Tooth whitening offers a simple, effective way of lightening the colour of your teeth without negatively affecting the enamel surface. It is designed to alter tooth shade but will not change the colour completely.
What happens during treatment?
- The dentist applies the whitening by using a specially designed tray to fit inside the mouth in the same way as a gum shield
- The chemical is activated through the use of heat or a combination of light and heat
- The product’s active ingredient is usually either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide.
- For teeth that have been root treated, the canal which contained a nerve previously can be opened up for whitening
- The process will need to be repeated to maintain results
How long will the process take?
Firstly, two or three dental appointments will be required during which the dentist will take impressions to create a bespoke mouth guard.
Once treatment has begun you will need to continue the process at home. This will involve applying the tooth whitening agent on a regular basis over two to four weeks for between thirty minutes and one hour.
A few of the more recent products can be used for as long as eight hours at a time. This would mean that a good result can be achieved in less than one week.
When would teeth require bleaching?
Each patient’s teeth colour varies in the same way as their skin or hair colour. Not many teeth are white, as some will have a yellowish tinge and others appear more beige. Teeth can also grow yellow if they become stained by drinks such as coffee and tea.
Tartar (calculus) could also alter the shade of your teeth. In some cases, there can be staining on the inside of the teeth. The cause of this can be small cracks in your teeth or the use of particular antibiotics.
What are the results like?
The results of the treatment will vary according to the original colour of your teeth. Teeth have a tendency to darken gradually with time. The effect of tray whitening can last between one and three years, but it will last longer in some cases.
Some patients find that their teeth are sensitive for the first couple of days following treatment, but this wears off quickly.
Can I use a home kit?
It is recommended that you do not use over-the-counter kits as they only contain a tiny amount of hydrogen peroxide. This means that the product will be less effective. Some will also have mild acids in them and others can be abrasive.
The home kits are cheaper but whitening is a complex process and should be completed by a qualified dentist, following a thorough exam and in-depth assessment of your situation. It is vital that you follow the advice given to you by your dentist and attend follow-up appointments.
Could whitening fail to work?
Whitening is designed to lighten the existing colour of your teeth. If you require a whiter shade there are other options such as veneers. Whitening will only work on natural teeth and cannot be used on any kind of artificial tooth, including veneers, dentures and crowns.
If your dentures are discoloured or stained you may need to make an appointment with your dentist to have them cleaned. Alternatively, stained dentures, veneers or crowns can be replaced by your dentist.
Will whitening toothpaste help?
There are some whitening toothpastes available to purchase. They will not have any effect on the natural shade of teeth, but can effectively remove stains and improve the general appearance of teeth. Whitening toothpastes can also assist in keeping up the appearance after teeth have undergone professional whitening.