What is teeth whitening?
Tooth whitening can be a very effective way of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of the tooth surface or damaging it. Usually the original shade of the tooth is whitened to a lighter colour, rather than being turned completely white.
What does teeth whitening involve?
Professional bleaching is the most usual method of tooth whitening. Your dentist will assess you first to see whether tooth whitening is suitable for you. They will tell you about the options you have for tooth whitening and which will be the most suitable for you.
The most common type of whitening is called ‘dentist-supervised home whitening’. You will have trays made specially to fit into your mouth like gum-shields. The whitening gel is then put in the trays and you will be given a routine to follow at home.
Another option is called ‘chair-side whitening’. You will be told if you are suitable for the treatment, and your dentist will supervise it. First the dentist, hygienist or therapist will put a rubber shield or a gel on your gums to protect them. They will then apply the whitening product to your teeth, again using a specially made tray.
The active ingredient in the whitening product is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. As the active ingredient is broken down, oxygen gets into the enamel and dentine on the teeth and the tooth is made lighter.
How long does teeth whitening take?
The total length of the treatment can vary depending on how discoloured your teeth are and the shade you want to get to. It can usually be finished within two to four weeks. First, you will needup to four visits to the dentist. Your dentist will need to make a thin mouthguard 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 two to four weeks, for 30 minutes to an hour at a time.
There are now some products which can be applied for up to eight hours at a time. This means you can get a satisfactory result in as little as two weeks.
What other teeth whitening procedures are there?
There is now chair-side ‘power whitening’. Although this is often called ‘laser whitening’, it is not a laser that is used. Gel is painted onto your teeth and then a light is shone onto the gel to speed up the whitening reaction.
How long does chair-side power whitening take?
Your dentist will need to assess your teeth to make sure that you are suitable for treatment. Once it has been agreed, this procedure usually takes about one to two hours.
How much does teeth whitening cost?
Private charges will vary from practice to practice. Chair-side whitening will be more expensive than professionally supervised home bleaching.
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.
What are the side effects of teeth whitening?
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.
When might teeth 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.