There are a number of reasons why people decide to have their teeth whitened. We are all different; and just as our hair colour may vary, so do our teeth. Teeth in nature are never brilliant white, they tend to darken with age, and may discolour due to lifestyle habits such as smoking, red wine, tea and coffee.

Intrinsic staining, that is stains which are built into the tooth due to such things as exposure to certain antibiotics at an early age, or cracks may require alternative options such as veneers or crowns.

The removal of calculus (tartar) is always a prerequisite to tooth whitening, and regular meticulous oral hygiene measures are also called for to maintain optimal gum health, and that white smile.

What does tooth whitening involve?

Professional bleaching is the most usual method of tooth whitening. Your dentist will be able to tell you if you are suitable for the treatment and will supervise assuming you are.
The active ingredient in tooth bleaching is usually hydrogen peroxide, applied to your teeth in the form of carbamide peroxide. As the active ingredient is broken down, oxygen is released onto the enamel on the teeth and the tooth colour is made lighter.

How long does it take?

The time taken is dependent on the colour of the teeth at the outset, darker teeth show results more quickly, but most treatments are complete within three or four weeks. First, you will need to visit the practice to allow your dentist to take an impression of your teeth, from which a customised bleaching tray is made, this is easily removable, and resembles a thin, unobtrusive clear mouthguard, much as you may have worn when playing contact sports. Once your dentist has started the treatment, you will need to continue the treatment at home. This means regularly applying the whitening product over two to four weeks, for 30 minutes to one hour at a time. Many people find they wear their bleaching trays in bed at night allowing a greater time for the process to work, this shortens treatment time.

How much does tooth whitening cost?

This treatment is not available as an NHS item so is only available privately.

How long will my teeth stay whiter?

The effects of whitening are thought to be long lasting, however, this will vary from person to person. The effect is less likely to last as long if you continue to smoke, and in heavy smokers the treatment may be contraindicated. Ask your dentist for their opinion before you start the treatment.

What are the side effects?

Some people may find that their teeth become sensitive to cold during or after the treatment, although this is very uncommon and temporary disappearing within a few days of the treatment finishing.

Are whitening toothpastes effective?

Tooth whitening can only lighten your existing tooth colour. It only works on natural teeth. It will not work on any types of ‘false' teeth such as dentures, crowns or veneers. If your dentures are stained or discoloured visit your dentist and ask for them to be cleaned.