We are constantly being asked many questions about teeth whitening, with the trend in the media for people to have whiter teeth it has become a treatment option which has grown enormously. As with any form of dental treatment there are pros and cons and so in this blog post we answer some of the most commonly asked questions and let you know if teeth whitening could be right you.
How can I ensure my teeth look white? What foods and activities should I avoid?
The majority of people are born with healthy teeth. Due to modern diets, we are all prone to extrinsic staining to greater or a lesser extent. The most common reasons why people’s teeth darken with time are:
- Beverages (tea, coffee, red wine, cola)
- Foods (curry, fried foods, foods with colouring, berries, beetroot)
- Mouthwashes – Corsodyl
- Antibiotics – Erythromycin, Amoxicillin, Tetracycline stains within teeth
- Iron supplements
- Fluorosis stains (ingestion of too much fluoride in water, toothpaste or fluoride tablets)
- There maybe unsuspected decay that appears like stains
- Darkened white fillings or crowns
- Natural ageing process
- Some are just born with darker teeth
- Excessive grinding
You can maintain the colour of your teeth by using whitening toothpastes to help avoid teeth staining. If you are looking for a brighter smile, consider safe professional teeth whitening treatments. Definitely avoid using domestic bleach or any acid containing products to whiten your teeth. Consider having your teeth cleaned professionally by dental hygienists.
Can I lighten the colour of my teeth?
Teeth whitening can be a highly effective way of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without damaging their structure. Whitening toothpastes may improve the colour by removing only the surface stains on the teeth, but this lightening is only temporary.
How does Teeth Whitening work?
Professional Teeth Whitening is an extremely versatile way of making your natural teeth look brighter without causing them any harm. It can be carried out in a number of ways depending on the nature and intensity of discolouration.
The ‘active ingredient’ in the gel is usually hydrogen peroxide. As it is broken down, oxygen gets inside the enamel of the teeth and dissolves the discoloured pigments, thereby, making the teeth look overall lighter.
What are the Teeth Whitening options available to me?
Professional Home Teeth Whitening
The best part about this type of teeth whitening is that you are in control and it is tailor-made to suit your daily routine or lifestyle. For example, if you find it difficult to wear the trays overnight, then daytime gels are available which are used for only 45 minutes, twice a day. If you are not happy to wear the trays during the daytime for any reason, then you can have the night time gel available, which has to be used overnight for a minimum of 5-6 hours.
The procedure involves making tailor-made soft and comfortable ‘whitening trays’ that are user-friendly. They fit snugly over your teeth. A very small amount (dot-sized) of whitening gel is placed inside the trays.
We always recommend that you come back to the practice after a few days of wearing your whitening trays. This ensures that your whitening is progressing well and that there is no sensitivity. When you come back for this appointment we will check to see how white your teeth have become compared to when you started.
How long should I wear the trays for?
This depends on the amount of lightening that you desire and the original colour of your teeth. If your teeth are quite dark or very yellow / grey / tetracycline stained it will take longer to lighten the teeth. For how long to wear the trays, depends on the product and concentration of whitening gel recommended to you by us, keeping in mind your personal circumstances. Some products require only overnight wear while others require daytime wear. When using the trays with whitening agent for half an hour or one hour twice daily, please make sure there’s a time interval of at least two hours in between the two sessions.
Laser Teeth Whitening
A number of different techniques have been developed to speed up the process of whitening teeth. The most recent of these uses gentle but powerful laser light. Very useful if time is short for any reason.
The need for careful consultation before treatment is all the more important to avoid tooth sensitivity or disappointing results
At Confidence dental in St Helier, Jersey we have a full range of tooth whitening options available to patients including the most up to date laser whitening technology and many years of experience to achieve the best results. However, we make a point of providing patients with their own whitening trays in all cases so that they can top up at home as needed. In practice, many people find they do not need to do this for many months after treatment.
Many dentists offer a free consultation to determine the best approach to tooth whitening for each patient and to avoid disappointing results or uncomfortable side effects. To book your free cosmetic dentistry consultation please complete the form to the right of this page
In general, the darker your teeth, the longer it takes to lighten them. Tetracycline stained teeth can take 6 months or up to one year to lighten.
It is important for you to know that different techniques will suit different types of discolouration and that there is no hard and fast rule for how long it would take for teeth to lighten with a technique. We invite you to discuss your concerns with us.
How safe is Teeth Whitening?
It is not true that Teeth Whitening damages teeth. It is also not true that yellow teeth are healthier than whiter teeth. Teeth Whitening is a non-invasive and safe procedure causing no harm to the dental health or otherwise overall health of an individual.
