With teeth whitening being one of the most sought-after cosmetic dental treatments on the market, brightening your smile is more popular than ever these days. Read on to find out more about how teeth whitening works.
What exactly is teeth whitening?
The colour of your teeth can be affected by a number of factors, from your diet to genetic influences, but the main reasons for teeth becoming stained or ‘discoloured’ include:
- The use of certain medicines
- Certain drinks that can stain teeth, such as coffee, tea and red wine
Very few of us have naturally brilliant white teeth, but some of us would prefer them to be whiter than they are. Teeth whitening is a process that makes your teeth appear lighter without removing any of the tooth surface.
The process involves either using a product that bleaches the tooth, or using a non-bleaching whitening product that works by physical chemical action to help remove surface stains only – this won't change the colour of your teeth as much.
There are various methods of teeth whitening to choose from – read on for more information on each one.
Whitening home kits
Many home whitening kits are available from pharmacies. Speak to your dentist about the different options and what is most suitable for your needs.
Some of these strips are coated with a tooth-whitening gel containing peroxide. Designed to fit the shape of your teeth, they work by keeping the whitening gel in place against your teeth to work at reducing stain build-up on and below the tooth's surface.
How long you keep the strips in place depends on the strength of the product you use, so always follow the manufacturer's instructions very closely.
All toothpastes have a mildly abrasive action which helps to remove surface stains. 'Whitening' toothpastes also have special chemical or polishing agents that are claimed to provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaching products, these whitening toothpastes won't alter the basic colour of your teeth.
How long will it last?
Teeth whitening isn't permanent. How long it will last varies from person to person. Generally, the whitening effect won't last as long if you're a smoker or drink lots of tea, coffee or red wine.
Are there any risks?
Speak to your dentist if you are considering having your teeth whitened. If you have gum disease, crowns, fillings or veneers, it's possible that tooth whitening isn't suitable for you.
With any teeth whitening treatment, there's a possibility you may be sensitive to the chemicals used. This may cause:
- Some slight gum discomfort
- White patches on the gum line
- A sore throat
These symptoms are usually temporary and should disappear within days of the treatment finishing. However, if any side effects persist, you should stop any treatment you are doing and consult your dentist or dental practitioner immediately. Always check the product package for any ingredients you may be allergic to before use.
What should I do after the treatment?
To help keep your teeth white, you should:
- Cut back on dark-coloured drinks that can cause staining, such as coffee, tea and red wine. It's a good idea to use a straw to help keep these substances off your teeth
- Stop smoking, as the nicotine found in tobacco also stains the teeth
- Take care of your teeth and maintain good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth at least twice a day, using a fluoride-containing toothpaste and flossing at least once a day
- Visit your dentist for regular check-ups