Teeth whitening involves bleaching your teeth to make them a lighter colour. Teeth whitening can’t make your teeth brilliant white, but it can lighten the existing colour by several shades.
Standard teeth whitening involves several visits to the dentist plus sessions at home wearing a mouthguard containing bleaching gel. The whole process takes a couple of months. Teeth whitening is cosmetic and therefore generally only available privately.
More and more people are paying for brighter, whiter teeth. But does teeth whitening work and is it safe? Here are the answers to common questions about the treatment.
What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening involves bleaching your teeth to make them lighter. Teeth whitening can’t make your teeth brilliant white, but it can lighten the existing colour by several shades.
Who can perform teeth whitening?
The General Dental Council, the organisation that regulates dental professionals in the UK, has decided that teeth whitening is a form of dentistry. This means that you should only have your teeth whitened by a dentist or another dental professional, such as a dental hygienist or dental therapist, on the prescription of a dentist. You can also buy DIY home teeth whitening kits but these may also carry risks.
What happens during teeth whitening at the dentist?
If you have teeth whitening you will need to make several visits to the dental surgery over a couple of months. The dentist will take an impression of your teeth to make a mouthguard and will instruct you how to use it with a bleaching gel. Then, using your mouthguard at home, you regularly apply the gel for a specified period of time over two to four weeks. Some whitening gels can be left on for up to eight hours at a time, which shortens the treatment period to one week.
How do you go about getting teeth whitening?
Your dentist will advise you whether whitening is right for you. It may be that teeth whitening isn’t suitable, for example if you have gum disease or crowns.
Is teeth whitening permanent?
No, teeth whitening isn’t permanent. It can last from a few months to up to three years, but this varies from person to person. Generally, the whitening effect won’t last as long if you smoke or drink red wine, tea or coffee, which can all stain your teeth.
What are the risks?
No matter what treatment you use, there is a chance your gums can be sensitive to the chemicals used in teeth whitening, especially if you already have sensitive teeth. There’s also a chance of burns to gums and some of the whitening kits used at home can harm tooth enamel.