Time for teeth whitening? This is how it works


3 minutes

07 March 2023

If you’ve noticed a gradual discolouration of your teeth, shiny whites may be more achievable than you think.

Teeth whitening is an effective and simple treatment for improving the appearance and colour of teeth often discoloured from coffee, tea, smoking, or excessive fluoride.

HBF Dental Dentist, Dr. Abraham Al-Quaysi explains how it works and what to expect.

How does teeth whitening work?

  1. First, your dentist will create moulds of your teeth to make a custom mouthguard. A whitening gel is put into this mouthguard and worn in your mouth for up to 30 minutes.
  2. The gel soaks through the teeth’s enamel and reacts with the molecules that stain teeth. This reaction causes the molecules to break down and get smaller. This is what makes the tooth brighter.

    Sometimes, light is used to speed up the process.

  3. The gel soaks through the teeth’s enamel and reacts with the molecules that stain teeth. This reaction causes the molecules to break down and get smaller. This is what makes the tooth brighter.

  4. A second treatment at home is often necessary and results are usually seen within 2 to 4 weeks.
  5. Laser whitening is also an option that’s available. This is where your dentist will paint whitening gel directly onto your teeth and leave it to soak for up to an hour. Laser light activates the gel and whitening process. Only one treatment is needed. 1

How long does it last?

Teeth whitening can last for several years, but it’s not permanent.

For longer-lasting results you should:

  • Limit tea, coffee, and red wine
  • Not smoke
  • Brush and floss thoroughly twice a day

Visit your dentist once or twice a year for cleaning and a check-up.

How can I cover the cost of teeth whitening

Medicare doesn't cover the cost of most dental services the way it does with other health services.

Depending on your level of Extras cover, you may be able to claim for teeth whitening. In-chair whitening is currently around $700 AUD. This is a rough estimate provided at the time of this article, contact your dentist to discuss the cost of whitening and what is right for you.

Learn more about dental cover

A quick note on whitening toothpaste

When asked about whitening toothpaste this is what Dr. Abraham Al-Quaysi would like to remind people.

There are usually two types of whitening toothpaste. The first one is the one which uses abrasive material (like charcoal) as an ingredient. This physically removes stains from the enamel. Then, there are whitening toothpastes that have a bleaching material in them, like Hydrogen peroxide for instance. As a whitening agent, this actually penetrates the enamel and whitens it from the inside.

Both are safe to use as long as they are bought from a regulated provider, like supermarkets and pharmacies. The amount of bleaching material is so low that it is unlikely to cause any harm. As for toothpastes with charcoal, they are safe as well and they have been clinically tested. It can be harmful to use charcoal powder though, as it can be extremely abrasive and it can actually harm the enamel of the teeth.

Service your smile at HBF Dental

HBF Dental is now open at 8 convenient locations across the greater Perth area with more centres coming soon. As a Member Plus provider, HBF members can get even more value from their cover by choosing HBF Dental – including 100% back on your first scale and clean*.

Find your nearest centre
Extras explained – how much do I get back?

Certainty feels good, that’s why we’ve created a line-up of extras options that give you a guaranteed % back^ on your visits to popular services like Physio, Chiro, and Dental.

Explore HBF Extras


1 Health Direct - Teeth Whitening

*Must hold Extras cover. Benefits vary depending on extras cover held. Services must be provided at an HBF Member Plus dental provider and charged in accordance with the Member Plus schedule fee. Waiting periods apply before benefits are payable. Limits apply.


This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.

^Annual limits and waiting periods apply. Percentage back benefits are payable for services, programs and providers approved by HBF, when provider charges in accordance with the Member Plus schedule fee. Excludes Basic Extras and closed products.