How white is too white for teeth? When does teeth whitening treatment look wrong? Many years ago, it was a joke on TV sitcoms—some character would get a tooth-whitening treatment and come out with a fluorescent white smile. But to be honest, I think these days ‘too-white’ teeth are becoming a bit more acceptable.
One of the reasons is it’s actually quite difficult to make your teeth look so white they look fake. Especially with older male patients, we’re working with teeth that have lived a little, and won’t bleach to a bright white using just whitening treatments alone.
A very common question I find myself asking patients the first time they have a whitening treatment is, “How white do you want your teeth to be? Do you want them to be Hollywood white? Or do you want them to be natural white?” Many older people will say they prefer their teeth to look a more natural colour.
But whether it’s because our society is getting used to seeing whiter, more healthy-looking teeth, or for some other reason, the Hollywood smile is becoming more acceptable. Those same people who used to come in and say they don’t want their teeth too white, frequently return asking for their teeth to be even whiter.
The limits of teeth whitening
You might be curious about what the limits are as to how white your teeth can be. So, I often tell older patients that they shouldn’t expect too much. Even if they want a Hollywood smile, there’s no guarantee they can get that result from peroxide treatments alone.
Whitening will always work better on younger teeth than older teeth. For starters, whatever the older patient has been doing to their teeth to make them brown or yellow-coloured, they have probably been doing that for some time. A lifetime enjoying red wine and coffee will have an inevitable impact on your teeth, and a patient who is only in their early 20s just hasn’t had long enough to do the same damage.
That’s not to say you can never get a good result with older teeth. It just means the whitening process may need to be repeated more often. It really depends on the individual, and it’s really only something I can explain in more detail when I see your teeth up close.
Teeth whitening in older patients
One of the difficulties older patients face is they will have had work done on their teeth over the years but may not remember. Fillings, crowns and other bits of dental work will not respond to tooth-whitening treatment because they are made of inert materials.
There are other cosmetic options available to patients whose teeth won’t respond to the treatment. These include veneers, composite resins and more. Your dentist will be able to explain your options to you in more detail if you ask.
That’s also a good reason why you should see your dentist before you use a take-home whitening kit from the chemist—he or she can tell you what’s happened in your mouth in the past, and what your options are. You wouldn’t want to go to the effort of a home treatment only to find that only half your teeth have changed colour!