Tooth whitening 101 – part five

tooth whiteningDentistry Study Club hosted various webinars with Andy Wallace, Megan Fairhall and Affan Saghir on tooth whitening recently. Here is the final part of a five-part series covering everything you need to know about offering tooth whitening in your dental practice.

Lockdown has been an opportunity for the dental profession to catch up on their education.

Philips Oral Healthcare sponsored a number of webinars on tooth whitening. The Philips team were delighted to see how so many dentists, hygienists and therapists were enthusiastic to learn more about the subject.

Aerosol-free tooth whitening is an attractive practice builder, which can involve the whole dental team. Here are the questions and answers provided by Dr Affan Saghir, Dr Andrew Wallace and dental hygienist Megan Fairhall during their webinars.


Can therapists or hygienists carry out the tooth whitening?

Andrew Wallace: Chairside is great for hygiene/therapists. But only when prescribed by a dentist, with the dentist placing the first application and is in the building.

What are the steps a hygienist should take when treating a whitening patient?

Megan Fairhall: A conversation with the patient will give you valuable information about how best to proceed.

Their tooth health, their dental history, their sensitivity level, their preferences when it comes to whitening, the duration they anticipate or can cope with, the financial consideration, the time they have and want to dedicate, whether they would struggle with night trays etc.

Once they have seen the dentist, been referred to the hygienist via the prescription, gone through the treatment plan and consent form, you need to factor in an appointment for impressions before the actual treatment. That means you need to consider your lab turnaround time. Unless you can do it in house and your dental nurse can make the trays.

For the first gel application, the dentist needs to be on site. You demonstrate how to use the tray and provide them with all the instructions to take home.

Two weeks down the line, you get patients back in for a quick review and that can be with the hygienist/therapist. You determine if they are happy with the results, if they need any top ups, and you take photos of the after shades.

Is there a reason why dentists have to attend the first demonstration gel application?

Megan Fairhall: It is a requirement stated by the GDC.

Should you take X-rays before conducting whitening?

Andrew Wallace: I could not justify doing this with no other factors evident.

What is your hygiene maintenance protocol for the patient after the tooth whitening session?

Andrew Wallace: The 3×3 maintenance as described in my webinar.

Do you prefer night time or day time whitening?

Andrew Wallace: My preference is Daywhite for 60 minutes per day.

Is there any advantage to air polishing prior to initial gel application?

Andrew Wallace: The teeth should be clean and free of surface extrinsic stains.

Practice building

How do I get the whole dental team involved with whitening?

Megan Fairhall: There are various reasons we should involve the whole team.

When a patient makes an initial enquiry, the first port of call is likely to be with the reception staff or treatment coordinator. They should be knowledgeable on the whitening process and what appointments need booking.

Patients will naturally expect them to have an overall idea of what it entails. If the enquiry does not lead to a booking immediately, leaflets are ideal to take home to reflect on.

If your members of staff have had whitening, they also end up becoming whitening advocates with their first-hand experience.

Staff can also help with printing consent forms and scanning. They can also be involved in marketing, whether it is helping with social media or mailing specific messages to patients.

All in all, it helps the dentist and gives them a new job role that ultimately boosts morale and gets them to utilise new skillsets.

Dental nurses can take impressions as part of the whitening process, or prepare home trays. They can also take before and after photos.

I think that working together as a team makes the patient journey a much better experience. They end up raving about the whitening and that’s how you get more patients.

Do dentists prefer carrying whitening treatments themselves?

Megan Fairhall: It depends on practices and dentists’ clinical situation.

Principals and practice owners tend to refer to hygienists more than associates do.

My stance on this is that if you have very good relationships with them and they run a very busy practice, they are more likely to refer to you for whitening.

What is the recipe to complete many cases in the first year?

Andrew Wallace: I covered multiple strategies in the webinar. But it is crucial to pick the right cases and to document them well. A portfolio of your own work is a powerful tool.

Why should we offer whitening?

Megan Fairhall: 99.7% of people think that a smile is a social asset. More importantly, if we look at figures, demand for tooth whitening has increased by 300% over the past five years.

For members of staff, it increases their job profile and overall job satisfaction. In these challenging times, with fallow time to factor in, it means that you can utilise downtime more effectively between consultations.

All in all, it is a good way to increase revenues as it is a non AGP procedure. People love whitening – it’s minimally invasive, it gives an almost instant wow factor, it boosts their confidence, and it is safe and effective.

From a dental professional’s perspective, it is a way of opening new doors as patients start trusting us more and look at some bonding or orthodontic treatment afterwards.

How much does whitening treatment cost?

Megan Fairhall: Treatment costs generally vary depending on where you work. I suggest you do your own research and see what is currently being charged in your area.

Would you offer whitening at a time of COVID-19?

Megan Fairhall: This is dependent on practices.

At the moment my practices have had to focus mainly on emergency treatments.

Having said that, I have carried out many virtual consultations with patients as I am planning to come back in August/September. The video consultations are ideal to go through the various options of tooth whitening, patients’ history as well as expectations.

The waiting list is very promising.

Who can I talk to if I am unsure about anything with regards to whitening?

Megan Fairhall: It is important that you speak to your indemnifier. They are the ones who will cover you. You need to get everything in writing too.

Further learning

Are you offering whitening courses? What about Philips lunch and learns?

Megan Fairhall: We are running courses once a month for hygienists. At the moment they are online, and the feedback has been excellent.

Philips is also offering a Sonicare toothbrush to each delegate completing the course.

Lunch and learn with the Philips educator team are also available. You can email me, message me on Instagram or go to the Eventbrite website for more information.

For more information visit or call 0800 0567 222.

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