Tooth whitening or tooth bleaching is the process of lightening the colour of teeth. Whitening is often desirable when teeth become yellowed over time for a number of reasons, and can be achieved by changing the intrinsic or extrinsic colour of the tooth enamel. It removes the staining agent through chemical means. It is a safe procedure when carried out under professional supervision. Teeth can discolour for various reasons.
The dentist will recommend the most ideal method based on your dental condition after an in-office consultation to establish the cause and nature of your tooth discolouration. The dentist will also provide you with more information on the various types of whitening procedures available, including the duration and frequency of the treatment. Treatment results usually depend on the severity of the discolouration. Tooth whitening treatment is not effective on dental restorations such as fillings, metal or porcelain crowns.
Yes, teeth whitening works if carried out by a trained dental professional. Whitening uses a peroxide-based gel to lighten the teeth. When these chemicals break down, they release oxygen. This gets into the hard, outer surface of your teeth (the enamel) and whitens them.
Yes, whitening is safe if it’s done properly. It will not cause any damage or change to your tooth structure if the correct type and concentration of whitening gels are used.
It’s illegal for anyone else other than registered dental professionals to carry out whitening procedures. A dental professional includes dentists, dental hygienists, therapists and technicians – who are registered with the General Dental Council.
Whitening doesn’t hurt, but it’s common to experience some mild sensitivity either during or after the initial treatment. This should settle down after a couple of days. If it doesn’t, get in touch with your dentist who can give you further advice. Your dentist can recommend suitable toothpaste and other products to help if you do experience sensitivity. High-quality whitening products, used by dentists, come with anti-sensitivity ingredients incorporated into their gels, to avoid this happening.
You’ll need to have a consultation with your dentist before having treatment to assess your oral health and suitability of the treatment.
No, whitening only works on natural teeth. Restorations such as fillings, crowns and dentures can’t be whitened.
At-home teeth whitening kits take around two to three weeks to take effect but it depends on how discoloured your teeth are to start with.
The outcome of whitening varies depending on your individual teeth. Your dentist will be able to advise you on the likely results following an initial consultation.
When carried out well, whitening results should be permanent and only need simple top-ups every six to nine months, which you can do at home. Your dentist will provide you with these when necessary.