The only people in whom we avoid using whitening chemicals are the expecting and nursing mothers, individuals with known allergies or children under 18 years of age. The most common after effects could be teeth sensitivity or a blister/laser burn, both of which are very temporary. Rarely, existing hidden dental abscesses may become active as a result of whitening gel penetrating the tooth surface.
What do I do if I have any sensitivity while teeth whitening?
Many people have naturally sensitive teeth any way. Sensitivity of teeth the most common side effect of teeth whitening on those teeth surfaces where enamel is absent or is very thin. It often occurs around the necks of the teeth where the gum may be receded. If you are experiencing sensitivity, you should stop whitening and obtain support. Based upon our experience, we can suggest you some tips that you will find effective in minimising teeth sensitivity.
If you are at all concerned, please seek professional advice.
What happens if the teeth do not whiten evenly?
During the first few days of whitening, you may notice new white spots forming on your teeth. Do not worry. These white spots were originally present on your teeth but were not visible to your eyes. As the teeth start to become lighter they become more visible because these white spots are also whitening.
As the whole tooth becomes lighter these spots fade and so become less noticeable. Sometimes the dentist can do a special procedure called Micro-abrasion where the white spots can be more permanently removed. Ask us about the procedure if you are concerned about this.
Some people’s teeth may appear banded with lighter / whiter areas. Again these bands were originally present on the teeth. As the teeth become lighter, the lighter parts of the teeth will lighten first followed by the darker banded area. After a week or so these will not be noticeable any more.
How will my teeth feel after teeth whitening?
Normally the teeth feel very smooth and clean after the whitening procedure. The whitening materials also have an indirect effect on the gums in helping them to heal or improving their health of the gums. Amazingly, this is how the technique was invented as it was first used to heal gum irritation during orthodontic treatment.
Can teeth whitening be done with existing crowns (caps) or veneers?
If you have pre-existing white fillings (or crowns) on your front teeth that match the existing shade of your teeth, then it is very likely that they may not match the teeth afterwards. This is because your teeth can lighten, but the fillings (and crowns) do not lighten.
When the desired colour has been achieved, we can replace these fillings with a lighter shade of filling material to match the new shade of your teeth. Normally we would wait two weeks before renewing the fillings.
How long does the whitening last? Will I have to whiten my teeth again?
Normally the new white colour of your teeth will remain bright for 12-18 months. However, depending on what caused the teeth to discolour in the first place will dictate the treatment’s prognosis. If you drink lots of black coffee, red wine, cola drinks or have curries then the teeth may discolour again. In this situation some people prefer to do a top up treatment as and when required. If you practice good oral hygiene and brush normally, especially after consuming foods that stain teeth then the results could last for years.
Does Whitening harm the teeth or gums?
Safety studies have shown that Teeth Whitening, under the supervision of an experience dentist using the right products, is perfectly safe on the teeth, cheeks, gums and other tissues of the mouth.
Problems have been reported with the whitening kits that are purchased over the counter and other non licensed teeth whitening providers such as hairdressers and nail clinics. Although they are inexpensive, some contain an acid rinse, which can damage the teeth or thin down the enamel of the teeth. This acid rinse can be extremely harmful to the teeth.
There was a case where someone purchased a kit over the counter, whitened their teeth. The teeth went darker and so they continued over using the treatment. This was because the acid rinse had worn the enamel away and the darker shade was the inner dentine that was now exposed.
If you smoke, it is not advisable to whiten your teeth. It is best to stop smoking for at least 3 weeks before commencing the whitening procedure. Smoking causes the teeth to darken anyway and the effects will be diminished.
The technique of whitening teeth is not for everybody. There are some situations where whitening teeth is contra-indicated such as where the front teeth are already crowned or veneered or where there are very large fillings on the front teeth or where the teeth are already excessively worn and there is loss of tooth surface.
The most ideal situation is where there is not much wrong with the teeth except for the colour which has become more yellow with age.
Some useful tips when whitening your teeth:
- Do not use household bleach to whiten your teeth.
- This technique is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women.
- Keep gel out of heat/sunlight. Keep it refrigerated. Do not freeze.
- Tooth coloured fillings and crowns do not respond to teeth whitening.
- Foods and juices high in acid may cause sensitivity. Avoid having too much tea/coffee/red wine/curries during whitening treatment. Please do rinse your mouth well after having any of these items mentioned.
- If you have questions about any aspects of this treatment, please seek professional advice.
- Do not use tobacco products or eat/drink while whitening
Confidence Dental Care is a private dental practice in St Hellier Jersey offering a range of cosmetic treatments and dental health protection for the local people.