If your teeth aren’t what you consider to be the ‘perfect’ shade of white, it can affect your confidence and the size of your smile. Perhaps unsurprisingly, nearly half of UK adults are on a mission to achieve their perfect smile. In the pursuit of brighter, whiter teeth, some people turn to beauty salons who promise to deliver the Hollywood look. But beware, unless there is a dental professional present, teeth whitening like this is illegal.
Others opt for a cheaper alternative, purchasing DIY kits from high street shops to try at home, but these can come with significant risks. Testing performed by the British Dental Journal shows that over the counter kits can damage tooth enamel, which weakens the teeth and leads to increased sensitivity.
To protect your teeth and safeguard your smile, whitening treatments should only be carried out by a dentist or another regulated dental professional, such as a dental hygienist.
Only these professionals are experienced enough to know what the optimal result is that you can expect, can offer a range of cosmetic dentistry treatment options and recommend the most suitable one to safely achieve the desired results.
Home whitening/bleaching versus laser whitening
The biggest difference in these treatment options is the time to achieve the desired result – from one week in the fastest bleaching treatments to one hour with a laser treatment. However, laser whitening still needs to be followed up with home whitening to maintain the result and is generally more costly. So, if you are not in an urgent hurry, home whitening will achieve an equally good result.
To do this properly, your dentist will first make an impression of your teeth to create custom fitted bleaching trays that fit precisely over your teeth. You will then be sent home with the trays, bleaching gel and instructions on how to apply the treatment to your own teeth over the recommended course.
With laser whitening, your dentist will paint the teeth with a bleaching product and shine a laser onto the teeth to activate the whitening. This option is a far speedier process as you will have the results by the time you leave the practice. However, the result will tend to relapse unless maintained with additional home whitening.
In the end, both options achieve the same results, so deciding on the best course of treatment is reliant on other factors.
We’ve already mentioned speed to results, but you should also factor in the inconvenience of your treatment. You can apply the gel to work while you sleep, but you will need to book more lengthy and costly appointments with your dentist for laser treatment.
If you are unsure about which option to choose, talk to your dentist, who will be more than happy to explain the processes, answer your questions and show you the equipment that would be used.
Is teeth whitening permanent?
No dental treatment is permanent. But as with other treatments, good aftercare is essential to prolonging the effects of the whitening treatment.
To reduce extrinsic staining, think about cutting out foods likely to stain your teeth, such as red wine, black coffee and black/green tea, and avoid smoking of course.
Good oral hygiene, with the correct brushing, flossing and interdental cleaning techniques and regular visits to your hygienist, helps to maintain that new whiteness. It is also generally recommended to do a one-night ‘top up’ whitening every year or two to maintain the whiteness.
How do I find out about getting my teeth whitened?
You should only trust your smile to a qualified and experienced dental professional. Not only are they aware of the results and risks associated with each treatment, they are able to identify underlying issues that may be unknown to you, which may affect the teeth whitening choices available to you and the end results.
Every smile is personal to the individual, so the first step is to talk to your dentist about what you hope to achieve, even sharing photos to help you explain the desired result. Your dentist can then discuss what is possible and advise on the best course of action.