Teeth whitening can be a very effective way of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of the tooth surface. There are a number of reasons why you might get your teeth whitened. Everyone is different; just as our hair and skin colour vary, so do our teeth. Our teeth can also become more discoloured as we get older. Our teeth can become stained on the surface by food and drinks such as tea, coffee and red wine. Smoking can also stain teeth.

Your dentist will be able to tell you if you are suitable for whitening treatment. Some causes of discolouration are not suitable for whitening treatment.

At Hounds Road Dental Practice, we recommend an at-home teeth whitening method. We take impressions of your teeth, and sent them to a dental laboratory to make custom fitting whitening trays (like gum shields). It normally takes about ten days to two weeks for the lab to make these trays. Then we show you how to use whitening gels in your new whitening trays.

The active ingredient in whitening product is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. As the active ingredient is broken down, free radicals get into the enamel on the teeth and dislodge with the carbon molecules that make teeth look stained, and the tooth colour is made lighter.

It typically takes 4 to 5 weeks to get your teeth 2 or 3 shades lighter. The effects of whitening are thought to last up to three years. However, this 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. Your dentist will be able to suggest ways of keeping your teeth whiter for longer after you have your teeth-whitening treatment done.

Some people may find that their teeth become sensitive to cold during the treatment. Others may have discomfort in the gums, a sore throat or white patches on the gum line. These symptoms are usually temporary and should disappear within a few days of the treatment finishing. You may benefit from using a toothpaste for sensitivity during the whitening treatment. Contact your dentist if you have any concerns.

In Europe, whitening can only legally be carried out by a dentist. Teeth whitening by beauticians and in whitening kiosks is illegal. In Europe, it is illegal to supply bleaching material containing more than 0.1% peroxide (or the equivalent in carbamide peroxide) to anyone other than a dentist, or direct to the public. These regulations are to protect the public. They 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.

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.

Sometimes teeth become discoloured after root canal treatment. These teeth can be whitening by removing the covering filling on the back of the tooth and applying the whitening product inside the tooth.

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, veneers or fillings.

You can help to keep your teeth white by cutting down on the amount of food and drinks you have that can stain teeth. Stopping smoking can also help prevent discolouration and staining.