Tooth whitening is a highly effective, yet very simple way of lightening the colour of your teeth. It cannot change the colour of the teeth but can lighten the existing colour. A special carbamide peroxide gel is placed in custom made trays that fit your mouth only. The gel is worn in these trays overnight each day for a 2-6 week period. There is gradual lightening of the colour of the teeth.
The effects last for 1-3 years, although in some people it can last longer. At any time you can repeat the process for a 7-10 day period using the original whitening trays.
This is the favoured non invasive method of improving the appearence of the teeth and whilst a few people find that their teeth are sensitive for a few days, most find this wears off. There are no other common side effects.
Over the counter kits are not recommended as they contain only small amounts of hydrogen peroxide which makes the product a lot less effective. Some of these kits also contain mild acids while others are abrasive. Although these products are cheaper, whitening is a complicated procedure that should only be prescribed by a dentist after thorough examination of the teeth.
Q How long does the procedure take?
A First of all you will need 2 or 3 visits to your dentist. Your dentist will need to make a mouthguard and will need to take impressions for this at the first appointment. Once your dentist has started the treatment, you will have to continue the treatment at home. This will mean applying the bleach regularly over 2-4 weeks for up to 5 hours at a time.
Q Why would my teeth need to be bleached?
A Everyone is different; and just as our hair and skin colour varies, so do our teeth. Some teeth have a yellowish tinge, some are more beige – very few are actually ‘white’. Teeth also yellow with age can become stained on the surface by food and drinks such as tea, coffee and blackcurrant. Calculus (tartar) can also affect the colour of the teeth. Some people may have staining inside their teeth. This can be caused by certain antibiotics or tiny cracks in the teeth, which take up the stain.
Q Will I be happy with the results?
A Treatment results may vary depending on the original shade of the teeth. Teeth will tend to darken slightly over time. The effect lasts for around 1 to 3 years, although sometimes it can last longer. Some people find that their teeth are sensitive for the first few days after treatment, but this wears off after a short while.
Q What about home kits?
A Over-the-counter kits are not recommended as they contain only a small amount of hydrogen peroxide which makes the product less effective. Some also contain mild acids, while others are abrasive. Although these products are cheaper, whitening is a complicated treatment procedure and should only be carried out by a dentist after a thorough examination and assessment of your teeth. It is very important to follow the instructions your dentist gives you, and to make sure that you go for any follow-up appointments recommended.
Q When might whitening not work?
A Whitening can only lighten your existing tooth colour. For a change to specific chosen shade veneering is another option. Whitening also works on natural teeth. It will not work on any type of ‘false’ teeth. This includes dentures, crowns and veneers. If dentures are stained or discoloured, it may be worth visiting the dentist and asking him or her to clean them. Stained veneers, crowns and dentures may need replacing. Again, ask your dentist.
Q What about whitening toothpaste?
A There are now several whitening toothpastes you can buy. Although they do not affect the natural colour of the tooth, they are effective at removing staining and therefore improving the overall appearance of the tooth. Whitening toothpaste may also help to keep up the appearance, once teeth have been professionally whitened.