Tooth Whitening – What is it?
Tooth whitening is a way to change the colour of the teeth to a lighter colour and doesn’t involve removing the surface of the tooth. It aims to lighten the existing shade of colour rather than a complete colour change.
Why would I choose to have my teeth whitened?
Well, it’s an entirely optional decision but there are a number of reasons why you get your teeth whitened. Over time, as we age, our teeth can become discoloured, changing from a nice shade of natural white to shades of yellow and brown. Food choices and smoking can contribute to this discolouration.
Red wine, coffee, tea and dark berry fruits can all stain teeth over time. As already mentioned, smoking can also cause teeth staining.
Tartar build up on teeth will also affect the teeth colour. Staining doesn’t just happen on the exterior surface, but also under the surface too, and this can be caused by anti-biotic pills and also tiny cracks which provide a route into the tooth for stain producing causes.
How does Tooth Whitening work – what’s involved?
The most popular method is the use of professional bleach, although not every patient will be suitable for this time of treatment. Your dentist will be able to advise accordingly. Your gums will need to be protected from the bleach and this is achieved through the use of rubber moulds or a protective gel on your gums. The bleaching agent is carefully applied to your teeth using a moulded mouthguard which fits in the mouth.
The bleaching gel contains an active ingredient and this is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. When the active ingredient is broken down, oxygen enters the enamel causing the colour shade to lighten.
How long does the procedure take?
The treatment doesn’t consist of just one treatment. It is likely you’ll be required to visit the practice for treatment over the course of 3 to 4 weeks. The initial visit for teeth whitening will involve making sure you are a suitable candidate for treatment and if so, fitting of the mouthguards to your mouth. After your initial treatment, you can continue the treatment at home. You’ll need to apply the teeth whitening product over the course of 2 to 4 weeks, for about 30 minutes each time. If you have time, then up to 1 hour is recommended for best results.
More recently, there have been new products released which offer faster results, but do require longer treatment times e.g up to 7-8 hours each time. If you’re able to commit to this length of treatment then you’ll likely seen improvement in about a week.
Are there any other procedures for whitening teeth?
A newish procedure is laser tooth whitening, but is more expensive. This procedure involves a rubber mouthguard inserted into the mouth to protect gums, as the bleaching solution is applied to the teeth. A bright laser light is then directed at the teeth which triggers a chemical reaction. The light serves to accelerate the chemical reaction of the bleaching product and such, the change of colour is achieved more rapidly. Tests have shown that laser based teeth whitening can make teeth up to 6 shades more lighter.
How long does laser teeth whitening take?
The procedure itself takes about an hour, although with initial checks for suitability, it may be a little longer.
What is the cost of tooth whitening?
Teeth whitening procedures vary from practice to practice and also location. The rapid results laser whitening is the more expensive option over the traditional bleaching technique. If you are looking to have your teeth whitened then obtaining 2 to 3 quotes is recommended. As always, shop around.
Will my teeth remain whiter?
Teeth whitening treatment can last up to 3 years although this will vary from patient to patient and their lifestyle. If you smoke or eat or drink stain causing products then the effects of teeth whitening won’t last as long. It’s always best to consult with the teeth whitening dental team for their opinion.
Are there any side effects?
One side effect of treatment is an increased sensitivity to cold either before or during teeth whitening treatment. Some patients post-treatment have reported sore throats and gums. Such symptoms are most likely the results of small leakage of the bleaching product onto those areas but the good news is, the symptoms are usually temporary, lasting for only a few days after the final treatment.
Of course, if you are in discomfort or pain, contact the dentist and ask their advice.
Do home base kits work?
Home based teeth whitening kits are available, some of which use a paint-on products, and others using strips to be applied to your teeth. The efficacy of such home based kits is dependant on the strength of the bleaching product included.
Country specific regulations dictate how strong the bleaching product can be, so where you buy from will effect the results you’ll see. Before embarking on a DIY home based kit, ask your dentist first.
Do teeth whitening toothpastes offer the same reults?
Go into any chemist and you’ll see a variety of whitening toothpastes available. The toothpaste won’t actually make your teeth any light through bleaching, they will serve to remove stains on the exterior surface of your teeth. If you’ve had professional teeth whitening, then such toothpastes will help to extend the effect of your treatment.
Can single teeth be whitened? For example, a root filled tooth?
Yes it can. If a tooth is dead following a root filling then it can become discoloured. Such a tooth can be whitened if needed.
Does whitening always work?
You need to have realistic expectations with teeth whitening. It can only improve (or lighten) the existing colour of your tooth. Another point to add, is that it only works on natural teeth. So it have false teeth, including dentures, crowns and veneers then unfortuately, teeth whitening won’t work on those.
However, if you do have stained dentures then there are ways for them to be cleaned. See you dentist for more information.
Once whitened, how should I look after them?
To keep your newly whitened teeth looking great, limit your intake of the types of food and drink which can stain teeth. By not somking, you will also be prolonging how long your teeth will remain whiter for.
Here are some tips we recommend to look after your teeth.
Use flouride toothpaste and brush twice a day (including last thing at night before bed)
Limit how much sugary food and drink you consume. No need to cut it out completely, but be more conscious of how much you’re consuming, and the effect it potentially has on your teeth and gums.
Be sure to attend regular dental appointments.