The demand for tooth whitening treatment has boomed in recent years, in part, driven by the rise of pearly white smiles seen on our TV screens and on social media. Our research shows that whiter teeth come top of most people’s smile wish list and may lead to a boost in confidence and self-esteem. 

Like all medical procedures, however, tooth whitening is not without danger.    

Before embarking on tooth whitening treatment, it is important to do your research.  By knowing more about tooth whitening, you may improve your chance of having safer treatment with better results.  

Tooth whitening and the colour of your teeth

Tooth whitening can be a very effective way of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of the tooth surface. It cannot make a complete colour change, but it may lighten the existing shade.

There are many reasons why you might get your teeth whitened. Everyone is different; and just as our hair and skin colour vary, so do our teeth.

Very few people have brilliant-white teeth and they often become more discoloured as you get older. Teeth can also be stained on the surface by food and drinks such as tea, coffee, red wine and blackcurrant. Smoking can also stain teeth.

Having tooth whitening treatment

If you decide to go through with tooth whitening treatment, it should be carried out by a dentist, in a dental practice. This means treatment will be as safe and effective as possible.

Professional bleaching is the most usual method of tooth whitening. 

At your first appointment, your dental team will make a tray for your mouth by taking impressions of your teeth. They will then place whitening gel inside these trays and insert them into your mouth.

The ‘active ingredient' in whitening gel is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. As the active ingredient is broken down, oxygen gets into the enamel on the teeth and the tooth colour is made lighter.

The total treatment can usually be done within two-to-four weeks. The effects of whitening are thought to last up to three years.  However, this will vary from person to person.

Looking after your teeth once they have been whitened

You can help to keep your teeth white by cutting down on the amount of food and drinks you have that can stain teeth. Don't forget, stopping smoking can also help prevent discolouration and staining.

Once your teeth have been professionally whitened, a whitening toothpaste may help the effect to last longer.

A good daily oral care routine can help preserve the natural shade of your teeth. We recommend the following tips to take care of your teeth:

  • Brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste.

  • Cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks.

  • Visit your dental team regularly, as often as they recommend.

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