These days more and more people are investing in professional teeth whitening treatments to achieve brighter, whiter teeth. Currently there are many different methods available to suit every time frame and budget, and teeth bleaching in particular is becoming increasingly popular.
Teeth bleaching is a whitening treatment where the enamel surface of teeth are bleached to make them lighter - often beyond their natural colour. Many people will opt for this treatment out of a desire to improve the lackluster and dull appearance of their teeth, which may have gotten worse over the years. While we are typically born with healthy looking, bright teeth, as we age our tooth enamel wears down and can become yellowed and transparent. Designed to protect our teeth from the effects of chewing, trauma and acid attacks caused by sugar, our enamel is bound to discolour over the years. With the added possibility of cracks and stains, it\'s understandable why people turn to teeth bleaching to restore a healthier looking smile.
What does teeth bleaching involve?
Teeth bleaching is essentially the application of a whitening gel to the enamel of your teeth which is carried out within a specific timeframe and over a certain number of sessions. This treatment is most effectively and safely carried out with the supervision of a dental professional such as your dentist. He or she will take an impression of your teeth to make a bleaching tray (a type of gum-shield) which will be lined with teeth bleaching gel and fitted into your mouth.
Following office treatment, your dentist will advise you on a teeth bleaching routine to follow at home. This will involve strict instructions on how long you can keep the gel on your teeth and for how many weeks you should carry out the treatment. The time frames set will depend on your individual needs and the condition of your teeth. Professional teeth whitening in this form usually involves a teeth bleaching gel that is made from an easy-to-use lower concentration peroxide which can be left on teeth for longer periods of time - in some cases up to eight hours. This shortens the treatment period to around a week, and the gum-shield will ensure a whole row of teeth can be whitened.
How long do the effects of professional teeth whitening last?
Teeth bleaching isn’t permanent, but the results can vary considerably from person to person. Therefore it is important to ask your dentist before treatment, for a realistic idea of what to expect and how long it can take to achieve a whiter smile. Generally the effects of teeth bleaching can last anywhere between a few months to up to a few years, but if you smoke, or drink red wine, tea or coffee, it is unlikely the effects will last very long.
Are there any risks to teeth bleaching?
Before you start any teeth bleaching treatment, your dentist will conduct an examination of your teeth to ensure you are suitable. As with any cosmetic procedure there are risks involved with teeth bleaching, but these tend to be more prominent if you have problems with your teeth such as gum disease or crowns. For this reason your dentist may advise you to not have teeth bleaching.
If you do undergo a course of teeth bleaching, there is a chance your teeth may become sensitive to the cold during and after treatment, and some people can experience discomfort in the gums, white patches on the gum line and even a sore throat. These side effects are usually temporary and should disappear a few days after treatment finishes. If they continue, you should go back to your dentist.
What about teeth bleaching kits?
The popularity of over-the-counter teeth bleaching kits is no doubt due to their convenience and ease of use. However forgoing professional teeth whitening for a DIY treatment kit can bring more risks and the results are unlikely to be as effective or as long-lasting. Some home whitening kits for example, do not contain enough of the teeth bleaching gel and without a custom-made bleaching tray it will be difficult to achieve a fully whitened smile. An ill-fitting gum-shield may also cause some of the bleach to leak onto your gums and into your mouth, which can cause sensitivity and blistering.
What to look for when choosing a teeth bleaching professional
Teeth bleaching should only be performed by a regulated dental professional, such as a dentist, a dental hygienist or a dental therapist on the prescription of a dentist. It is illegal for anyone to bleach teeth without the presence of a dental professional. You can find out more about the specific training and qualifications required by visiting the General Dental Council.
How to keep your teeth white
If you have tried teeth bleaching and would like to maintain the effects for as long as possible, we recommend the following:
- Avoid the consumption of drinks that will stain your teeth, such as tea, coffee and red wine. If you do drink them, consider using a straw so the liquid does not come into contact with your front teeth.
- Stick to a regular brushing and flossing routine to ensure your mouth stays as clean and stain-free as possible. Using a toothpaste that protects against yellowing can be helpful.
- Quit smoking.
- Change your toothbrush every couple of months.
- Clean your tongue while brushing.
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