A pair of pearly whites has become as desirable (and commonplace) as an age-less, wrinkle-free guise. It seems everywhere you look, a sparkling white smile greets you, fast-becoming a need as oppose to want. This is in part because of a greater accessibility, with at-home whitening kits on almost every corner. But to the get the whitest and brightest (and safest) smile of your life, it’s best to leave your teeth in the hands (literally) of a very capable expert.

Dr. Gamer Verdian, founder and director of Sydney’s foremost dental clinic, The Dental Lounge (and our white knight), is a guru when it comes to teeth whitening (plus a host of other dental procedures) and the man we trust with out dental lives.

Here, we put Dr. Verdian in the hot seat (or dentist’s chair) and do a little of our own prodding and probing to find out exactly what you need to know before you whiten teeth.

1.What do people need to consider before teeth whitening? 

The first consideration is whether you are suitable for whitening. If you have had a lot of cosmetic dentistry done with veneers etc. then whitening is unlikely to work because veneers cannot be whitened.

Secondly, if you have very thin enamel and your teeth generally have a level of sensitivity, then whitening has a higher risk of causing pain.

Thirdly, you need to consider the type of whitening treatment you are after. The 2 best methods are in-practice (e.g. Zoom Whitening) where a strong bleach is applied with a light activator or you may opt for the custom-designed take-home Zoom whitening kit. In my practice we get the best results from combining the two, where you do an in-practice whitening to get you a new baseline of white teeth and we custom-design your take-home kit to maintain that level of white over the long term.

2. What is the number one (or two!) myths you hear about teeth whitening?

The number one myth is that whitening damages enamel and tooth structure. Almost every dentist in my practice has had whitening and if we truly believed it damaged tooth structure then none of us would do it!

The other myth is that if you whiten your teeth you will become a beaming halo of whiteness like Ross on the TV show Friends (showing my age here). Whilst whitening has a noticeable effect on your teeth it is quite rare that you will end up looking ridiculously white.

3. Can you get levels, or shades, of white? Or is it just one colour?

You can absolutely get levels of white. The average range is 8-12 shades whiter. However, there is human variability involved. Most people will have the same amount of bleach with the same amount of time with the whitening light and they will have different results. Some get slightly whiter and some get very white.

4. Can people with Invisalign / plates get it done? And is it safe?

Yes, and it is safe for them to do so, however we recommend not whitening until your Invisalign is finished because almost all Invisalign patients have small buttons bonded onto their teeth that prevents the underlying tooth structure from being whitened. You may end up with dark circles once the bonded attachment is removed at the end of the Invisalign treatment.

5. Is it painful during the procedure / at home?
Approximately 1 in 4 patients experience sensitivity during whitening. We call the sensitivity, zaps or zingers were our patients get an electric feeling in one or two teeth during the procedure. This also occurs when you are whitening at home with a home bleaching kit.

6. Is it painful after?
If you get sensitivity, it is a very temporary sensation and usually lasts 24-48 hours.

7. What are the after-effects, if any?
The best after-effect is whiter teeth!

8. What should we avoid, and for how long?
As a simple rule avoid any foods or drinks that will stain a white shirt for 48 hours after whitening. These include foods like beetroot, curries, strawberries, blueberries, red pastas, soft drinks, red wine and coffee. The one that gets my patients most concerned is coffee! If you can’t live without your daily caffeine hit, then very carefully have it with a straw is a fair compromise.

9. How long does it last?
On average it should be 2-5 years before you need to do another in-practice whitening. If you have a take-home whitening kit then you can do a small top up every 12 months or so. The length whitening lasts is very dependent on the patient’s diet. No matter how white we get teeth, if you drink 2 coffees a day and have red wine every night you will need to top up the whitening much sooner.

10. Are there any tips for keeping your teeth as white as possible?
The best advice I can give here is to avoid the dark staining foods and drinks as much as possible and have exceptional oral hygiene. Also stay away from colourful mouthwashes as they will have an effect on how long your teeth remain white.

11. Is it just a once-only treatment?
Whitening is not a once-only treatment, in general, it does last a few years but it can be repeated when necessary.

12. Are there any risks involved?
The main risk is sensitivity in the short term. Some of the other risks occur when the whitening isn’t set up properly or inferior products are used such as burnt lips and trauma to the gums and teeth.

13. If you’ve already dabbled with at-home whitening kits and strips, is there a risk your teeth can become too bleached / weak?
There is basically no risk that your teeth can become too bleached if you have used over the counter products because the ingredients are relatively weak and are not in contact with your teeth long enough to cause a significant effect. Most of our patients do try strips etc and become frustrated and come to see us for definitive results.

14. What is your number one piece of advice to people before getting it done?
Get a thorough cleaning by a dentist prior to whitening! If you have lots of plaque and tartar build-up covering your teeth then the whitening will not be able to penetrate the enamel to take effect. One of the best features of having a dentist do your whitening is that they will professionally clean your enamel immediately before the procedure allowing the bleach and activator to give you the best results possible.

Tile and Cover Image: Instagram, @gigihadid