Teeth whitening

This is an increasingly popular cosmetic procedure in which the desired result is a clean, white smile. It involves the use of bleaching agent such as hydrogen peroxide which removes stains and leaves lighter coloured teeth.

The aim is to bleach the teeth until they are white in colour and attractive to look at. There are two forms of teeth whitening:

  • Home whitening kits
  • In-house whitening, e.g. laser tooth whitening

Both procedures use a peroxide based gel which whitens the teeth. The higher the concentration of peroxide the whiter coloured the teeth but this has to be balanced against the risk of increased sensitivity and damage to the surrounding areas.

Reasons for teeth whitening

The teeth whitening procedure is undertaken for aesthetic reasons in which the goal is a nice, white 'Hollywood smile'. It removes stains on the teeth caused by tea, red wine and other substances which build up over the years, resulting in a yellowish appearance.

Teeth can also be discoloured due to the build-up of plaque and tartar which are the main components of tooth decay.

Teeth whitening procedure

This procedure is performed at home or at a dental practice.

Home based treatment involves the use of teeth whitening kits which consist of a set of trays containing bleaching agents that are worn over the teeth. The bleach in these trays whitens the teeth although it can be highly concentrated which acts as an abrasive on the teeth.

The other option is professional tooth whitening at your local practice or a private clinic. The dentist will fit a rubber dam over your teeth to protect them before attaching a customised tray which contains bleaching products. This is worn for 3 to 4 weeks.

This professional service is also offered after laser tooth whitening.

Laser tooth whitening involves the use of a light-activated gel and a special laser to whiten the teeth. The dentist performs a scale and polish of your teeth before making a note of their natural colour. They place a rubber dam over your teeth and gums to protect them before applying a bleaching agent. A laser is directed at the teeth which triggers a reaction in the bleaching agent and speeds up the whitening process.

This takes around an hour in total.

Tooth whitening is not recommended for false teeth, e.g. crowns, bridges or dentures. Plus there is an increased risk of teeth sensitivity following this procedure and possible damage to the soft tissues of the mouth and gums.