Dental treatments

Teeth whitening

What is teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening can be a highly 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 will 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 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 teeth whitening involve?

Professional bleaching is the most common form of tooth whitening. Your dentist will be able to tell you if you are suitable for the treatment, and will supervise it if you are. First the dentist will put a rubber shield or a gel on your gums to protect the soft tissue. They will then apply the whitening product to your teeth, using a specially made tray which fits into your mouth like a gum-shield.

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.

How long does this take?

The total treatment can usually be done within three to four weeks. First, you will need two or three visits to the dentist. Your dentist will need to make a 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 one hour at a time.

However, there are now some new products which can be applied for up to eight hours at a time. This means a satisfactory result can be achieved in as little as one week.

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.

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.

We recommend the following tips to care for your teeth:

  • brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • cut down on how often you have sugary snacks and drinks
  • visit your dentist at least once a year.

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