Tooth whitening can be a very effective way of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of the tooth surface. It cannot make a complete colour change, but it may lighten the existing shade.
Why would I need my teeth whitened?
There are a number of reasons why you might get your teeth whitened. Everyone is different; and just as our hair and skin colour vary, so do our teeth. Very few people have brilliant-white teeth, and our teeth can also become more discoloured as we get older.
Your teeth can also be stained on the surface by food and drinks such as tea, coffee, red wine and blackcurrant. Smoking can also stain teeth.
‘Calculus' or tartar can also affect the colour of your teeth. Some people may have staining under the surface, which can be caused by certain antibiotics or by tiny cracks in the teeth which take up stains. If a scale and polish does not improve these areas, tooth whitening may be an option for you.
What does tooth whitening involve?
Professional bleaching is the most usual method of tooth whitening. Your dental team will be able to tell you if you are suitable for the treatment, and will supervise it if you are. Firstly, they will take a scan of your mouth in order to create specially made trays which fit your mouth exactly. They will then place the whitening gel inside these trays and insert them into your mouth.
The ‘active ingredient' in the product is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. As the active ingredient is broken down, oxygen gets into the enamel on the teeth and the tooth colour is made lighter.
The total treatment can usually be done within two to four weeks and you will need to continue the treatment at home. This means regularly applying the whitening product over two to four weeks, from 30 minutes to overnight wear, depending on the product used.
‘Laser’ or ‘power whitening' is a whitening procedure which is carried out directly in the dental chair. During this procedure ‘a rubber dam’ is put over your teeth to protect the gums, and a bleaching product is painted onto your teeth. Then a light or laser is shone on the teeth to activate the chemical. The light speeds up the reaction of the whitening product and the colour change can be achieved more quickly. Laser whitening is said to make teeth up to five or six shades lighter.
How long does chair-side power whitening take?
The Clinician will need to assess your teeth to make sure that you are suitable for the treatment. Once it has been agreed, this procedure usually takes about one hour.
How long will my teeth stay whiter?
The effects of whitening are thought to last up to three years. However, this will vary from person to person. The effect is less likely to last as long if you smoke, or eat or drink products that can stain your teeth. Our team will discuss this with you in advance of treatment so you fully understand which foods and drinks are more likely to discolour your teeth.
What are the side effects?
Some people may find that their teeth become sensitive to cold during or after the treatment. Others may have discomfort in the gums, a sore throat or white patches on the gum line. These symptoms are usually temporary and should disappear within a few days of the treatment finishing.
If any of these side effects continue please contact us and we will arrange an appointment to review things.
Home whitening kits – prescribed by us
We can also prescribe home whitening kits and these can either be used over a longer period at home or as a ‘top up’ to the chair side treatments. Your dentist will discuss the best options for you.
Home whitening kits from a retailer
Regulations covering home kits vary from country to country. Kits sold in the UK cannot legally contain more than 0.1% peroxide and this is too little to be effective.
How safe are beauty kiosks and beauticians?
In the UK, Europe and in some other countries whitening can only legally be carried out by a registered Dental practitioner. Tooth whitening by beauticians and in whitening kiosks is illegal.
These regulations are to protect the public. They make sure that anyone carrying out whitening is properly trained and has the right skills and knowledge to carry out the procedure without risking permanent damage to the teeth or gums.
There are several whitening toothpastes on the market. Although they do not affect the natural colour of your teeth, they may be effective at removing staining. Therefore, they may improve the overall appearance of your teeth. Whitening toothpastes may also help the effect to last, once your teeth have been professionally whitened.
For further information or to arrange a visit, please contact our treatment co-ordinator Rebecca Metcalfe.