As the demand for tooth whitening continues to rise, Michael Farrow, SDI European Sales Manager, discusses the many different whitening options available and how adding a whitening offering for all in your practice can increase revenue and widen your demographic reach.
The UK has witnessed a steady increase in the demand for whitening treatment in recent years and the interest in achieving a whiter brighter smile shows no sign of abating. Patients request whitening treatments for a variety of reasons including reversing discolouration from lifestyle habits such as smoking, to boost confidence and to look good for a special occasion. In the age of the selfie and photo-based social media platforms such as Instagram, the constant pressure to look good is encouraging more and more people to find ways of improving their appearance.
Whitening patients come from across the age spectrum and most are looking for effective results and a whitening treatment that suits their lifestyle. Dental manufacturers have responded to this demand and there is now a wide range of whitening options that dental practices can offer their patients.
Clinical studies have shown that bleaching with carbamide or hydrogen peroxide, when performed correctly under the application or instruction of a dentist, is safe for teeth and gums. However, only treatments prescribed by a qualified dental professional containing up to 6% hydrogen peroxide and 16% carbamide peroxide can achieve effective tooth whitening. These are the maximum strengths permitted under EU regulations and should only be performed by a registered dental professional.
Whilst this may be obvious to most dental professionals, and it’s a message that has been communicated for a while now, a recent study showed that there are still many who believe that patients are not aware of it. Our advice is to keep reminding your patients of this, perhaps in your next patient newsletter, whitening poster or patient consultation.
An option to suit every lifestyle
With all this in mind, dental professionals should choose a whitening system which has been clinically tested and has proven efficacy. A comprehensive system will include the following three main modes of delivery; in the dentist’s chair, take-home for day or night application and ‘on-the-go’. Each patient will choose differently, depending on their priorities.
In the chair
Unlike home whitening kits, in-practice whitening treatment offers the quickest and most visible results and is a good option for those patients who are willing to spend time in the dental chair and pay for professional treatment. In accordance to the EU regulations which prohibit concentrations of hydrogen peroxide greater than 6%, treatments such as polaoffice+ effectively contain only 6% hydrogen peroxide with a high pH to produce a faster release of active oxygen and free radicals. This means it is effective in just 45 minutes and can be used with or without a bleaching light.
If patients are prepared to pay for this specialist treatment and spend the time in the chair, they can benefit from fast, effective, and comfortable whitening treatment that’s delivered by the professionals!
At home in the day or night
If patients find they would rather do things in their own time and in the comfort of their own home, they may prefer to opt for a take-home whitening solution. With proven efficacy and longevity, professionally-dispensed take-home whitening treatments are becoming increasingly popular, so when a patient does elect for home whitening, it’s best to determine whether they would benefit from the advantages of carrying it out overnight, or if a daytime treatment would be more suitable.
The range of strengths enables clinicians and patients to choose a suitable level of active whitening agent which will suit day or night application and the sensitivity of the patient’s teeth. These include shorter day-time wear options with Hydrogen Peroxide systems and longer treatments with Carbamide Peroxide for applying during the night, for example, poladay can be applied for as little as 30 minutes twice a day while polanight with slow release of active oxygen and free radicals is more suitable for overnight bleaching.
Both Hydrogen Peroxide and Carbamide Peroxide systems work well. However, if the patient cannot manage overnight use, then the shorter tray wear time with Hydrogen Peroxide system of 30 minutes twice a day is recommended. Treatment outcomes for both systems would be similar so the choice will depend on patient compliance.
Take-home formulations like poladay and polanight contain a built-in desensitiser and a high water-content to reduce sensitivity and fluoride release to remineralise the tooth surface, to provide added protection against sensitivity. Both options can be supplied with a custom tray to ensure full coverage of the teeth and a more comfortable fit which should improve treatment compliance.
Today’s patients are busier than ever, and a brush-on, fluoride-releasing tooth whitening solution is an ideal top-up to apply at any time that’s convenient to them, day or night. Designed as a touch-up whitening treatment it can be used to maintain tooth whitening between in-practice or take-home whitening sessions.
Patients with limited time on their hands will appreciate the convenience and speed of this option via pola luminate, a 6% hydrogen peroxide, high viscosity, fast-drying gel which contains fluoride to assist with remineralisation and reduce sensitivity. Patients must attend an initial in-practice consultation explaining the technique, after which they simply walk away. The gel can be applied quickly and easily, twice daily for 30 minutes without the need for trays or plastic whitening strips, which are often difficult to apply and slow to show any effective results.
Patients with limited time on their hands will appreciate the ultra-convenience and speed of this option. Containing over 60 applications, the attractive, pocket-sized tube fits easily into your pocket or handbag, making them a must-have fashion accessory, especially amongst female patients, and a great impulse buy at the reception desk.
If patients follow their dentist’s and manufacturer’s instructions, the majority will have no side-effects. However, some patients will experience temporary sensitivity (dull or sharp, sensitivity to hot or cold).
This will subside after several hours of stopping the treatment and will not leave any residual problems. The wear times can be shortened or made less frequent or teeth can be treated with a desensitiser to help with this. Patients should also abstain from carbonated drinks and citrus foods to avoid sensitivity.
To calm sensitivity, SDI offer pola soothe, a sustained release gel containing potassium nitrate and fluoride which works quickly to soothe any sensitivity. It can be applied before or after each treatment and, unlike other desensitisers, does not interfere with the whitening process.
Advantages for the practice
Branching out into whitening is turning out to be a profitable move for many high street dentists, including NHS dentists. As the demand for cosmetic treatments increases, advertising whitening within the practice makes dental patients aware of the treatments available, and treatment take-up can turn into a lucrative revenue stream.
Word of mouth can also extend a practice’s reach into new demographics as satisfied patients tell their friends and new enquiries come in. Once they have registered as new patients, practices can then offer a wider range of treatment options, thus building revenue.
Promoting an established, well-recognised brand within the practice
Effectively marketing whitening in your practice is all about informing and educating patients to get the results they are looking for and reinforcing the message that legally only treatments prescribed by a qualified dental professional containing up to 6% hydrogen peroxide or 16% carbamide peroxide can achieve this.
Using customisable marketing and education materials provided free of charge from whitening manufacturers like SDI, can help make patients more aware of the different options available to them so that they can make an informed choice. Patients tell us that being informed and educated makes them feel comfortable and more likely to be a willing participant in their treatment plan and general oral health.
Brand recognition is important to the millions of Generation Ys and Zs, so it’s vital you reassure them that the whitening manufacturer you use is established and approved by the profession – something which “get rich quick” and high-street toothpastes cannot achieve.
At SDI we provide ready-made materials to make marketing the range of whitening options effortless, including posters, leaflets, stands, stickers and bags. Displaying these prominently in reception and in treatment rooms raises awareness and may encourage them to enquire about the options.
Upskilling the practice team
On the introduction of any new treatment, it’s important to ensure the whole practice team is trained to provide and promote it. SDI are committed to offering training opportunities such as product demonstrations and ‘Lunch & Learns’ where trainers will train dental professionals on how to use our whitening products safely and effectively. Effective training ensures that the whole team is confident enough to recommend and deliver the most suitable whitening option to each patient so that, by the end of their treatment, they have achieved a whiter, brighter smile.
With the right system in place, whitening can become one of your secret weapons in building a great range of treatment options, attracting more patients and generating a more profitable practice.