This page provides information only; it is not medical advice. Always speak to a dental professional before seeking any oral treatment.
What Is Teeth Whitening?
Dentists, dental hygienists, and registered dental therapists provide teeth whitening treatment. There are also a wide assortment of at-home teeth whitening kits available.
It involves bleaching your teeth to make them whiter. It can make tooth colour lighter by several shades but it can’t make them pure white. People are paying for treatments to get lighter, whiter teeth and a confident smile.
It is the most popular dentistry procedure because it’s affordable, safe, and quick. Many people who desire whiter teeth have tried it and had positive results. It is a quick and affordable way to get the smile you desire.
Studies have shown that at-home products can lighten tooth colour by 1-2 shades. Professional cosmetic dentistry can produce much better results. The process takes between 5 and 10 days, and you can see results after a few treatments. The cost varies, depending on the clinic and treatment method used.
Why Is Teeth Whitening Treatment So Popular?
Teeth whitening treatment is popular because it improves the appearance of your teeth. Over time, teeth become stained and yellowed from foods we eat, drinks we drink and vices like smoking. It can help to reverse this staining and yellowing and give you a brighter, whiter smile.
There are many different options available. It is important to consult with your dentist to find the best one for you. Professional dentist whitening can produce dramatic results in a short period of time. At-home kits produce results that are less dramatic.
It is generally considered safe, but can produce side effects including sensitivity & irritation. These side effects are usually mild and temporary.
Is Teeth Whitening Permanent?
It is a long-lasting treatment but not permanent. The duration varies from person to person, ranging from a few months to a few years. If you smoke, or drink a lot of coffee, tea, or red wine, you will discover that the results wear off quicker.
You can slow this process by drinking lots of water and avoiding these items for a few hours before bedtime. Staying away from sugary foods and acidic products will also be beneficial. You may experience some side effects such as sensitivity, gum discomfort or dry mouth. These side effects will subside within a couple of days.
Depending on what your dentist recommends, treatments can be every 3, 6 or 12 months.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work?
Teeth whitening is a process that uses bleaching agents to remove stains from teeth. They work by breaking down the stain molecules, removing them from the surface of the teeth.
There are two types of bleaching agents used most often:
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Carbamide Peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide is the most common bleaching agent used in tooth whitening products. It works by penetrating the tooth enamel to remove stains. It is available in different concentrations. The higher the concentration, the more effective it is at bleaching teeth. But, higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can also cause more irritation and sensitivity.
Carbamide peroxide works in a similar way, but it is not as strong. It is also available in different concentrations. The higher the concentration, the more effective it is at bleaching teeth. Like hydrogen peroxide, higher concentrations can also cause more irritation and sensitivity.
Whitening products usually come in the form of gels, strips, or pens. The gel or strip is stuck to the teeth, and the pen applies the gel or strip. The gel or strip is usually left on the teeth for 30 minutes to an hour, and then removed.
An impression of your teeth gets made and a mouthguard produced for you to use with a bleaching gel at home. You use whitening gel in the mouthguard for 2 to 4 weeks. As the treatment progresses, your teeth become lighter in colour and less yellow.
Laser whitening is a procedure carried out by dentists. A bleaching agent gets put on your teeth UV light is shone to activate the whitening agent. This takes around an hour and sometimes requires more than one session.
How Do I Get Teeth Whitening?
It’s best to contact your dentist to find out if your teeth are suitable for whitening. If there are any barriers to treatment, they will know best. You can find a dentist registered with the General Dental Council (GDC) in your area. They are generally licensed to perform whitening procedures.
If you want to buy whitening products to use at home, then you can find products in-store and online at lots of stores.
What Are The Risks With Teeth Whitening?
There are a few risks associated with teeth whitening. These risks include:
- Sensitivity. Some people experience increased sensitivity after whitening their teeth. This is usually temporary and will go away after a few days.
- Irritation. Whitening products can sometimes cause irritation of the gums. Again, this is usually temporary and will go away after a few days.
- Damage to tooth enamel. Teeth may get damaged if the whitening gel is too strong. This damage is usually not permanent, but your teeth might stain easier in the future.
Be sure to talk to your dentist about the best way to whiten your teeth to minimise the risks. See the NHS Fact Sheet about teeth whitening:
It’s possible that your gums will be sore from the chemicals used in the bleaching agents, especially if you already have sensitive teeth. In some cases gums can be burnt and become very sore or even damaged. DIY kits can harm tooth enamel. NHS fact sheet: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/teeth-whitening/
What’s The Difference Between DIY Kits And Professional Treatments?
If you buy a home DIY kit in the UK, the highest allowed dosage of hydrogen peroxide (the bleaching agent) is 0.1%. It is against the law to supply kits with any higher content than this. Some DIY kits are abrasive to the enamel on your teeth and can do more harm than good in the long run.
Professional treatments have a higher peroxide content. The max is 0.6%, so it’s a more effective treatment. Pro treatments are from registered Dentists, so you can be sure of a good outcome.
What Causes Tooth Discolouration?
Many different factors can cause teeth discolouration. Some common causes include:
- Poor dental hygiene. Not brushing and flossing regularly can cause staining and discolouration.
- Eating certain foods and drinks. Foods and drinks that are high in acidity or chromogens (pigments) can cause staining of the teeth. Common offenders include coffee, tea, red wine, berries, and soy sauce.
- Smoking. Nicotine and tar in cigarettes can cause yellowing and discolouration of the teeth.
- Age: As we age, the enamel on our teeth begins to thin and wear away, revealing the darker dentin beneath. This can make teeth appear yellow or dull.
- Medications. Certain medications can cause staining if taken during tooth development (usually during childhood).
- Trauma. An injury to the teeth can cause them to change colour. This can be due to a blow to the mouth, a fall, or other trauma.
There are two main types of tooth staining: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic staining is on the tooth’s surface. Intrinsic staining occurs within the tooth itself.
Extrinsic staining is often down to habits like smoking, drinking or certain foods. This type of staining can be rid using professional treatments.
Intrinsic staining is usually caused by trauma, certain medications, or fluorosis. It’s more difficult to treat and may need more aggressive methods such as veneers or crowns.
How much is Teeth Whitening UK?
The cost of teeth whitening in the UK can vary depending on the type of treatment you choose. Treatments from a dentist can start at around £200, while at-home kits are available for as little as £20.
Teeth whitening is a quick and affordable way to get the smile you desire. Whether you have stained teeth from drinking coffee, or darker teeth due to genetics, it may help.
In this article, we have explored some different treatments and methods of whitening. If you have any questions, or if you’re looking for advice on which treatment is best for you, consult your dentist.
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