Common Dental Care Questions About Tooth Whitening

Common Dental Care Questions About Tooth Whitening

What is tooth whitening?

Tooth whitening can be a very effective way of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of the tooth surface. It cannot make a complete colour change, but it may lighten the existing shade.

Why would I need my teeth whitened?

There are many things that can affect the colour of our teeth. As we get older teeth can naturally become more discoloured, and they can also be stained on the surface by food and drinks such as coffee tea and red wine. Smoking is also something that affects the colour. Some people may have staining under the surface due to certain antibiotics or by small cracks in the teeth which allow the stains to form. ‘Calculus’ or tartar can also have an effect of the colour of your teeth.

What does tooth whitening involve?

The most usual method of professional tooth whitening is bleaching. An appointment with your dental team will allow you to find out if the treatment is right for you. The first thing they will do is put a rubber shield or gel on your gums, this is to protect them. Next, they will apply a whitening product on to your teeth using a specially made tray which fits like a mouthguard.

The active ingredient in the product normally hydrogen peroxide or carbide peroxide, as the active ingredient is broken down oxygen gets into the enamel on the teeth and the tooth colour is then made lighter.

How long does tooth whitening take?

In total treatment can usually be done within three to four weeks. The first couple of appointments with your dental team will involve taking impressions of your teeth to make a mouthguard for you. Once the treatment has started you will need to continue it at home. This means applying the whitening product for 30 minutes to an hour over two to four weeks. There are some new products can be applied for eight hours at a time which means you could have a satisfactory result in as little time as a week.

What other procedures are there?

There is now laser whitening or ‘powder whitening’ your dentist will need to assess your teeth to make sure that you are suitable for this, if you are this procedure normally takes about an hour. During this, a rubber dam is placed over your teeth to protect the gums, and a bleaching product is then painted on to your teeth. A light or laser is then shone on the teeth to activate the chemical, the light speeds up the reaction of the whitening product meaning the colour change can be achieved more quickly. The laser whitening procedure is said to make teeth up to five or six shades lighter.

How much does teeth whitening cost?

The cost is dependent on the practice you choose to have the procedure done at. Laser or powder whitening is generally more expensive than professional bleaching. It’s recommended that you get a written statement of the cost before you start any treatment.

How long will my teeth stay white?

The effects of teeth whitening is thought to last up to three years. Your lifestyle does play a part in this though, what you eat and drink can affect how long it lasts and also if you smoke. Speaking to your dental team before you start the procedure should give you a better idea of how long it should last.

Are there any side effects?

During and after the treatment some people can find that they experience their teeth becoming more sensitive to cold. Some may also have discomfort in the gums, a sore throat or white patches on the gums line. These are usually temporary and should disappear after a few days of the treatment finishing. Always see your dentist if any of these persist.

Home whitening kits?

Home whitening kits are cheaper and there are many to choose from ranging from paint on whiteners to strips. How effective they are, depends on the amount of whitening agent they contain. Home kits aren’t always assessed for safety and can be more acidic which means there’s a chance that they could damage your teeth and gums, advice is to always check with your dentist before starting any whitening at home. Regulations for home kits vary depending on the country you live in, Europe cannot legally sell kits containing more than 0.1% which is to small to an amount to be effective. In other countries, where a stringer peroxide is allowed, home whitening is more common, if ordering these kits of the internet you will need to be carful as they may contain mild acids and abrasives.

Whitening toothpastes

These will not affect the natural colour of your teeth but can be useful in removing staining, which will improve the overall look of your teeth. They may also help to prolong the effect of professional teeth whitening procedures.

Can a single tooth which has been root filled be whitened?

After a root filling sometimes the dead tooth can go discoloured, if the tooth has been root treated the canal may be able to be reopened and whitening product applied to the inside, to make the tooth appear whiter.

When would tooth whitening not work?

Tooth whitening only works on your natural teeth and can only lighten your existing tooth colour. If you have dentures that are discoloured ask your dental team to clean them for you.

How to look after your teeth once they have been whitened

Here are a few things you can do to take care of your teeth once they have been whitened. Use a fluoride tooth paste to brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day. Try to cut down on how often you have sugary food and drinks and lower the amount that could stain your teeth. Make sure you visit your dentist on a regular basis.


Thank you for reading and we hope that the above information was useful to you. If you would like to book an appointment with us about any of the above then please call us on 01228 521889 or visit our contact page to speak with a member of our dental team for advice.

Leave comment


Request an Appointment

Please call us during our open hours or fill out the form below and we will be happy to help.

01228 521889

If you would like to view our privacy policy, please click here.