Tooth Whitening

What is tooth whitening?

Tooth whitening is a very safe and effective way of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of the tooth surface.

Why would I need my teeth whitened?

There are a number of reasons why you might get your teeth whitened. Everyone is different; and just as our hair and skin colour vary, so do our teeth. Very few people have brilliant-white teeth, and our teeth naturally become more discoloured as we get older.

Your teeth can also be stained on the surface by food and drinks such as tea, coffee, red wine and blackcurrant. Smoking can also stain teeth. Some people may have staining under the surface, which can be caused by certain antibiotics or by tiny cracks in the teeth which take up stains.

Surveys have repeatly found that the majority of people are dissatisfied with the colour of their teeth. White teeth are perceived as being clean, healthy and young. Yellowish teeth are associated with smoking and aging.

Types of tooth whitening

There are two methods of whitening teeth.
One takes place at home and the other in the dentist’s surgery:

  1. Home whitening
  2. Power whitening

Before commencing treatment we will assess your teeth and gums to make sure that you are a suitable for the treatment.

Home Whitening

For Home Whitening we take an impression (mould) of your teeth in order to create specially made trays which fit your teeth exactly. Your trays should be ready in about 1 week. At the second visit we provide you with the trays and demonstrate how to use the whitening gel.

The ‘active ingredient' in the product is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. As the active ingredient is broken down, oxygen gets into the enamel on the teeth and the tooth colour is made lighter. This product has been studied carefully since 1989.

How long does this take?

You wear the trays containing the whitening gel for 2.5-3.5 hours each day for 3-4 weeks. Some people will choose to put the trays in before they go to bed and fall asleep while wearing them. The gel is effective for about 2.5-3.5 hours. Ideally you would use the trays every day but if you have to skip a day here and there, that is OK. It will just take you slightly longer to get to the shade that you are aiming for.

Power Whitening

Power whitening is performed while you sit in the dentist’s chair. During this procedure a protective dam is used to protect the gums, and a bleaching product is painted onto your teeth. Then a light or laser is shone on the teeth to activate the chemical. This procedure usually takes about one hour. Power whitening used on its’ own will usually not lighten the teeth to the shade that most patients would desire. It will kickstart the process though.

Home whitening trays and whitening gel will be required to complete the whitening process to achieve the results most patients desire. This is a good option for people that are in a hurry to get their teeth whitened and don’t have sensitive teeth.

Despite claims to the contrary, there is no evidence to show that power whitening with or without high intensity light produces a better result than dentist supervised home bleaching, which is also considerably less expensive.

Several studies have shown that there is no difference after 2 weeks between power whitening and home whitening.

There are greater risks attached to using high strength hydrogen peroxide whitening treatments and great care has to be taken avoid injury to soft tissues. There is also a greater risk of sensitivity to the teeth both during and after power whitening. For these reasons we do not offer power whitening here at Carton Dental.


More FAQs

How long will my teeth stay whiter?

The effects of whitening will vary from person to person. The effect is less likely to last as long if you smoke, or eat or drink products that can stain your teeth. In terms of maintenance, use of the home whitening trays 3 days consecutively every 6 months will usually keep your teeth at their new shade.

What are the side effects?

Some people may find that their teeth become sensitive to cold during or after the treatment. Others may have discomfort in the gums or white patches on the gum line. These symptoms are temporary and should disappear within a few days of the treatment finishing.

What about shop-bought home whitening kits?

Regulations covering home kits vary from country to country. Kits sold in Europe cannot legally contain more than 0.1% peroxide and this is too little to be effective. In other countries where stronger peroxide is allowed, home whitening is more common. But you need to be careful as some kits sold over the internet may contain mild acids and abrasives.

How safe is whitening at beauticians?

In Europe, it is illegal to supply bleaching material containing more than 0.1% peroxide (or the equivalent in carbamide peroxide) direct to the public by anyone other than a dentist. These regulations are to protect the public. They make sure that anyone carrying out whitening is properly able to assess if you are a suitable candidate for the procedure. They also make sure that anyone carrying out whitening is properly trained and has the right skills and knowledge to carry out the procedure without risking permanent damage to the teeth or gums.

What about whitening toothpastes?

There are several whitening toothpastes on the market. Although they do not affect the natural colour of your teeth, they may be effective at removing staining. Therefore, they may improve the overall appearance of your teeth. Whitening toothpastes may also help the effect to last, once your teeth have been professionally whitened.

Can a single tooth which has been root filled be whitened?

Yes. Sometimes dead teeth go discoloured after a root filling. If the tooth has been root treated, then some of the filling at the back of the tooth may be removed and the tooth whitened from the inside. This is called internal bleaching.

When might tooth whitening not work?

Tooth whitening can only lighten your natural teeth. Also it only works on natural teeth. It will not work on any types of ‘false' teeth such as crowns, veneers, composite bonding/ white fillings. Teeth that have staining caused by the antibiotic tetracycline can be difficult to whiten.

What are the benefits?

Whitening your teeth improves your smile/ the appearance of your teeth without removing any of the natural tooth substance. It is safe, effective and relatively inexpensive for the overall result that it gives.

There is no reliable evidence to suggest that whitening products should not be used during pregnancy.

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