Teeth Whitening -- The Pain, Price And Potential Risks

I grinned and bared it all for a set of fresh pearly whites and this is what I learnt.

Besides brushing my teeth, and occasionally flossing I've never tried to lighten my teeth.

So I hopped in the chair at Dr Gamer Verdian’s rather luxe Macquarie street practice in Sydney when I was offered a 90-minute smile makeover.

READ MORE: Tooth Decay Has Now Become One Of Our Greatest Health Crises

A deep clean

First up was a general clean and polish, which is an essential prep for the whitening to follow. “It removes any plaque and tartar and allows the bleach to really set in,” explained Dr Gamer.

Teeth whiteners are pedalled everywhere these days, but customers need to go to a dentist, for safety reasons. Dr Gamer often sees people with whitening related complications -- such as burnt lips-- from less-experienced centres. 

The president of the Australian Dental Academy Dr Carmelo Bonnano agrees.

“The ADA always recommends that consumers see their dentist if they are considering whitening their teeth,” Dr Bonnano said. 

It's all white

Next, it was onto the whitening. I was fitted with a device to expose my teeth and had all manner of cotton swabs popped between my lips and gums.

This helped isolate my teeth and prevent the bleach -- a hydrogen peroxide-based gel that's safe and doesn't damage teeth -- from seeping out onto my gums. If it did, Dr Gamer assured me that a bleached gum would return to its normal, non-bleached state within a few hours. Phew.

The first of four applications of bleach were painted on to the front of all my teeth. A blue LED lamp -- a device the size of a letterbox with a mouth-shaped hole at one end -- was popped over my absurdly grinning gob for the first 15-minutes session.

READ MORE: What Your Mouth Says About Your Health

A timer went off, signalling the end of the first quarter-hour. Dr Gamer had told me I might experience some tingling or "zapping" -- anyone with sensitive teeth and a penchant for ice cream will know what that feels like -- however I didn’t feel anything.

The old bleach was removed and a new layer applied for round two. Toward the tail end, I did get a few 'zings and zaps' but they weren’t many or that strong.

I gave the go-ahead for round three and was told some patients stopped at round two due to sensitivity.

My teeth, before and after whitening. Image: supplied.
The reveal

I was given some painkillers and a goodie bag that included sensitive toothpaste and a topical relief gel which I applied to some sore spots at home. I took the afternoon off work although I’m sure not everyone would have to do that. By the next day, all the discomfort was gone.

READ MORE: Tooth-Brushing In The Shower: Totally Gross Or Totally Okay?


Whitening isn't for everyone

People with decaying teeth and gum diseases such as gingivitis risk both pain and a poor result when it comes to teeth whitening. Veneers or extensive fillings do not whiten and can leave a "patchy appearance" according to Dr Gamer. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are advised against using any whitening products.

Results vary

Everyone’s teeth react differently to the whitening process. Some people can go up to eight to 14 shades lighter, but "occasionally there are patients who have minimal change even with the strongest whitening products," Dr Gamer said.


The Dental Lounge offers Philips Zoom! professional teeth whitening from $545. 

Feature image: Getty.