Some teeth contain heavy internal stains that
are either hereditary or caused by medications during teeth
development like Tetracycline. They will be slightly resistant to the
bleaching and best long term and predictable result will be achieved
by putting porcelain veneers.
What is teeth whitening? Tooth whitening can be a highly effective way of lightening
the natural color of your teeth without removing any of the tooth
surface. It cannot make a complete color change; but it will lighten
the existing shade.
Why should I need my teeth whitened? There are a number of reasons why you might get your teeth
whitened. Everyone is different; and just as our hair and skin color
vary, so do our teeth. Very few people have brilliant-white teeth, and
our teeth can also become more discolored as we get older.
Your teeth can also be stained on the surface through food and drinks
such as tea, coffee, red wine and blackcurrant. Smoking can also stain
Calculus or tartar can also affect the color of teeth. Some people may
have staining under the surface, which can be caused by certain
antibiotics or tiny cracks in the teeth which take up stains.
What does tooth whitening involve? Professional bleaching is the most common form of tooth whitening.
Your dentist will be able to tell you if you are suitable for the
treatment, and will supervise it if you are. First the dentist will
put a rubber shield or a gel on your gums to protect the soft tissue.
They will then apply the whitening product to your teeth, using a
specially made tray which fits into your mouth like a gum-shield.
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 color is made lighter.
How long does this take? The total treatment can usually be done within three to four
weeks. First, you will need two or three visits to the dentist. Your
dentist will need to make a mouthguard and will take impressions for
this at the first appointment. Once your dentist has started the
treatment, you will need to continue the treatment at home. This means
regularly applying the whitening product over two to four weeks, for
30 minutes to one hour at a time.
However, there are now some new products which can be applied for up
to eight hours at a time. This means a satisfactory result can be
achieved in as little as one week.
What other procedures are there? There is now laser whitening or ‘power whitening’. During this
procedure a rubber dam is put over your teeth to protect the gums, and
a bleaching product is painted onto your teeth. Then a light or laser
is shone on the teeth to activate the chemical. The light speeds up
the chemical reaction of the whitening product and the color change
can be achieved more quickly using this procedure. Laser whitening can
make teeth up to five or six shades lighter.
How long does this take? Your dentist will need to assess your teeth to make sure that you
are suitable for the treatment. Once it has been agreed, this
procedure usually takes about one hour.
How long will my teeth stay whiter? The effects of whitening can last up to three years. However, this
will vary from person to person. The effect is less likely to last as
long if you smoke, or eat or drink products that can stain your teeth.
Ask your dentist for their opinion before you start the treatment.
What are the side effects? Some people may find that their teeth become sensitive to cold
during or after the treatment. Others report discomfort in the gums, a
sore throat or white patches on the gum line. These symptoms are
usually temporary and should disappear within a few days of the
If any of these side effects continue you should go to your dentist.
What about home kits? Home kits are cheaper. But because tooth whitening is a
complicated procedure you should only have it done by a dentist, after
a thorough examination and assessment of your teeth.
Over-the-counter kits sold in the UK are not recommended as they
usually contain only a small concentration of hydrogen peroxide (the
whitening product). The legal limit in the UK is 0.1% of hydrogen
peroxide and effective bleaching products need to have about 3.6%. So
home kits will not be able to lighten your teeth noticeably. Also,
some contain mild acids and others are abrasive. This can cause ulcers
and damage to the gums if the product is not used properly
What about whitening toothpastes? There are several whitening toothpastes on the market. Although
they do not affect the natural colour of your teeth, they may be
effective at removing staining and therefore may improve the overall
appearance of your teeth. Whitening toothpaste may also help the
effect last, once your teeth have been professionally whitened.
We recommend that you look for accreditation symbol on the
packaging of oral care products. This is a guarantee that the claims
made about the product have been scientifically and clinically checked
by an independent panel of experts.
Can a single tooth which has been root filled be whitened? Yes. Many dead teeth go discolored after a root filling. If the
tooth has been root treated, the canal (which previously contained the
nerve) may be reopened. The whitening product is applied working from
the inside to whiten the tooth.
When might tooth whitening not work? Tooth whitening can only lighten your existing tooth color. Also
it only works on natural teeth. It will not work on any types of
‘false’ teeth such as dentures, crowns and veneers.
If your dentures are stained or discolored visit your dentist and ask
for them to be cleaned. Stained veneers, crowns or dentures may need
replacing; again ask your dentist.
How can I look after my teeth once they have been whitened? You can help to keep your teeth white by cutting down on the
amount of food and drink you have that can stain teeth. Don’t forget,
stopping smoking can also help prevent discoloring and staining.
We recommend the following tips to care for your teeth:
· brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
· cut down on how often you have sugary snacks and drinks
· visit your dentist at least once a year.