What is tooth whitening?

One of the quickest and easiest ways of improving your smile is by whitening your teeth. Dark and discoloured teeth can be transformed, giving you a brighter smile and more self-confidence.

Tooth whitening is a safe and effective treatment that can either be done in the comfort of your own home and/or in the practice. We will ensure that whichever whitening system you choose you will be left looking and feeling great.

Why would I need my teeth whitened?

There are many reasons why you might get your teeth whitened. Everyone is different and, just as our hair and skin colour varies, 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 through 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 teeth. Some people may have staining under the surface, which can be caused by certain antibiotics or tiny cracks in the teeth which take up stains.

What does tooth whitening involve?

Your dentist will be able to tell you if you are suitable for the treatment, and will supervise it if you are. Your dentist will record a mould of your mouth and construct a specially made whitening tray which fits into your mouth like a gum-shield. They will then prescribe a whitening gel and demonstrate how to apply the product. 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 lightens.

How long does this take?

The total treatment can usually be done within two to four weeks. First, you will need two visits to the dentist. Your dentist will need to make a whitening tray and will take impressions for this at the first appointment. Once your dentist has started the treatment, you will need to continue the treatment at home. This means regularly applying the whitening product over 10 to 14 days, for a period of time from 90 minutes up to 8 hours. (Your dentist will advise you on the exact timings for your teeth).

What other procedures are there?

There is now laser whitening or ‘power whitening’. Zoom whitening is the fastest form of tooth whitening and is very popular. Each tooth whitening treatment takes approximately 90 minutes and is a painless procedure. A whitening gel is painted onto the teeth and the light is directed at them. The effect of the light is to activate the gel causing your teeth to lighten very quickly, usually with immediately visible results. We often recommend this method of whitening is combined with the home whitening treatment described earlier.

How much does tooth whitening cost?

Please check with your dentist or at reception for treatment costs and special offers. Your dentist will be happy to provide an accurate treatment estimate.

How long will my teeth stay whiter?

The effects of whitening can 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. Ask your dentist for their opinion before you start the treatment.

What are the side effects?

Some people may find that their teeth become sensitive to cold during or after the treatment. Others report 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 you should contact the practice.

What about over the counter kits (OTC kits)?

Because tooth whitening is a complicated procedure we would advise that you always consult your dentist prior to undertaking treatment. Although over the counter kits are cheaper, many of these kits sold in the UK do not contain enough of the whitening product to be effective and some kits sold over the internet may contain mild acids and abrasives.

What about whitening toothpastes?

There are several whitening tooth pastes on the market. Although they do not affect the natural colour of your teeth, they may be effective at removing staining and therefore may improve the overall appearance of your teeth. Once your teeth have been whitened by your dentist, whitening toothpaste may also help the effect last for longer.

Can a single tooth which has been root filled be whitened?

Sometimes root treated teeth can discolour. If the tooth darkens, the canal (which previously contained the nerve) maybe reopened and the whitening product is applied working from the inside to whiten the tooth.

When might tooth whitening not work?

Tooth whitening can only lighten your existing tooth colour. Also it only works on natural teeth. It will not work on any types of ‘false’ teeth such as dentures, crowns and veneers. If your dentures are stained or discoloured visit your dentist and ask for them to be cleaned. Stained veneers, crowns or dentures may need replacing; again ask your dentist.

How can I look after my teeth once they have been whitened?

You can help to keep your teeth white by cutting down on the amount of food and drink you have that can stain teeth. Don’t forget, stopping smoking can also help prevent discolouring and staining.


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