Get a blinding Hollywood smile. Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dentistry treatment used to bleach discoloured teeth. It restores the whiteness of stained and off-coloured teeth for that perfect, porcelain gleam.
How does it work?
A big, Cheshire-Cat smile is a beautiful thing. Teeth whitening treatments use oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to lighten the colour of your teeth and make your grin that bit more dazzling.
If you put your teeth under a microscope (it’s probably best not to do this and try to look through the lens at the same time) you’d see that the enamel surface of your tooth is not as smooth as it seems. Your teeth actually have a rod-like crystal structure that can attract stain deposits that discolour your teeth. The bleaching treatment oxidises stain deposits and eventually (after a course of treatment) whitens the dentin layer underneath the enamel too, leaving you with a bright, white set of fangs.
The treatment itself is quite quick – taking three or four weeks to undo years’ worth of smoking, coffee or tea stains, or general yellowing. On the first appointment your dentist will need to take a mould of your teeth. When this is ready you can have a second appointment to start the whitening treatments. First, your gums will be painted with a protective coating to stop any chemical burns from the bleach. The mould is then filled with the whitening product and put on your teeth like a mouth guard. It takes between 30 minutes to an hour for the treatment to work its magic and you may need repeated treatments if you’re really going for the cliffs-of-Dover look.
If you’re cash rich and time poor, you might prefer to go for laser whitening or “power whitening” as some clinics call it. This is a super-quick treatment in which the teeth are painted with whitening product and then a special light is shone on them to speed up the bleaching action. The whole treatment normally only takes an hour and is claimed to be able to make your teeth up to five or six shades lighter in just one treatment – so you can walk in with teeth like Austin Powers and walk out with Clark Kent’s super-smile.
There are also over-the-counter tooth whitening treatments that you apply at home. By law these have to be much less concentrated than the professional products, though, so the lightening takes much longer. Also, because the moulds that carry the bleach aren’t an exact fit for your teeth you may find you miss patches.
Once your teeth are lightened they can stay that way for several months, though of course smoking and drinking tea or coffee will start to stain them again.
Is it for me?
If your pearly-whites have gone banana yellow, teeth whitening could turn back the years giving you a whiter, younger-looking smile. In general, teeth whitening works best on yellow, rather than grey teeth and is not ideal if you have a lot of decay or infected gums.
Tooth whitening only works on natural teeth and can’t whiten dentures, crowns or veneers. If you have white spots on your teeth, called decalcifications, you might find that these become even whiter and more noticeable with bleaching.