Teeth Whitening

Teeth Whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures around. It goes without saying that nearly every patient comes in lusting after that Hollywood Smile, asking “How do I get my teeth whiter?” A whiter smile improves confidence and appearance. Let’s look at the various cosmetic treatments there are in the UK to get just that and exactly why your teeth get discoloured. 

Women Smile with Red Lipstick


Why do your teeth get discoloured?

Enamel is the thin layer that covers your teeth, it is the strongest and hardest tissue in the human body. Enamel is translucent and it is the main body of the tooth, so it is actually the ‘dentin’ that is responsible for the tooth colour. There are many factors that affect the colouration of the dentin. Tobacco, drinking tea and coffee, red wine, eating highly pigmented foods (such as blackberries) and the build up of tartar deposits are among the causes. 

Sometimes the tooth may have intrinsic stains and are a result of treatment with the antibiotic tetracycline when teeth are forming, ageing processes that cause the teeth to turn yellow or grey. Alternatively there may have been a trauma to a tooth which causes the death of a nerve and turns the tooth a greyish, black colour.  Teeth whitening treatments are a great way to enhance your smile and bring confidence back to your smile. 

Often your dentist or hygienist can remove most of the external staining that is caused by food or tobacco. This staining can also be reduced between cleanings with the use of a whitening toothpaste. 

Professional Teeth Whitening:

If your teeth are discoloured or stained, your dentist may suggest a professional teeth whitening treatment. Internal stains can be treated by the dentist and your dentist will decide the best method based on the state of the teeth. This can depend on the on the degree and type of staining and the remaining tooth structure. The dentist will decide whether to bleach, bond or cap (crown) the teeth. A dental hygienist can do teeth whitening but the procedure is prescribed by the dentist and you can find a dentist to do just that, right here on the Oral Health Net. 

teeth colour check by dentist

There are a few types of teeth whitening cosmetics available to patients depending on their circumstances and preferences:

Laser Whitening (In-Surgery): This form of tooth whitening is carried out in the dental practice and involves using a light-activated bleaching gel to whiten the teeth. This technique produces instant whitening results and can take about 1-2 hours. Along with the instant whitening results, many dentists advise that the professional home whitening kits be used.

There is normally a consultation appointment made with the dentist prior to the treatment, this consultation is to ensure the patient is suitable for the teeth whitening procedure and to explain risks and side effects that may arise.

The teeth are then thoroughly cleaned, either by the dentist or a hygienist, so that tartar and surface stains are removed. This is referred to as a scale and polish procedure. The dentist will either take pictures or use a shade guide/chart to determine the shade and color of the teeth before the treatment.

What’s involved in this procedure?

The dentist will use a bleaching compound that tends to contain approximately 15-22% concentration of peroxide (depends on regulation at that time). To make sure that it is only the teeth that are exposed to the compound the dentist will place a form of protection over the gums, usually a roll of cotton and a protective gel material that will harden once it touches the gums. The dentist will also provide the patient with goggles to ensure the eyes are unharmed by possible sprays or splashes of the peroxide.

The smile design dentistry UK will then apply the gel to the surface of the teeth and expose it to a light or laser, this works to activate the gel and begin the whitening treatment. The gel is left on for about 15 minutes and then removed; this process is repeated twice more. It is common for some patients to experience sensitivity in their teeth, sometimes described as shooting pains. These do not last for very long. The gel is then washed off and the gum protection is removed. The dentist will then take more photographs or use the shade chart to evaluate the results. The results are instant and often dramatic, sometimes leaving the teeth almost 10 shades lighter. Custom trays may be fitted for a home whitening treatment with a professional whitening gel. 

It is common for some patients to experience sensitivity after the treatment; the dentist may offer fluoride treatment to reduce it. The home kit also contains a solution that will reduce the sensitivity. It is recommended that the patient avoid hot or cold drinks for 48 hours. However, if the symptoms continue it is advised that they contact their dentist.

Custom Fit Tray Whitening (In-Home): With this form of tooth whitening, the dentist will take an impression of the mouth and make a thin custom-fitted plastic tray for the patient. At home, the patient then puts a small amount of bleaching gel inside the tray and wears it for about one to two hours a day. It can sometimes take just a few days for results to be noticed, but usually two weeks for the full effects to be achieved. This is a common technique because of the ease of use and low cost. It is sometimes also used in conjunction with in-office bleaching depending on the degree of discoloration. This method may take up to four visits to Oral Health Care professionals.

Store-Bought Whitening Strips (In-Home): This method uses strips that are fitted over the upper and lower teeth, and can be worn for thirty minutes to an hour once a day. It’s not certified to be sold in the UK.  Though it is slightly awkward to talk with the strips, they are comfortable and stay in place. Results start to take effect after a couple of days or up to a week, or possibly up to a month for the slower systems. This seems to be the most common form of teeth whitening cosmetics because it is easy and cost-effective.