Tooth be told

Marelize Kilian has a huge responsibility – she looks after every person’s greatest asset – their smile. She answers all our questions about the ins and outs of teeth whitening.

Featherbrook’s Marelize says the first thing she notices about people is their teeth – but no worries, not in a judgemental way. It’s just the way she’s always been. By profession she’s an oral hygienist – and no, this is not the woman sitting beside you at your dental appointment and handing tools to the dentist. Oral hygienists primarily focus on prevention of diseases and poor oral care leading to more serious issues.

A visit to the orthodontist with my friend, who wore braces, sparked off my passion. I went with her to her orthodontic appointment one day and was extremely fascinated by these girls working on everyone’s teeth. I just knew this was what I wanted to do!

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I was 23 years old when I decided that I wanted to study to become an oral hygienist. During my first year at Tukkies, I stayed in the hostel. At first, I thought it would be very awkward, being older than most of the other students, but I soon learnt there were quite a few other women that weren’t as young either. After completing a two-year diploma, I graduated at the age of 26.

I opened my practice in January 2019. It is situated on the same premises as those of aesthetic doctor, Dr LJ Kilian. My practice specialises in teeth-whitening procedures. Teeth-whitening is a huge confidence booster – making me very proud to offer this service to anyone who feels they could benefit.

In my free time I enjoy cycling – this year will be the 12th time I participate in the 947 cycle challenge. Running and cycling are a great release of stress for me. I find that feeling after a long ride so rewarding. I also love spending time with my family. My husband, Julyan, and I often visit my parents, where we load our dogs, Fondsi and Rusty into the car and enjoy a day out with the whole family (who also bring their dogs! At any given time there are about seven dogs running around – it’s pure bliss!)


1. What should you do before going for a teeth-whitening treatment?
Oral health always comes first. It is essential to have a check-up and a cleaning to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy and disease-free.

2. What is the difference between a whitening treatment at a dentist and a home treatment?
Legally only dentists and oral hygienists are allowed to whiten your teeth. This was gazetted in 2009. They are the specialists in oral health and anatomy, and will only use material that is registered with the Medicine Control Council and won’t cause damage to your teeth and gums.

3. Will the treatment hurt?
If you have sensitive teeth you may experience a little more sensitivity than the next person, but it’s easy to work around this. The in-chair procedure makes it easy for the clinician to cover all these areas during the bleaching process, and the take-home whitening wear time can be significantly reduced. Sensitivity varies from person to person but is very short-lived.

4. Does a person’s tooth enamel get affected by the treatment?
Over-the-counter products will most definitely damage the enamel, especially with repeated use. They are usually very acidic, and in the case of toothpaste, very abrasive too. Professional bleaching brands such as Philips, actually remineralise the teeth during the bleaching process and don’t affect the enamel micro-hardness at all.

5. Can all people whiten their teeth? Please elaborate …
NO – it’s essential that each person wanting to whiten their teeth understand that those with gum disease, primary teeth, braces, large fillings, crowns, veneers, dentures, implants and bridges, for example, can’t whiten their teeth. In some cases, when fillings or crowns can be changed after bleaching to match the rest of the newly whitened teeth, then bleaching needs to be done first. All bleaching should be followed up with take-home whitening in professionally made trays, so patients that find it difficult to follow instructions would also not be ideal candidates.

6. How long does a teeth-whitening treatment last?
All bleaching can be maintained at home with professionally made trays. Philips has a FREE Whitening for Life programme whereby you receive free maintenance ampoules for LIFE. Maintenance can be as little as 30 minutes at home once a month. A good oral hygiene care programme will also help to keep the colour looking good for longer.

7. Please, could you share other ways to keep teeth whiter?
Once the desired whiteness has been achieved, professional whitening toothpaste and mouthwashes can help to reduce build-up and staining. Diet, of course, plays a large role in preventing staining, but good oral hygiene and regular professional cleanings are the most important.

8. What can people eat to maintain white teeth?
I would rather say it’s more important to watch what you should limit. Foods and drinks that can stain a white top can stain the teeth. Sugary foods may make it easier for foods with colour to stick to the tooth surface and stain it. A good healthy diet always helps.

9. Are there any side effects?
Sensitivity is the most common side effect, but it really does vary from person to person, and most of it can be reduced or controlled by the clinician and the type of gel used, especially at home.

10. When choosing a home treatment – what are a few ingredients or things to look out for when purchasing?
All professional products are only available at dental practices and are not over-the-counter products. Whitening and bleaching are very different. Whitening is any product that can remove surface stains and enhance the natural tooth colour without changing it. The tooth looks better but is actually just cleaner. Many of the over-the-counter products are very abrasive and acidic. Bleaching is an oxidation process whereby hydrogen or carbamide peroxide is used to change the internal colour of the teeth. Dental practices advertise whitening as it just sounds so much better than bleaching, but they are in fact very different.

11. What is the minimum age at which teeth whitening should be considered?
I prefer to work on patients that are not younger than 18 years of age. Remember that teeth whitening is a privilege, not a right.


WIN: One very lucky reader can win a teeth-whitening package worth R5 500. To enter, visit our Facebook page (Get It Joburg West), like the post, tag a friend and you’ll be in the draw. Entries close: 25 July.

Visit Marelize’s Instagram page – m.kilian_dental_hygienist


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