Few facts about Whitening
Firstly may I wish you all a very Happy new year! Now back to teeth …..
More and more people are wanting whiter teeth. Does teeth whitening work and is it safe?
What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening involves bleaching your teeth to make them lighter. Teeth whitening can’t make your teeth brilliant white, but it can lighten the existing colour by several shades.
Who can perform teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a form of dentistry and should only be performed by a dentist or another regulated dental professional, such as a dental hygienist or dental therapist, on the prescription of a dentist.
Some beauty salons offer teeth whitening, but this is illegal, so please stay away from these places!
You can also buy DIY home teeth whitening kits but these may also carry risks. So do be watchful of these products.
What are the different types of teeth whitening available?
Most dental practices offer two types of whitening:
- Laser / in-surgery Teeth Whitening
- Professional home whitening kits
Both procedures are based on a bleaching process that uses a peroxide-based bleaching gel of varying strength (3%-6% peroxide).
Laser Tooth Whitening
Laser tooth whitening or in-surgery whitening is a procedure that takes place at the dental practice and uses a light-activated bleaching gel to whiten your teeth. The procedure usually takes approx 1 -2 hours and produces instant whitening results. I would recommend that laser whitening should be followed up by professional home whitening.
The Laser Tooth Whitening procedure
Prior to carrying out the procedure you would have a consultation with your dentist to make sure that you are suitable for teeth whitening and to explain possible risks and side effects of the procedure. Most dental practices will ask you to sign a teeth whitening consent form to confirm that you have fully understood the procedure and all risks. These days, because the product is heavily regulated, the side effects of sensitivity doesn’t exist anymore. The only real risk is that the gums can become irritate if they are not sufficiently protected during the bleaching procedure.
Before the teeth whitening process is started a dentist or a hygienist will thoroughly clean the teeth, removing any surface stains and tartar.
The next step will be to make a record of the shade/colour of the teeth before the procedure. This is either recorded using a tooth coloured shade guide/chart or by taking a digital photograph of your teeth.
The area is then prepared for the procedure. The dentist will usually place some form of protection around the gums so that only the teeth are exposed to the bleaching gel. This involves covering the gums with cotton wool rolls and a protective gel material that hardens once applied to the gums. A cheek retractor is used to keep the lips and cheeks away from the teeth.
It is very important that your dentist isolates your gums and lips with a protective material in order to avoid any potential damage or burning.
Eye protection (goggles) is also provided to prevent any damage to the eyes from the laser used or any accidental splashes of the peroxide.
The whitening gel is then applied to the surface of the teeth and exposed to a light or laser, which activates it. Some systems do not use an activating laser and many dentists argue that the laser doesn’t make any difference to the end result. During this process if you feel that your lips or gums start to burn then you should let your dentist know immediately. After approximately 15 minutes the gel is removed and the process repeated another 3 times.
Finally wash off the whitening gel and remove all the lip and gum protection, then a post operative shade/colour is taken. The results are usually quite dramatic and can often be up to 10 shades lighter. Ideally a kit for home whitening should be provided with custom trays and professional whitening gel.
There is no sensitivity now, due to the fact that the new bleaching gels have a lower percentage of hydrogen peroxige gel and this is combined with calcium.
Professional home whitening kits provide more permanent results over a longer time scale, whereas laser tooth whitening offers immediate results. A combination of the two provides the perfect solution to both immediate and long-term whitening needs.
Professional home whitening kits
To make a professional home whitening kit, impressions (moulds) of your teeth are taken and bleaching trays are made. Depending on the teeth whitening system, some trays need to be worn overnight while others for only 1-2 hours a day for between 2-3 weeks.
Suitability for whitening
Many people are not suitable for teeth whitening and a dentist will assess your suitability during a consultation. If you have gum disease or other dental health problems, you may not be suitable. The teeth whitening process does not change the colour of crowns, veneers or fillings so it is important to understand that you may need to change these to match the colour of your whitened teeth. This procedure is not suitable for pregnant women or women breast feeding.
Does it hurt? What are the side effects of teeth whitening?
No sensitivity is recorded these days, due to the new bleaching gels on offer. As mentioned before, this is at a lower percentage mixed in with calcium.
Which teeth-whitening brand or system is the best?
There are many different brands of professional teeth-whitening systems, each claiming to provide the best results. The most popular systems are Zoom!®
How much does teeth whitening cost?
This depends on which system is used. Home bleaching is less expensive, as the patient is carrying this out at home compared to in house bleaching. An approximate figure of £250 for home bleaching and £375-550 for in house bleaching I would suggest.