We all know the importance of a good impression. Your smile is often one of the first things people notice when you meet them and a white ‘Hollywood’ smile is what people are looking for these days. Years of eating food, drinks like coffee and red wine, and smoking can dull that sparkly smile.
We spoke to Hong Kong dentist, Dr. Paul Leung 梁仲弘牙醫 to tell us what our teeth whitening options are in Hong Kong.
General teeth whitening safety
Teeth whitening is big business. Like any lucrative business in Hong Kong, there is a wide standard of practices on offer. At the moment, teeth whitening is an unregulated practice. The Hong Kong Dental Association is trying to push through safety regulation at the moment so that only registered dentists can provide professional dental services. A lists of general and specialist dentists in Hong Kong can be found here.
There has also been an increase of online whitening products available. Be careful with what you put onto your teeth. If in doubt, consult your dentist regarding the product you wish to use, to determine whether it is safe or appropriate to do so.
According to the British Dental Association, it’s unclear whether professional whitening or over-the-counter strips are safe for pregnant and nursing mothers. They recommend sticking with whitening toothpastes or baking soda to be safe.
Professional teeth whitening in Hong Kong
To begin, you’ll have a consultation with your dentist to estimate how many shades whiter you can go. Generally, yellow and orange-stained teeth respond well while grey and brown stains are more stubborn. Younger patients’ teeth are more susceptible to whitening and will be able to achieve a greater change than older patients. Your dentist will estimate the number of treatments you’ll require and will take before and after photos to monitor the change.
If you have crowns or veneers, keep in mind that their colour will not change with teeth whitening so you’ll either need to match your teeth to their colour or replace the crown/veneer to match your new tooth colour.
There are two options for professional teeth whitening – either dentist-prescribed at-home teeth whitening with dental trays or in-office teeth whitening.
Dentist supervised at-home teeth whitening with dental trays
With at-home dentist-supervised whitening, it will likely take about 2-4 weeks to achieve your desired tooth whiteness. The whiter your desired tooth shade, the more applications are required.
This method takes longer but the patient is in more control. If you want whiter results, you can apply more applications; if they are satisfied with how white their teeth are after several applications, they can stop. The other benefit of this method is that if after time teeth look less white, the trays and gel can be used again.
If you experience sensitivity, it is recommended that you stop for a few days and continue when the sensitivity has subsided. However, if you experience abnormal dental hypersensitivity or irritation to your gums or lips, discontinue use and consult your dentist.
Dental clinic teeth whitening
In-office whitening is a much faster option and is becoming increasingly popular. Because the gels are prepared at a much higher concentration, teeth can be whitened much faster. On the flip side, the lips and gums must be carefully protected and the gel carefully applied to the teeth to prevent painful chemical burns or swallowing of the gel. Different brands are available with various formulations that require blue light or lasers, while others do not require anything. Studies have shown that there is no difference in the whiteness achieved between whitening products that use light versus whitening products that don’t use light. The benefit with the use of light/lasers may be total application time (example: 20 minutes vs 40 minutes) but the downside is that those requiring laser/lights are usually more expensive.
Salon-based teeth whitening in Hong Kong
There’s not a lot of information about the safety of salon-based teeth whitening. Many different chemicals have been used to whiten teeth, but the majority of these products contain hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient because it was found to be the safest and most effective. The danger with teeth whitening lies with unsafe products or inappropriate use of products. There have been reports of people suffering permanent roughness to the surface of their teeth after having their teeth whitened with “non-hydrogen peroxide-based gels” at mall kiosks, beauty salons, or cruise ships. These products were found out to contain chlorine dioxide as the active ingredient, and these gels are usually very acidic and have the potential to permanently strip away enamel and cause permanent damage to the teeth.
Salons do not make the ingredients/active agents contained in their products public. Dr. Leung recommends getting the ingredient list from the salon you are considering and asking your dentist before going ahead with any treatments.
Over-the-counter whitening in Hong Kong
Whitening toothpastes remove surface-level stains with gentle polishing, or a chemical process. While the Hong Kong Dental Association doesn’t publish such a list, the American Dental Association has a list of approved whitening toothpastes, some of which are available in Hong Kong. Some of these toothpastes can aggravate sensitive teeth so use them with care.
There are a number of at-home teeth bleaching kits available over-the-counter at grocery stores and chemists such as Mannings and Watsons. The most common consist of a whitening strip applied to the front of your teeth. A lot of these products contain levels of hydrogen peroxide as high as 14%. The Hong Kong Dental Association (HKDA) recommends against such strips because they are not personalized for each person’s mouth and risk damaging and irritating the gums. Please proceed with caution when using these products.
Natural whitening options
There are a number of natural options you can find on the internet to whiten teeth. Most of them are unproven, however several studies have shown that using baking soda in place of toothpaste is an effective tooth whitener. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise considering baking soda is such a common ingredient in whitening toothpastes.
Getting a whiter smile safely is definitely possible but does require some caution.