Tooth whitening lightens the colour of teeth without removing or damaging any of the tooth surface. It cannot make a colour change, but lightens the existing shade.
Here at Gentle Dental Care we advise an appointment pre-treatment to assess your suitability for whitening. If you are deemed a good candidate you will have impressions taken of your teeth to create a set of whitening trays (like a gum shield) specific to your mouth. Your dentist will provide you with whitening gel (carbamide peroxide) which you place inside the trays and wear every night for 2-4 weeks depending on how dark your teeth are to begin with.
Some teeth that are internally stained due to antibiotics or teeth that are darkened after root treatment may not respond to whitening alone and may need further treatment- please discuss this with your dentist.
You will need a pre treatment appointment at which impressions of your teeth will be taken to make you a mouth guard. This will take up to 2 weeks to return from the lab. You are then issued with your whitening trays and gels and instructed to use them every night for the next 2 weeks. Usually this is long enough to reach the desired shade, but in some cases an extra 2 weeks will be necessary so you will be issued with extra whitening gel and asked to repeat the 2 week process (4 weeks total).
Treatment results may vary depending on the original shade of the teeth. Teeth darken slightly as we grow older and the enamel becomes thinner. This means older teeth can sometimes be slightly less receptive to whitening. It is important to visit your dentist for a pre whitening assessment to work out which whitening methods will be best suited to you. After whitening the effect lasts for around 1 to 3 years. In the first year it is important to top up with one or two sessions every few months as maintenance at home. Please discuss this with your dentist.
Over-the-counter kits are not recommended as they:
A) Contain only a small amount of the active whitening agent- hydrogen peroxide - which does not whiten teeth effectively long term. Only registered dentists are legally allowed to sell high enough percentages of hydrogen peroxide to be effective on teeth.
B) Contain mild acids, or are abrasive which is damaging to enamel.
It is very important to follow the instructions your dentist gives you, and to make sure that you go for any follow-up appointments recommended.
If there is dark internal staining (e.g. from antibiotics) or bright white patching from (e.g. fluorosis) sometimes the whitening will not completely mask this and you will have to look at other options with your dentist like crowns or veneers.
Whitening only works on natural teeth. It will not work on any type of 'false’ teeth. This includes dentures, crowns and veneers.
There are now several whitening toothpastes you can buy. Although they do not affect the natural colour of the tooth, they are effective at removing staining and therefore improving the overall appearance of the tooth. Whitening toothpaste may also help to keep up the appearance, once teeth have been professionally whitened.