Tooth whitening is the process of using a professional bleach to make teeth whiter. 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
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.
Teeth can discolour for various reasons. The dentist will recommend the most ideal method based on your oral condition after an in-office examination to establish the cause and nature of your tooth discolouration, as well as provide you with more information on the various types of whitening procedures available, duration, and frequency of treatment.
How it works
The total treatment can usually be carried over a period of 3-4 weeks however there are quicker methods that are usually carried out within the surgery by a qualified GDC professional.
The dentist will take an impression of your teeth to make a mouth guard and will instruct you how to use it with a bleaching gel. Then, using your mouth guard at home, you regularly apply the gel for a specified period of time over two to four weeks. Some whitening gels can be left on for up to eight hours at a time, which shortens the treatment period to one week.
Another type of teeth whitening system that a dentist can provide is called laser whitening, which is also known as power whitening. This is where a bleaching product is painted onto your teeth and then a light or laser is shone on them to activate the whitening. Laser whitening takes about an hour.
Is it permanent?
Teeth whitening isn’t permanent. It can last from a few months to up to three years, but this varies from person to person. Generally, the whitening effect won’t last as long if you smoke or drink red wine, tea or coffee, which can all stain your teeth. Top ups are available for when you feel your teeth are starting to dis-colour again.
After teeth whitening
Once you’ve completed a whitening treatment, there are a few steps you can take to maintain your whiter smile.
- Avoid stain-causing foods and beverages – coffee, tea, wine, sports drinks, hard candy, berries and tomato sauce are all foods that can cause tooth discoloration.
- Use a straw – when drinking beverages, use a straw to keep stain-causing dyes away from your teeth.
- Quit smoking – smoking tobacco can cause teeth to become discolored. Eliminating tobacco can help keep your teeth bright.
Whitening is unlikely to cause serious side effects, although some people’s teeth may become more sensitive for a short while. You may get mild gum irritation as well. Women should not have their teeth whitened while pregnant. The effect of the whitening materials on the development of the fetus is not known. Since the procedure is cosmetic, it should be postponed until after delivery.