What are the different types of teeth whitening available?
Most dental practices offer two types of whitening:
- Laser / In-Surgery Teeth Whitening
- Professional Home Whitening Kits
Both procedures are done using a peroxide-based bleaching gel of varying strength (10%-16% peroxide). The higher the concentration of peroxide in the gel, the more powerful it is and the results of teeth whitening are more effective.
Laser Tooth Whitening
Laser tooth whitening or in-surgery whitening is a procedure that takes place at the dental practice. The dentist uses a light-activated bleaching gel to whiten your teeth. The procedure usually takes approx 1 -2 hours and produces instant whitening results.
Laser Tooth Whitening procedure
Prior to carrying out the procedure you would have a consultation with your dentist to make sure that you are suitable for teeth whitening and to explain possible risks and side effects of the procedure. You will ask you to sign a consent form to confirm that you have fully understood the procedure and all risks.
Before the teeth whitening process is started the dentist or hygienist will thoroughly clean the teeth, removing any surface stains and tartar. This procedure is commonly referred to as a scale and polish.
For the next stage the dentist will record the shade/colour of your teeth before he/she starts the procedure. This is either recorded using a tooth coloured shade guide/chart or by taking a digital photograph of your teeth.
The area is then prepared for the procedure. The bleaching compound usually contains a high concentration of peroxide (up to 16%) and so the dentist will place some form of protection around the gums so that only the teeth are exposed. This involves covering the gums with cotton wool rolls and a protective gel material that hardens once applied to the gums. A cheek retractor is used to keep the lips and cheeks away from the teeth.
It is very important that your dentist isolates your gums and lips with a protective material in order to avoid any potential damage or burning. Home whitening kits usually have a low concentration of peroxide so there is less chance of any damage occurring.
Eye protection (goggles) is also provided to prevent any damage to the eyes from the laser used or any accidental splashes of the peroxide.
The whitening gel is then applied to the surface of the teeth and exposed to a light or laser, which activates it. During this process if you feel that your lips or gums start to burn then you should let your dentist know immediately. After approximately 15-40 minutes the gel is removed and the process repeated 2 more times. Some patient might experience sensitivity during the procedure, if this happens let your dentist know.
The dentist will finally wash off the whitening gel and remove any gum protection before evaluating the final result by taking a photograph or using a shade chart. The results are usually quite dramatic and can often be up to 3 shades lighter. A kit for home whitening may also be provided with custom trays and professional whitening gel.
Many patients’ teeth are quite sensitive immediately following this procedure and it is advised to try and avoid hot or cold drinks for a while. Some dentists offer fluoride treatment following teeth whitening to reduce this effect on sensitivity. Your home whitening kit usually contains a solution to reduce tooth sensitivity. Sensitivity rarely lasts more than 48 hours, if symptoms persist for longer contact your dentist.
Once your treatment is complete your dentist will remove the gel and a shade guide will then be used to measure how much whiter your teeth have become during the procedure. The results are instant and can often be up to 10 shades lighter.
Professional home whitening kits provide more permanent results over a longer time scale, whereas laser tooth whitening offers immediate results. A combination of the two provides the perfect solution to both immediate and long-term whitening needs.
Professional home whitening kits
To make a professional home whitening kit, your dentist will take upper and lower impression’s of your teeth using special putty. The dentist will then send your impressions to the dental lab where the technician will cast model’s of your teeth from plaster and make your customised whitening trays. The trays normally take 5-7 days to arrive back from the dental lab. You will be given an appointment to come back to the surgery to pick up your whitening kit and to go through all the instructions with you before use. Your dentist will give you an appointment to come back in two week’s to check on your progress and to take more pictures and the shade of your teeth. Teeth whitening trays can be worn overnight or for a couple of hours in the evening.
Suitability for whitening
Some patients are not suitable for teeth whitening, the dentist will assess your suitability during a consultation. If a patient has gum disease or any other dental health problems, you may be advised not to have teeth whitening. Teeth whitening does not change the colour of crowns, veneers or fillings, it is important that you understand that if you have teeth whitening you will also have to replace any cosmetic work already done in your mouth as they will not be the same colour. We can not do teeth whitening to under 18 year olds, If you are pregnant or breast feeding.
How much whiter will my teeth look?
The results are different for every patient and it also depends on the type of teeth whitening system used. Some people respond very well to teeth whitening and have dramatically whiter teeth as a result, whereas others may notice very little difference. Patients with heavily stained teeth tend to have more dramatic results than those with slightly discoloured teeth.Your dentist will be able to advise you on the likely results following a consultation.
What are the side effects of teeth whitening?
Most patient’s will experience some kind of sensitivity either during and or after the initial treatment. This is usually described by patients as sharp shooting pains. This should settle down after approximately 48 hours. Your dentist may give you a special gel or tooth paste to apply to your teeth to help with the sensitivity. It is advised to avoid extremes of hot and cold food and drinks for the first 48 hours after treatment.