Content Dam De Print Articles Volume 105 Issue 1 Teeth Whitening Thumbnail

The fight for the white: Bringing whitening back into the office

Jan. 27, 2015
Did you know that when you google "teeth whitening" there are over 20 million hits? Amazon.com has over 105 pages of pertinent "teeth whitening" products available to the online shopper, including five-minute speed whitening systems, gels ranging from 35-40%, trays of various sorts, and of course, lights to quicken the whitening process.

Stacey L. Simmons, DDS

Did you know that when you google "teeth whitening" there are over 20 million hits? Amazon.com has over 105 pages of pertinent "teeth whitening" products available to the online shopper, including five-minute speed whitening systems, gels ranging from 35-40%, trays of various sorts, and of course, lights to quicken the whitening process. Oh, and let's not forget the kiosks at the mall where white lab coats and scrubs are falsely exhibiting knowledge and the delivery of "professional whitening services" to those who fall prey to practiced guile. How in the world is a person supposed to filter through all that and make a pragmatic decision on how to whiten their teeth?

It's no secret that teeth whitening is a million-dollar industry—the fancy creative advertising, colorful packaging, and digitally enhanced images make a person feel the need to whiten their teeth and purchase products that will give the ultimate bright, white smile. Having a white smile, encouraging it and allowing an individual's self-esteem to improve is marvelous—there is nothing wrong with that. However, there is a point where the advertising goal to capitalize on making money based off creating a desire in the consumer should not overshadow some of the most important and basic concerns that licensed dental professionals have where bleaching is concerned.

READ MORE | The ultimate whitening for patient giveaways

It could be argued that the barrage of information regarding teeth whitening has created a shift in how the patient/consumer seeks out these services. Many people have been led to believe that dentists are cynical and our expertise is not needed for whitening. They believe we overcharge for something simple. To some, we are the bad guys! How can we oppose this impression of our profession and establish that teeth whitening is an appropriate cosmetic procedure best done in a controlled setting with the instruction and endorsement of a licensed dental professional?

PHILIPS
Esthetic tooth whitening
is a hugely popular cosmetic procedure, so the demand for whiter, brighter smiles continues to increase. But individual variables strongly affect whitening results: the type of stain, the potency/delivery of the whitening agent, contact time, and patient preferences. Whether you select innovative whitening varnishes or in-office treatments combining hydrogen peroxide gel and chairside light acceleration, research confirms the effectiveness and efficacy of healthy whitening solutions in consultation with a dental professional.

—Gail Stoops, RDH, BSDH, PhilipsSenior Manager Professional Relations, North America, Consumer Lifestyle

First of all, educate, educate, educate! It has to start from the bottom up. Ask your patients about their smiles and if bleaching is something they are interested in. If they are, discuss the differences between the over-the-counter products and what you can provide—custom bleach trays, in house bleaching, etc. Go over the side effects of bleaching and remedies for such. Review the importance of maintaining excellent home care and frequent regular recare appointments. Furthermore, educate the patient as to why bleaching may or may not be as effective as what they anticipate it to be (staining, daily habits, restorations, etc.). These concepts may seem simple to you and me, but this is the kind of stuff the ads don't mention!

It would be imprudent to not comment on the power that social and digital media can have when addressing this issue. Many of us have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and websites. Post examples of bleaching gone awry—a picture is worth a thousand words! Photographs of burned soft tissue or overbleaching of a tooth adjacent to a dark crown can begin a productive dialogue between patients and licensed dental providers. While a good debate and exchange of ideas can be fruitful, we must ensure that we aren't critical or demeaning. This can backfire—on you, your practice, and the dental profession.

READ MORE | Teeth whitening with predictable science: a case study

Along those same notes, we can post before-and-after pictures of our patients who have received bleaching that has produced brilliant results! Place these pictures throughout the office and post them on various media resources. Furthermore, we should also educate our patients that superb cosmetic results are not always produced exclusively from whitening; it is used as an adjunct to other restorative procedures—i.e., crowns, veneers, and resin-based restorations. This is something that patients will not hear from those who run the kiosks at the mall ... where they pay for overpriced, over-the-counter, "professionally delivered" whitening.

The most important point to get across to our patients and the public in general is that a white, beautiful smile is reflective of a healthy mouth. Whether directly or indirectly, we need to and should be a part of the whitening equation. We promote and emphasize the benefits of professional involvement with regard to bleaching because we want our patients to realize this: The benefits of comprehensive care are many, not least of which is to accentuate and maximize their whitening investment.

Stacey L. Simmons, DDS, is in private practice in Hamilton, Mont. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Montana and is a contributing author for DentistryIQ, Surgical-Restorative Resource, and Dental Economics. She can be reached at [email protected].

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