Sciences Authority. (n.d.). When DIY teeth whitening kit bought online leads to pain. https://www.hsa.gov.sg/consumer-safety/articles/online-diy-teeth-whitening-kit-pain.
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.