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Teeth Whitening 101 – Here’s what you need to know and what to definitely avoid

In today’s society, you don’t need to look far to find teeth whitening products or services that promise to deliver brighter and whiter smiles. But how do you know if these products are safe for your teeth and is the person administering these services a qualified and registered dental professional?
Do-it-yourself whitening or whitening services provided by an unregistered dental professional can in some cases, lead to irreversible damage to not just your teeth but also your gums. Not every individual is suitable for teeth whitening and so that is why it is important to depend on a registered dental professional for this type of treatment.

How does whitening work?

Imagine your enamel prisms have a mesh-like framework. Overtime this mesh can get discoloured and stained from the foods and beverages we consume. Most whitening agents contain an active ingredient of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. When the hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide comes into contact with the molecules which causes the stains, it breaks them up. This oxygenated response results in the tooth surface appearing lighter.

Over time, our daily habits or diet can result in the tooth surface becoming discoloured or stained again. Therefore – it is important to note that teeth whitening is not a permanent treatment and may need to be topped-up again in the future.

What types of teeth whitening are there?

Over the counter products

Now we’ve all seen the many whitening products that can be purchased over the counter at the supermarket, pharmacy or even online. They usually contain a weaker whitening agent (lower level of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide) than products obtainable from the dentist. This can result in a longer treatment process and sometimes undesirable results.

The whitening product can either be applied as a gel using a universal tray or as a strip that sticks to your teeth. Unfortunately, these types of products have a higher risk of chemical burns to your gums as they are usually ‘one size fits all’.

Whitening toothpastes are also readily available on the market. But the biggest question is Do they work? Not so much. Whitening toothpaste often contain a very low percentage of whitening agent and abrasives which can help with extrinsic stain removal. However, because we all aim to brush our teeth at least twice a day and given that a tube of toothpaste can last an adult individual up to 3 months – using a whitening toothpaste long term can result in an increased risk of teeth sensitivity and unfortunately be abrasive to the enamel.

Take home whitening trays

At True Smiles Dental, we offer two different forms of whitening treatments. The first is ‘take-home’ whitening where we construct custom fitted trays specifically to your teeth and your teeth only. The reason we make custom fitted trays are because we want the whitening gel to be contained to the teeth only and not spread to other unwanted areas like the gums. Dental grade strength whitening gels are prescribed depending on your needs and instructions are provided on how to use the trays and for how long. Your dental professional will often monitor your progress and can give you advice on how long the whitening treatment should be completed. One of the best advantages of choosing take home custom whitening trays is that the trays can be kept away in storage for use at a later date. Therefore, touch-ups are super easy! All you need is some gels and you’re good to go.

In-office whitening

Our other alternative is in-office whitening treatment. Here, your dental professional will isolate your gums, cheeks and lips away from the teeth using retractors, gauze and cotton rolls. This minimises the risk of the gels leaking onto the soft tissues which can cause those nasty burns! A gel is applied directly onto the tooth surface which is then activated by an LED light for a period of time (our Phillips zoom machine works in 15 minute intervals). After a few sessions, we hope your teeth have responded accordingly and you’re as happy with the result as we are!

How long do the results last?

Now, as we’ve previously mentioned – the results from any teeth whitening procedures are never permanent so it is important to have the right after care regime to maintain your new pearly whites! Results from over-the-counter or online products will often relapse much faster than professional whitening. So whilst there are cheaper alternatives outside the dental office, you may be spending more in the long term to achieve the same result as dental grade professional whitening.

What should I do if I want to have my teeth whitened?

The first and most important thing to remember is that if you’re looking at getting your teeth whitened, is to always consult a registered dental professional for advice and treatment.

A registered dental professional is someone who has been deemed qualified and properly trained according to the Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Agency and The Australian Dental Council.

Individuals who are looking to whiten their teeth, should apply caution to any business that offers teeth whitening services without having the professional training or accreditation required to do so. Many businesses claim that their staff have been ‘certified’ or ‘trained’ to conduct teeth whitening – but did you know, according to the Australian Dental Council this is not enough.

The Dental board of Australia restricts any individual that is not a registered dental or medical practitioner from performing a restricted dental act and the provision of teeth whitening substances is classed as one of those acts.

Just as you wouldn’t go to your dentist for a manicure or cut and blow-dry, the same concept should be said about going to your hairdresser, beautician or local nail salon for your teeth whitening.

Find yourself a trusted, qualified and most importantly registered dental practitioner to complete a check of your teeth and gums to see if you’re a suitable candidate for teeth whitening.

What are the risks of teeth whitening?

Now we’ve all seen the numerous pictures and videos on social media about all the great results that can come from teeth whitening but I bet, nobody likes to post pictures of when things go south.

