Everything You Need To Know About Teeth Whitening

Sep 24, 2021

Teeth whitening is extremely popular; after all, who doesn’t want the perfect smile? There are various types of teeth whitening treatments available to you, including over-the-counter self-applied products and treatments conducted by a teeth whitening dentist.

If you are considering dental whitening or have tried teeth whitening toothpaste or strips and haven’t got the results you desired, then it is time to look to the professionals.

Here we take you through everything you need to know about teeth whitening.

What Is Teeth Whitening?

Teeth whitening is any process designed to lighten and brighten the colour of your teeth, returning them back to pure white. Teeth whitening is most effective on yellowish-brown stains and slightly less effective on grey stains. Results also vary from person to person.

How Does It Work?

Stains on your teeth build up as coloured molecules bond with the surface of the teeth, plaque, or tartar. These coloured molecules exist in many things we eat and drink, including coffee, tea, sweets, wine, citrus fruit, sports drinks, and tomato sauce. Staining is also caused by activities such as smoking.

A regular dental cleaning procedure will remove and clear away plaque and tartar but does not tackle the stains absorbed into the teeth. These stains penetrate the outer layer and enter the layer below, which is called dentin.

Teeth whitening treatments look to clean the dentin and remove stains using a bleaching solution. There are different professional-grade bleaching solutions for handling this task, such as Hydrogen Peroxide, Carbamide Peroxide, and Carbamide Peroxide combined with Nitrate Fluoride.

The bleaching solutions combine with the carbon in the dentin and oxygen, and this oxidising action breaks apart the coloured molecules staining your teeth.

Teeth whitening only lightens and brightens the colour of your teeth, and not any fillings, composite bondings, crowns, bridges, or veneers you may have. To ensure a colour-unified smile, you may need to limit the degree of whitening or replace existing fillings, bondings, bridges, veneers, or crowns. If you have any of these non-natural tooth restorations, it is best to mention them to the dentist before receiving a teeth whitening treatment.

What Is The Treatment Process?

The treatment for whitening your teeth is most effective on teeth clear of tartar and plaque. So, the first part of the treatment process is a dental cleaning, which removes plaque and tartar. You can book a dental cleaning appointment for the same day as your teeth whitening treatment.

The dentist will make an impression of your teeth and use this to make a mouth guard/tray, for use at home, for a time specified by the dentist. The dentist can also carry out an in-chair procedure using bleaching products that are painted onto your teeth and activated using a laser. This type of treatment is called laser whitening or power whitening and takes about an hour.

After treatment and to ensure the best results, we recommend that you refrain from eating staining foods and drinks for a minimum of 48 hours. Staining foods and beverages include tea, coffee, berries, juices, wines, and anything that contains artificial colourings. You should also not smoke for as long as possible.

Teeth whitening procedures carried out in the dental practice take roughly one hour, and you can relax during the process. Self-administered at-home teeth whitening solutions applied using a tray provides a more gradual approach to returning your teeth back to their natural colour and brightness. Once the whiteness you desire is achieved, at-home trays can be used regularly, as little as once a month, to maintain the results.

Is It Safe?

The safest form of teeth whitening is that conducted by a professional and licensed dentist. Professional care will minimise any risks of damage to your gums or tooth’s enamel. You are assured that any bleaching solutions or gels are approved, safe, and genuine.

The whitening of your teeth should only be carried out by a dentist, dental technician, or dental hygienist who is registered with the General Dental Council. It is against the law for anyone else to offer or carry out this type of treatment, including those provided in beauty salons, if a registered dentist is not present.

Research shows that there are no long-term health effects associated with whitening solutions containing 6% Hydrogen Peroxide or 10-16% Carbamide Peroxide.

What Impact Will This Have On My Teeth Long Term?

We do not recommend that you have in-practice teeth whitening procedures more than once a year. Following this advice will help you maintain healthy gums and tooth enamel.

The dentist will conduct a dental assessment before recommending any treatment. They will assess the condition, decay, and health of your teeth and gums to ensure suitability.

How Long Does It Last?

The longevity of results is mainly affected by your lifestyle choices and what you do after treatment. Eating a healthy diet, avoiding staining foods and drinks, and avoiding smoking will ensure the longest lasting results.

If you cannot change your lifestyle and habits, you could use a straw when drinking staining drinks. It would be best if you continued to have regular check-ups with the dentist, and you can use a practice-supplied tray and gel to use regularly to further maintain the results you have achieved.

The results of teeth whitening that is conducted by the dentist in the dental practice can last anywhere from a few months to a year. In some cases, whitening can last for up to three years.

Are There Side Effects?

Teeth whitening can cause tooth and gum sensitivity for a few days after treatment. Some patients experience no or minor sensitivity, while others notice it more. If you have sensitive teeth or find that the procedure causes sensitivity, then the strength of the bleaching agent can be reduced, along with the treatment time. If you are concerned about sensitivity, speak to one of our licensed dentists ahead of receiving treatment.

The dentist might recommend that you use a special toothpaste before and after treatment to minimise discomfort. The dentist might also recommend a particular whitening method to prevent sensitivity. If you experience any sensitivity or pain after a teeth whitening treatment, you can use over-the-counter pain medication, following the manufacturer’s or pharmacist’s instructions.

What’s The Difference Between Professional And At-Home Whitening?

The difference between professional and at-home whitening is the strength of the cleaning and bleaching agent. Over-the-counter teeth whitening products are only permitted by law to contain 0.1% Hydrogen Peroxide, which results in unstable, unpredictable, and limited results. A licensed dentist is allowed to use whitening solutions that have up to 6% Hydrogen Peroxide once they assess your suitability.

At-home kits contain generic trays or mouth guards, and these pose health risks for your teeth and gums. They will not fit tightly around your teeth and may allow the bleaching agent to seep out onto your gums, causing sensitivity, burns, or blistering.

Some of the over-the-counter whitening kits use abrasive techniques to whiten your teeth. These include those containing Bicarbonate Soda and charcoal kinds of toothpaste. It is best to avoid these because while your teeth may appear whiter, you are effectively wearing away the tooth’s enamel, which can cause long-term problems, including sensitivity and tooth loss. Tooth tissue does not grow back, so damage to your teeth will be permanent.

How Long Does It Take To Get Done?

Teeth whitening in the dental practice typically takes one to two hours and offers instant results. At-home teeth whitening treatments take longer to get results, but you should notice these after two or three weeks.

How Much Does It Cost?

Procedures such as these are considered purely cosmetic, and as such, the costs are not covered by the NHS.

The cost of whitening your teeth depends on the treatment you choose or are recommended to use by the dentist. Custom trays and gels that you take home to conduct whitening are the cheapest solutions, requiring no special equipment or a significant use of the dentist’s time. Procedures administered in the dental practice cost a little more; however, they are still very affordable and offer immediate results.

If you are a Grosvenor Dental Plan Member, we are now offering free professional teeth whitening services. You are eligible to receive a starter kit that contains a custom-fitted professional whitening tray and a market-leading whitening gel for a one-off fee. After this, you can get free treatment during your regular dental check-ups.

To arrange an appointment to discuss teeth whitening with a dentist at Grosvenor Dental Practice, please get in touch with our team today.