Tooth whitening

Time, smoking, tea and coffee are just a few of the things that cause your teeth to yellow and discolour. Whitening uses oxygenating agents (mainly hydrogen peroxide) on stains by converting coloured material into non-coloured material by oxidation.

Whiter teeth can take years off your appearance. The effects can last up to ten years depending on whether or not you smoke or how much tea, coffee and red wine you drink.

In a British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD) survey carried out in 2006, teeth whitening was found to be the most popular cosmetic dental treatment (31%), with women aged 25-34 being most likely to have undergone teeth whitening.

The market has grown due to a higher media profile fuelled by celebrity and makeover programmes.  Tooth whitening is a quick and cheap way to dramatically improve someone’s appearance. Society has also made it more acceptable for men to look after their appearance with cosmetic ranges just developed for men and the male market for cosmetic dentistry is also expanding.

The only difference in the hundreds of dentist prescribed systems out there is the concentration of the oxygenating agent and the way the solution is applied to your teeth. There are two main ways of carrying out tooth whitening:

  1. Tray based whitening. The gel is placed in a custom made night-guard which is worn for a set period for 10-14 days. The period you wear the trays depends on the type and concentration of peroxide gel. Hydrogen peroxide gels work quicker than carbamide peroxide gels. You wear the trays anything for 30 minutes to overnight.
  2. In-surgery whitening also known as laser or power bleaching. Here, more concentrated gels are applied directly to the teeth and accelerated with heat or light (laser/power). The latest system from USA is called Zoom advanced power. It involves placing the gel on the teeth and activating it with an LED light. The procedure usually take around 45-minute. It still needs custom made trays to maximise the whitening and for maintenance.

The advantages of tooth whitening are that it is a quick safe, painless procedure that brings back the natural colour of the teeth with no structural change. Patients should be aware that it will not whiten fillings or crowns and that the procedure will only produce a natural whiteness. If they are seeking a radiator-white smile then they may need to consider other options such as porcelain veneers. Patients should also be warned that the whitening process causes transient sensitivity.

Safety – peroxide based whiteners cause no structural change in your teeth and are completley safe if dentist prescribed and administered.

There is no evidence that whitening toothpastes can actually whiten your teeth. Some of those bought abroad, can actually harm your teeth as they contain acids/abrasives that can cause permanent damage. The most effective product purchased over the counter to whiten teeth is Crest White strips and at present they are only available in the USA.

For more information please see www.bowlanedental.com