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Tooth Whitening Information



  1. What is tooth whitening?

Tooth whitening is the process by which discolorations on the surface of the enamel and from within the body of teeth are bleached.


  1. What is involved ?

Following a detailed examination the causes of the discoloration will be established by the dentist. Treatment options will then be discussed. If it is then decided that tooth whitening is to be undertaken impressions and photographs will be taken. At the next visit the bleaching trays will be tried in position and adjusted as needed. Instructions will be given on the use of the tray and bleaching gel.


  1. How does tooth whitening work?

When the bleaching tray is inserted into the mouth the active ingredient (either carbamide or hydrogen peroxide) within the bleaching gel is broken down, allowing oxygen to enter the enamel and dentin, causing the stains to be lightened.


  1. How long does it take?

This can be difficult to predict and varies from patient to patient as a number of factors are involved. Once started the trays are best worn on consecutive nights for between 10-14 days for best results.


  1. How long will it last?

This will depend on the patient, and the patient’s oral habits.  The average person will require periodic touch ups every 2-3 months to help maintain the whiteness.


  1. Is the treatment safe?

Extensive research, including many clinical trials have shown that dental bleaching with low concentrations of bleaching gels up to 16% carbamide peroxide is very safe. Bleaching has no long term detrimental effects on the teeth ,gums and remaining linings of the mouth


  1. How white will my teeth get?

This will depend on your teeth – everyone’s teeth are different.  If your teeth are heavily stained from coffee or smoking, you will probably see a big change.  If your teeth are not heavily stained, the change will not be as great.


  1. What causes teeth to discolour?

There are many causes of tooth discoloration.  Some of the most common include the consumption of highly coloured foods (beetroot, sweets etc) and drinks (coffee, fizzy drinks, red wine).  Antibiotics consumed at an early age, natural aging, smoking and trauma can also add to discoloration.



  1. Do all teeth whiten evenly?

There is an overall whitening of all teeth.  The biting edges of the teeth are more likely to whiten faster than the areas adjacent to the gum.  It should also be noted that in some patients, whitening can result in a frosty chalky appearance of the teeth, but this usually reverts to a more natural translucent appearance after several hours to several weeks (very rare).


  1. What about sensitivity?          

For the majority of patients there is none.  However, some will experience temporary sensitivity (dull or sharp) on the teeth and/or gums usually during the first few days.  This usually subsides after a few  hours of stopping the treatment.  The time the trays are worn can be shortened or made less frequent. or topical desensitising toothpaste or gel can be used.  It is best to abstain from carbonated drinks, citrus foods and beverages to avoid sensitivity for a few hours after treatment.


  1. What causes teeth to stain again after bleaching?

The same things that made them stains in the first place, common causes include red wine, smoking, tea, coffee, and heavily coloured foods.



  1. Is it better to have whitening treatment now or wait until my teeth are more stained?

It is better to get it done now as the stains will become worse and darker.  The teeth will then require more applications of bleach as stains will be harder to remove.


  1. Are my teeth more easily stained now that they have been whitened?

No, the chance of staining your teeth are not increased once they have been whitened, if you follow the post treatment care instructions sheet given by your dentist.




  1. Will my crowns, veneers and fillings get whiter?

No, only the natural teeth will. As a result restorations that previously matched the teeth may look darker after bleaching. If the mismatch in colour is a problem it may be necessary to replace such restorations after bleaching.



  1. Is it safe to whiten my teeth if I am pregnant or lactating?

No studies have been done on these people so we advise they do not undergo bleaching.


  1. Do over–the-counter bleaching systems I can buy direct from companies work as well?

No, these systems do not require the expertise of your dentist so the trays are not perfectly fitted to your teeth.  At the very least, you need custom made trays from your dentist.  Sensitivity is often a problem if your trays are not properly fitted.  The bleaching solution is not evenly distributed over the teeth, and saliva can seep in to dilute the solution.  Many over-the-counter systems contain an acidic rinse which can remove significant amounts of the tooth structure.  These types of systems usually contain a lower amount of peroxide, hence they are not as strong.



                  What are the alternatives methods to treat tooth discoloration


                  These include


Microabrasion : This technique helps remove superficial stains only leaving deeper stains within the body of the teeth intact.

Composite : This is a tooth coloured material which is glued or “bonded” to the teeth to change the shape and colour of a tooth.

Porcelain Veneers:These are thin facings of tooth coloured porcelain ( like false finger nails) which are glued to the front surface of the teeth with the aim of improving their appearance

Crowns : Commonly referred to as capping this usually involves considerable preparation of the tooth. The tooth is significantly weakened by the process and one in six teeth can die as a result of the process.

Extraction:This radical approach is an option but rarely done for aesthetic reasons.


What about the legal position regarding tooth whitening?


There are still some unresolved issues regarding the legality of tooth whitening. However research has shown that the use of products containing up to 6% hydrogen peroxide is safe. The General Dental Council which regulates the dental profession regards teeth whitening as a procedure that only registered dentists should undertake and would seek to prosecute any other individuals doing so.