Tooth whitening is an effective way of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of the tooth structure. It cannot make a complete permanent colour change, but it can lighten your existing shade.
- What is tooth whitening?
Teeth can become stained or discoloured due to excess tea/coffee, from smoking, drinking red wine, from antibiotics or simply due to natural ageing process. Plaque build up, tooth decay and dead teeth can cause teeth to discolour. Tooth-whitening gel is used by dentists to improve the colour of teeth.
- Who needs tooth whitening?
There are several reasons why you might request tooth whitening. Everyone is different and just as our hair and skin colour vary, so do our teeth. Only a small number of people naturally have brilliant white teeth and our teeth also become more discoloured as we get older.
Teeth can become stained on the surface by food and drinks such as coffee, tea, red wine and food colourings in curry. Smoking also stains teeth.
Some people have staining under the surface caused by antibiotics or cracks in teeth. Whitening procedures are less effective in these cases.
- What does tooth whitening involve?
Professional bleaching is the common method of tooth whitening. When you attend for a consultation you will be advised if you are suitable for the treatment.
The two types of whitening include either:
1) In House laser whitening: It firstly involves placing cheek retractors and protective gel over your gums in surgery. The whitening agent is applied to your teeth and activated with a laser light. The treatment time in surgery is usually about 2 hours.
2) Home whitening: Impressions are taken of your teeth in surgery using putty. Custom-made trays are provided for you to use at home. The whitening gel is placed in the tray and seated in the mouth for several hours a day. The shade of your teeth will change over 2-4 weeks.
- What are the side effects?
Some people may find that their teeth become sensitive during or after treatment. Others report discomfort in the gums, a sore throat or white patches on the gum line. These side effects are temporary and should disappear within a few days of the treatment finishing. If you suffer from any of these symptoms and are concerned, you should stop treatment and contact the surgery.
- How long does tooth whitening last?
The whitening effect on your teeth depends upon your overall health, dental hygiene, life style choices and type of whitening procedure used. You can generally expect your teeth to stay lighter for around 1-3 years. The effect is less likely to last if you smoke, or eat/drink products that stain your teeth.
- When might tooth whitening not work?
Tooth whitening only works on natural teeth. It will not work on false teeth such as crowns, veneers, bridges and dentures. These must be replaced to alter the shade. Tooth whitening is not advised for patients who are pregnant or breast-feeding.