Teeth whitening can have many benefits when done correctly but also comes with some risks – and when administered incorrectly or by someone who has been improperly trained, the following issues can include:

– Chemical burns to the surrounding soft tissues (gums, lips, cheeks)
– Facial or intra-oral swelling from leaking whitening agent (bleach)
– Irreversible damage to the enamel

Last year the Australian dental council issued a warning to the public about the use of DIY teeth whitening as there was a surge in consumer gingival burns and mouth ulcerations from inadequately applied teeth whitening gel. This followed an increase in the number of celebrities and influencers sponsoring whitening products online and on their social media.

Charcoal tooth products/pastes have become increasingly popular over the last few years and often have claims to promote teeth whitening. Unfortunately, Charcoal toothpastes are very abrasive and can result in your enamel eroding away – revealing the inner layer of your teeth called the dentine, which is yellow in colour (the opposite effect of what we want!).

Enamel is one of the hardest substances in our body and once that has been damaged, it cannot be reversed.

Unfortunately, not everything we see online is a true representation of how reality is, so it is important to not follow the hype! If it’s too good to be true – it probably is!

Are you a suitable candidate for teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening, as good as the procedure sounds, teeth whitening is not suitable for everyone. That is why it’s important for your dental professional to check your teeth prior to starting. What often doesn’t get discussed is that not everyone’s teeth will respond well to whitening and there are certain cases where whitening may not be suitable at all. For example – if you have had fillings placed on your front teeth, the whitening agent will not work on these areas and you may need to have these fillings replaced once your whitening treatment is completed to match the new shade. Similarly, if you have had crowns, bridges or implants – whitening treatment will not work on these teeth.

Furthermore, patients who have mottled enamel or enamel defects may find that their teeth become very sensitive during any whitening procedure or that it may not work at all – in which case alternative cosmetic solutions may be a better option.

At True Smiles Dental, our clinicians are all Australian University qualified, fully trained and registered dental practitioners. So, rest assured you’ll be in the safest hands.

If you’ve ever wondered about whether your teeth are suitable for teeth whitening or want to know more about our whitening packages, give our friendly team a call on (02) 7228 7272 or visit us at 235 Marrickville Road, Marrickville NSW 2204.

What are the best foods and drinks for our teeth?


What are the best foods and drinks for our teeth?

The human body is inhabited by millions of microbes that can be found on your skin, eyes, nose and mouth. These bacteria are known as microbiota and are important in keeping us safe. They provide a layer of protection against harmful bacteria and aid in digestion. It is important to know that although microbiota are there to protect us, things can change if we change the environment they live in. This is most important for the bacteria that commonly live in our mouths.

Dental plaque is a very thin layer of bacteria, among other things that adhere to our teeth, and is formed constantly. When we eat, we are not only feeding ourselves but are also feeding the bacteria that live in our mouths. The bacteria ingest the starchy foods or sugars found in our food and release acids as a by-product. Overtime, if left to their own accord and without proper oral hygiene, these bacteria can cause tooth decay or gum disease.

It all starts with what we eat. Foods that are high in sugar or starch are generally going to result in more acid by-products from the bacteria that live in plaque. Studies have assessed the pH changes in our mouths during and after eating over the course of a day. The results showed that the bacteria in dental plaque will start to metabolise your sugars and starch within 20 minutes of eating, leaving a more acidic environment in the mouth. Long term exposure to acid can lead to the destruction of your hard enamel causing tooth decay and even gum inflammation.

The acid levels in our mouths after consuming foods that are high in sugars can reach a maximum within only 20 minutes. Your saliva serves as a protective mechanism in the mouth to help neutralise the acid, this usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes for this to occur. It is important to note that everyone is different, and this may not happen as quickly for some. Most commonly, individuals taking medications tend to have a lower saliva flow, hence it may take longer for their mouths to be restored to a neutral ‘normal’ value.

There are many foods that invite this acidic process to cause tooth decay, while there are others that help prevent plaque build-up. We’ve compiled a list of foods that we recommend, and foods that should only be consumed as a special treat!

The good foods:

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are great as they are natural teeth cleaners. This is because they are crunchy and contain lots of water to help remove the plaque on your teeth. They also contain good minerals and vitamins that are great for your teeth and your gums. Other crunchy vegetables such as celery and carrots are also good because their texture allows for the removal of plaque on your teeth – a natural toothbrush for your mouth! Couple this with the stimulation of saliva when chewing, the plaque and bacteria are more readily washed away – your very own natural mouthwash!

