Tooth whitening (also known as “teeth bleaching”) has become the most popular way for dentists to help their patients obtain whiter smiles.
While several techniques for teeth whitening exists, in the last decade the “at home” method of whitening has become the most widely used and most successful. This technique utilizes a plastic tray, which is made by the dentist to fit comfortably over the patient’s teeth. The patient places the whitening (bleaching) gel into the tray and the tray is then worn over the teeth for 2-3 hours per day, for several weeks, as the effects of the whitening process takes place.
Several whitening kits can be bought over the counter. But it must be realised by the patient that the dental professional will not directly supervise the majority of the whitening activities. Because of this, anyone bleaching their teeth must be certain that the specific whitener they are using is safe and that they know how to use this product in an appropriate manner. Failure to meet either one of these conditions could result in damage or harm to the teeth and/or gums.
What can you expect?
Some patient’s compare their teeth to the teeth of those actors seen featured in films, TV, and magazines advertisements. You must realise that the whitening shades of many models and actors fall into the realm of the “unnatural”. Often these extreme shades of whiteness are achieved by means other than tooth whitening (bleaching)- such as by placement of crowns or veneers over the teeth. Sometimes this extreme whiteness never existed at all but instead was created by touching up the picture photograph by computer techniques.
The whitening will not lighten existing dental work.
The teeth bleaching process will not make a colour change to the dental work you already have such as silver or white fillings, crowns and bridges. Veneers are the exception to this rule.
What influences the natural colour of your teeth?
This is influenced by a multitude of factors. The teeth display a wide range of shades of white. There is no one specific colour, which your teeth are meant to be. Some people’s teeth are just naturally darker in colour than others.
Chromogenic agents e.g. tea coffee and red wine: It seems to be a fact of life that as years pass our teeth tend to absorb these discolouration agents and stain.
Exposure to certain medicines in childhood while your tooth enamel was initially forming.
Individually darkened teeth. This often happens when a tooth has had root canal treatment.
What is involved and how long does it take?
The first step is for the dentist to take an impression of your teeth in order to make a bleaching tray to fit your mouth. At the second visit the bleaching tray will be fitted and the whitening gel will be given to you and the procedure on how to use the gel and tray will be explained to you.
The gel used in the tray should be worn for a minimum of 2-3 hours per day for at least 1-2 weeks. The more hours you wear the bleaching trays the more rapid you will notice results. For the best and quick results the ideal is to wear the bleaching tray at night while you are asleep.
Once your bleaching efforts have achieved a pleasing tooth shade you need to terminate the bleaching process.
How long do the effects of teeth whitening last?
The effects of tooth whitening can, on occasions, be permanent but in most cases tooth whitening is found to lasts for about 2-3 years. Of course once initially whitened it is an easy matter to retreat or “touch up” your teeth with addition bleaching at that point in time when it’s needed.
What side effects can be expected?
The side effects are minimal and are totally reversible. In fact these effects disappear after a few days. The side effects fall into two categories:
- Slight sensitivity to hot and cold
- Slight irritation to the gums.
If these effects occur it is recommended that you just reduce the total number of hours the bleaching tray is worn per day, or the bleaching process only be used on alternative days.
What is the cost?
The tooth whitening kit including bleaching trays costs from £250.00. This will be enough for approximately 10-12 applications, which will be sufficient to whiten your teeth, in both upper and lower arches.