Tooth Whitening (or Bleaching)
Are you happy with the colour of your teeth? If not, tooth whitening could help enhance your smile.
As we age, teeth become darker. Certain foods and habits like smoking only make this worse. Tooth whitening is a simple and effective way to reverse this process for a brighter, younger looking smile. It is also great for people who have naturally dark teeth and have always wished them to be lighter.
Peroxide based gels have been clinically proven to lighten teeth with no long term side effects.
Your dentist will take impressions of your teeth and will make a thin flexible plastic mouth guard known as a “tray.” The patient takes the kit home and dispenses a small amount of whitening gel into the tray. The tray is placed over the teeth and kept in the mouth for up to 4 hours. This process is repeated daily until the patient is happy with the colour change. On average this will take 3-4 weeks.
In this method the patient has some control over the final colour as the teeth lighten a little bit each day. The trays can be worn overnight or during the day to suit busy lifestyles and it doesn’t matter if a day or two is missed (but the process will just take longer!) See FAQs below for further information.
Frequently asked questions
Does it really work?
In short yes! Millions of patients worldwide have successfully whitened their teeth using peroxide gels. For the average person the change in colour is 8 shades. Your dentist can show you what to expect on the standard shade guide. There have been many studies done to prove the effectiveness of these methods (samples available at the Practice to view) The vast majority of people find that whitening works for them.
For some people, whitening will not work very well, for example those with very grey teeth. The average change of 8 shades is only an average across the population and not a guarantee! Your dentist can advise you on your suitability.
It is important to be aware that fillings, crowns and bridges will NOT change colour. Therefore if the teeth lighten, it may make fillings etc appear darker and they may need to be replaced to match. Sometimes this can be an advantage, for example, if crowns were placed years ago and the neighbouring teeth have become darker with time. Whitening can then be used to match the teeth back to the crowns again.
Peroxide based gels are only available from your dentist and should not be confused with over the counter kits and whitening toothpastes which often give disappointing results.
How does it work?
The colour of the tooth is determined by “chromophores”. These are molecules inside the tooth that are found around the hard tooth crystals. The peroxide spreads through the tooth and changes the shape of these chromophores. Light is then reflected differently to make the tooth appear lighter. In effect it’s an optical illusion!
Is the whitening effect permanent?
The whitening effect will slowly fade over time. This can take between 1-5 years before it becomes noticeable, but won’t fade to their pre-whitening levels. This can be easily reversed by using gel in the trays again as a “top up.”
Sounds too good to be true, there must be side effects?!
Studies show that hydrogen peroxide based gels used in whitening are very safe with no long term side effects. The enamel and dentine of the tooth are not damaged and there are no long term changes in the pulp or the gums around the teeth. There appears to be no risk of cancer when using gels as instructed and no risk to stomach/gut if swallowed.
The most frequently experienced side effect is tooth sensitivity during whitening. About 50% of people will experience some increase in sensitivity, but this will return to normal once whitening has been stopped.