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Teeth whitening at the dentist’s surgery

Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dentistry procedure which some people consider to give them a brighter smile, especially if they have stained or darker coloured teeth.

Most of the colour of our teeth comes from DNA. Whitening cannot bring about a complete colour change, but it can lighten the existing shade.

Teeth whitening may be suitable for people who have healthy unrestored teeth (no fillings) and gums. Individuals with yellow tones to their teeth respond best, but this cosmetic procedure is not recommended for everyone.

Here’s a guide to help find out if teeth whitening is right for you.

Professional tooth whitening

Professional tooth whitening may take around 3 to 4 weeks across 2 or 3 appointments at the dentist's.

At the first appointment, your dentist will first check whether you are a candidate for teeth whitening. It may not be recommended for people with gum disease or dental work such as crowns.

First, a rubber shield or a protective gel is put on the gums to keep the bleaching agent off them.

Whitening product is usually applied to the teeth using a specially made tray similar to a gum shield.

The active ingredient used by dentists is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.

Although the dentist starts and supervises the treatment, whitening product will need to be applied at home in between appointments.

What about laser teeth whitening?

Laser whitening or power whitening uses a laser to activate chemicals in the whitening product for a faster treatment making teeth up to 6 shades lighter.

A rubber dam is used to protect the gums before bleaching product is painted onto the teeth and then activated using the laser.

This procedure usually takes about an hour.

How much does professional tooth whitening cost?

Whitening teeth is a cosmetic procedure so is not available on the NHS unless there is a medical reason for it. Private charges vary between dental practices and the type of treatment, but can run into hundreds of pounds. Laser whitening is more expensive than standard bleaching.

The British Dental Health Foundation recommends getting a written quote or estimate of the costs before starting treatment.

How long do the whitening effects last?

The effects of professional tooth whitening are can last up to 3 years, but this will be different for each person, their standard of dental hygiene, and whether they continue to smoke.

What about 'dead' or root filled teeth?

A dead tooth can become discoloured after being root filled. It is possible for a dentist to reopen a root canal and apply whitening product inside the tooth.

Who should not undergo teeth whitening?

Whitening is not recommended or will be less successful in the following circumstances:

Age and pregnancy. Bleaching is not recommended in children under the age of 16. This is because the pulp chamber, or nerve of the tooth, is enlarged until this age. Teeth whitening under this condition could irritate the pulp or cause it to become sensitive. Teeth whitening is also not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

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