Teeth whitening and your practice
Smiles are a powerful tool for anyone looking to attract a partner, to make a sale or simply to get along in a busy world. For you as a dentist, they are therefore also big business.
If you are not offering teeth whitening, you are losing patients to cosmetic dental practices that are opening up in every town. You may also be putting your patients' dental health at risk, especially if they resort to home whitening kits. The popularity of teeth whitening has led to a booming industry, but one with products and practitioners that are not regulated as well as they might be.
Professional teeth whitening in the dentist’s chair has become a popular service. But turning a yellow grin into a sterling smile is a little more complicated than your patients may believe. You need to explain the facts.
Don’t let your patients buy off the shelf kits
There are a lot of teeth whitening products on the market. Any teeth whitening products found on the shelves of the local supermarket can do more harm than good if used improperly, and with some, even following the instructions could risk permanent damage with repeated use. Do-it-yourself pastes made of fruit are marketed as “natural” but are in fact corrosive to tooth enamel due to the high acid content. Fruit acid can whiten teeth but does so at the cost of eating at the enamel, accelerating the ageing process. Instead of pearly whites, teeth will soon start to appear more discoloured than they were originally.
Laser whitening services offered through shops or kiosks can be downright dangerous, with an unskilled operator with a poor aim leading to gum damage or tooth sensitivity. For this reason, only registered dental professionals are allowed to carry out tooth whitening in the UK. It’s illegal for places like beauty salons to whiten teeth (or even provide professional-strength whitening kits) unless there is a dentist present.
Patients also need to be warned about whitening mouthwash, which is rarely effective and potentially toxic if swallowed.
A professional dental practice like your own will offer high-quality teeth whitening services patients can trust. But you may need to explain why.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic discolouration
Patients may understand that teeth become discoloured - or ‘dirty’ - though contamination. Smoking, coffee and wine are often thought of as the main problems, and whitening is thought of as simply a more energetic version of daily brushing.
You need to explain that tooth discolouration doesn’t always start on the surface. Depending on the cause, it may start within the inside of teeth and reflect outward through the surface.
These types of stains are intrinsic, meaning they originate inside of the teeth. The hard outer layer of enamel is naturally translucent, and it’s the yellow dentin beneath which actually gives teeth their yellowish colour. The whitening solution soaks through the enamel to lighten the dentin, which in turn makes the teeth appear brighter. In order to treat this, you may need to use a form of hydrogen peroxide gel. Sometimes this is called “bleach” or “whitening gel”, but these terms refer to the same formula.
When applied, hydrogen peroxide gel is absorbed by the teeth, penetrating the stain where it originates and lightening its tone. This method is safe and extremely simple - if it is done professionally. Explaining the dangers of a mouthful of bleach is usually simple enough. Discussing why it is vital to use professionally made trays to apply the gel is then straightforward.
Of course, extrinsic whitening really is about the stains on the surface of teeth, and you - or possibly your hygienist - can use a polish to clean them.
The key to planning successful treatment is an examination which will identify the type and cause of your patient’s tooth discolouration. Using the most appropriate treatments will restore the natural brightness of the teeth, giving a natural whiteness which will allow the patient to feel comfortable with the results
There is a higher level of patient satisfaction for whitening carried out at a dental clinic. A 2018 report found that 69% of patients were happy with their results – compared to just 42% of those who had used a home whitening kit.
Common Questions About Teeth Whitening
Patients who have never had a teeth whitening appointment may have a lot of questions. You need to reassure them that the treatment you provide will be 100 per cent safe, that their teeth will not be damaged by the treatment, nor will you have to worry about any short-term or long-term risks.
You will, of course, need to reassure patients that teeth whitening is a painless process - and that it doesn’t defend against future stains. As time goes by, teeth will start to acquire new stains thanks to age, diet, or other influencing factors - but if they have professional treatment, there is no reason why they can’t repeat it in six months to 2 years.
What treatment will you provide?
Talking to your patients about their hopes for a whiter smile and the importance of using your practice to provide it could help you understand the demand that you could be answering.
Remember you could be charging as much as £1500 for a fast-acting treatment such as laser whitening, or a similar amount for LED whitening. Older style treatments such as UV whitening are no longer current, as they can cause sunburn and contribute to the aetiology of skin cancer, so using it in the mouth can damage gums, cheeks and lips.
Laser and UV is better and safer for you as well as your patients. Of course, you will need to invest in the equipment.
At Rangewell, we can help you find the most cost-effective source for the finance you need when you are ready to bring new equipment into your dental surgery. Asset Finance can be a particularly cost-effective way to provide equipment of all kinds, from sophisticated treatment systems - to the seating in your waiting room.
We have a specialist team working with the dental profession - and solutions to all your funding needs. Simply call us to find out more.