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Why you should consider tooth whitening

Understanding tooth whitening

Tooth whitening is a simple and extremely effective way of lightening your teeth by bleaching them to make them a lighter shade. Even brushing regularly, over time our teeth can discolour and become more yellow as result of the thinning of the dental enamel. Tooth whitening can't make your teeth brilliant white, but it can lighten the existing colour by several shades and converts often say that the process has given them a more vibrant and youthful appearance, so why not give it a go? Please note that tooth whitening isn't suitable if you have gum disease or crowns; it doesn't work on dentures, fillings or veneers either.

What is the process?

Tooth whitening involves taking moulds of your teeth and providing you with a pair of discreet gum shields (one for your upper and one for your lower teeth) which are used to apply the tooth whitening agent. Generally, tooth whitening is best undertaken at night as the gum shields shouldn’t affect your ability to sleep and you don’t notice you are wearing them. After two to three weeks of wearing the gum shields at night, your teeth will have lightened significantly.

Should tooth whitening only be done by a dentist?

Tooth whitening is a form of dentistry and should only be performed by a dentist or another regulated dental professional, such as a dental hygienist or dental therapist, on the prescription of a dentist who is registered with the General Dental Council. Some beauty salons offer teeth whitening but it is illegal if there's no dental professional present, and despite it potentially sounding like a good idea or a cheaper option it may put your oral health at risk. You can also buy DIY home tooth whitening kits over the counter but these may also carry risks. Some home kits don't contain enough of the whitening product to be effective. More generally, if a dental professional is not carrying out the whitening, the mouth guard provided may not fit properly so some of the bleaching gel may leak out onto your gums and into your mouth, causing blistering and sensitivity. As the whitening trays are not custom-made to the shape of your teeth, the whitening gel can leak into your gums and cause irrevocable damage to your oral health. Do-it-yourself kits are not illegal but they are unreliable and can present you with long-term damage. Remember, only a dental professional can carry out whitening.

How long will my teeth stay whiter?

Generally, your teeth should stay whiter from a few months up to 3 years. However, you may wish to ‘top up’ your tooth whitening every six to twelve months to keep your smile as bright and white as possible. If you avoid food and drinks that stain the teeth such as tea, coffee, red wine and curry the result will be more prolonged.

Does tooth whitening hurt?

Not at all, however you may experience some transient sensitivity during the whitening process. This is only temporary and will subside when the treatment is complete.

How much does tooth whitening cost and is it covered under the NHS?

The cost varies from practice to practice so you could shop around but if you are considering having your teeth whitened then speak to your own dentist first as they know your mouth and can advise you whether whitening is right for you.

You can only have your teeth whitened on the NHS only if there's a medical reason for it. For example, this might be to lighten teeth that have discoloured because the nerve has died. Otherwise, teeth whitening by a dentist or other dental professional can only be done privately because it's considered to be a cosmetic treatment.

Does tooth whitening carry any risks?

No matter what treatment you use, there is a chance your gums can be sensitive to the chemical whitening agents, especially if you already have sensitive teeth. There's also a chance of burns to gums and some of the whitening kits used at home can harm tooth enamel.

If you would like to find out more about having your teeth whitened, then please call Life Dental & Wellbeing to make an appointment or speak to your dentist at your next visit.

Chrissy Still
Chrissy Still
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