The creator of The Online Dentist, Andrew Wilson is an award winning dentist working in Central London. He offers solutions for patients to improve their smiles without damaging their natural teeth. One of Andrew’s most popular treatments is whitening. So we’ve asked Andrew to explain teeth whitening and how it could transform your smile.
Whitening is a great way to change the shade of your teeth. It’s a relatively simple and conservative treatment. It doesn’t significantly damage or weaken the teeth. What it does is gently brighten and lighten the colour of your teeth to lift the colour and give them that sparkle.
Ways to whiten your teeth
There are two main ways that you can have your teeth safely whitened. One way is ‘in-surgery’ whitening. This just means that you have some intensive whitening done by your dentist while you are in the dental chair. The dentist whitens your teeth using gels that are activated by shining a light on them over an hour or so. You then finish off the whitening yourself at home with a custom made kit that whitens your teeth further. I have to say, I am not a big fan of this treatment. The whitening gels that we are permitted to use in the UK are not strong enough to whiten your teeth in the time that you will spend in the chair. The ‘at-home’ treatment that I describe below gives more consistent results and is usually cheaper.
‘At-home’ whitening is my favourite way to improve the colour of your teeth. With ‘at-home’ whitening, you need to be fitted with some custom trays that fit really snuggly to your teeth and your dentist needs to show you how to use the kit. It’s really simple and once you have the kit you’re away. You can basically do it yourself. You wear the trays over night until you are happy with the colour of your teeth.
My favourite thing about ‘at-home’ whitening is that you are in charge of the end result. When you’re happy, you stop. It’s simple. Most people will have to wear the trays overnight for 3 or 4 weeks to get a decent result. But you can do as much or as little as you want to get the result you are after. If you want Hollywood white then you will have to whiten for longer than someone who wants a more subtle result.
I love ‘at-home’ whitening. It’s what I used to improve the colour of my teeth. It’s simple. It’s safe. The teeth are just as strong after you’ve whitened them. They are just brighter and lighter with a more youthful appearance.
The one downside with any type of whitening is that it will cause most people’s teeth to be sensitive during the period that you are whitening your teeth. This is something that will usually go back to normal after you have finished whitening. There are some very simple ways to get around this. During the weeks that you are whitening, it can be helpful to use a sensitive toothpaste for everyday brushing. This will help to dull any sensitivity. If you need to, having a day off here and there from the whitening is not the end of the world. It will slow down the end result but it’s not the end of the world. What you can do if you’re having a night off from the whitening is to pop a bit of sensitive toothpaste into the whitening trays you have and wear them. The toothpaste in the trays will act to soothe the teeth. Make sure to give the trays a good clean out under a tap in the morning.
Almost all patients who whiten their teeth will get some sensitivity in one form or another. And they all tend to find a way of coping with it. If you are thinking of whitening your teeth, you must be aware of this, especially if you already have sensitive teeth.
The effects of whitening treatment can last several years. The results will fade more quickly if you smoke or have a lot of foods that stain such as black coffee. Keep the whitening trays safe after you have finished the treatment because you will be able to use them again in future when the whitening fades. You can top up the whitening fairly regularly but I wouldn’t recommend doing more than a couple of nights every 6 months. If you are going to a wedding or big occasion, you can also whiten for a couple of nights the week before to lift the shade of your smile.
Be aware that there is a limit to how far you can whiten your teeth. Everyone is different and everyone’s teeth will whiten to varying degrees. If you start with quite dark teeth, you may not be able to achieve tipex white. You probably don’t want to but just be aware of this.
Because there is only so much anyone can whiten their teeth, be guided by your dentist as to when you should stop. Ideally, your dentist will take some photos and record the shade of your teeth before you start. By doing this, your dentist can tell you how much your teeth have whitened and how much further they are likely to whiten. Make sure that your dentist has recorded what your teeth look like at the start. Whitening will happen gradually so it can be quite hard to tell how well it is working. If your dentist knows the start point, you can tell how well it’s worked. If this hasn’t been recorded then you may never know and may even end up disappointed by what is actually a decent result.
Existing crowns and fillings
Be aware that tooth whitening cannot change the shade of dental work you already have like crowns or white fillings. If you don’t like the colour of existing dental work then that needs to be replaced. It can be nice to whiten first before replacing any crowns or fillings so that you can match the new work to a brighter colour.
Tooth whitening is a simple and safe procedure if carried out by a dentist. The materials that we use for whitening have to be prescribed and can only be given out by a dentist after a complete assessment of the health of your mouth. If someone is offering whitening who is not a dentist, you have no idea what materials they are using or where they are getting them from. The person selling these materials may have no idea what they are using either. If it’s not being offered by a dentist then it is not safe and you have no idea what damage you could do to your mouth.
You must only have tooth whitening done by a qualified dentist who has assessed the health of your mouth and judged that you are appropriate for the treatment.
Tooth whitening is a fantastic treatment. It is simple. It leaves no lasting ill affects in your mouth. It can be maintained very easily. It is usually by far the cheapest cosmetic treatment that can make a big difference to your smile.