Cheese, milk, low sugar yogurt, and other dairy products

Our teeth are made up of a variety of minerals that keep them strong and healthy. Calcium and phosphate minerals are found in our teeth and bones and are responsible for strengthening them. These minerals are also found in many dairy products. When we eat and drink, the drop in pH level in our mouths can cause acid-attacks onto our teeth and often these good minerals are lost. By eating plenty of dairy products, we are able to replace some of the lost minerals.


Peanuts contain high amounts of vitamin D, calcium and phosphates. Nuts are packed full of vitamins and minerals that are great for both the teeth and your body. They also stimulate saliva flow which helps to wash away harmful bacteria.

Tea and Coffee

Polyphenols, antioxidant rich nutrients that are found naturally in tea. Polyphenols are effective against fighting off harmful bacteria and also reducing inflammation in our gums. By killing off the harmful bacteria in our mouth, they are unable to release acid or cause irritation to the gums that result in inflammation.

Meats and fatty fish

Chewing meats stimulate saliva flow, and an increased saliva flow in our mouth is a good thing. More saliva in our mouths means the harmful bacteria in our mouths are washed away.

Salmon, like dairy products mentioned above, contain loads of phosphate which are important for our enamel.


It goes without saying that we should aim to consume 2 litres of water a day. Water is important for hydration of the body but great for cleansing our mouth. It acts to wash away any harmful bacteria but is important to maintaining our pH. After a sugary meal, the mouth’s pH starts to decrease, becoming more acidic. By consuming water, we can help to neutralise this acid and restore it to a more acceptable level. Thus, reducing the time our teeth are in contact with acid which can cause tooth decay.

The added benefit of water is the added fluoride that it contains. Fluoride is shown to aid in the reduction of tooth decay by remineralising and strengthening the tooth.

Sugarfree chewing gum

We’ve been talking a lot about chewing and increased saliva and how it helps to wash away the harmful bacteria. Your salivary glands will start to secrete saliva as soon as you start to chew. This helps to aid in lubricating the mouth and moistening your food to allow you to swallow. The act of chewing promotes saliva production, and so having sugar free chewing gum which stimulates saliva flow can be very beneficial after a meal. As long as it doesn’t contain any sugar of course!

Sugarfree chewing gum is great for those that are suffering from low saliva flow or dry mouth syndrome.

It’s not easy to maintain a healthy diet, so it is always important to try and be balanced with what we consume. Of course, it is vital that we know which foods we should stay away from where possible. Everything in moderation is great, but when we give in to our temptations, our teeth may suffer as a result.The sometimes foods:

Chocolate and lollies

Sweet treats such as chocolates and lollies tend to be very sticky and love to live in the nooks and crannies between our teeth or in the grooves. Unfortunately, they can be quite difficult to remove and can often overstay their welcome. Sweets are also are high in sugar and are easily ingested by the harmful bacteria in your mouth, increasing your risk of tooth decay!

It is important to note, when we do have a small indulgence, it’s best to go for something that won’t be too sticky and clear your mouth as quickly as possible.

Starchy foods

Bread, rice, pasta, oats and potatoes are high in carbohydrates. The bacteria in your mouth love to feed on these carbohydrates and cause damage to your teeth through their acidic by-products.

Starchy foods can get stuck in between the crevices of your teeth. It’s best to try and rinse your mouth out with water shortly after a meal to help flush out any food debris that is left behind.

Where possible, try to aim for whole wheat breads which contain less sugars.

Soft drink

It goes without saying that carbonated drinks don’t play nicely with your teeth. Carbonated drinks contain added sugar along with acids that wear your tooth enamel away.

Try to drink through a straw when consuming soft drinks, this reduces the contact time on the teeth and reduces your risk of tooth decay. Furthermore, try not to swish your favourite soft drink in your mouth.

Some people will sip on drinks throughout the day, this is not recommended because the intake of sugar and acid into the mouth is more damaging to the teeth than consuming your drink in one sitting. This is because your mouth stays more acidic for longer as you are replenishing the sugar and acid with each sip.


Did you know that alcohol causes dehydration? A dehydrated mouth lacks saliva, which is important in flushing away food debris stuck on our teeth. Saliva is also important for repairing our enamel and thus preventing tooth decay.

Wine is tannin rich which is responsible for that red-purple stain on our teeth. It’s important to try and rinse this off with water after a glass of wine. Try not to run to the bathroom and start brushing your teeth. The acid present on your teeth after consuming food/drinks lasts for up to 30mins, the effect of brushing your teeth immediately can further damage and wear away your much needed enamel. A glass of water or two is more than enough to help your teeth

At True Smile Dental Marrickville, we can identify early signs of acid wear on your teeth upon examination. Regular x-rays help us to detect early signs of tooth decay in-between your teeth. Book a check up today by giving our friendly team a call on (02) 7228 7272 or visit us at 235 Marrickville Road, Marrickville NSW 2204.