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.

Your teeth can also be stained on the surface by food and drinks such as tea, coffee, red wine and blackcurrant. Smoking can also stain teeth.

‘Calculus’ or tartar can also affect the colour of your teeth. Some people may have staining under the surface, which can be caused by certain antibiotics or by tiny cracks in the teeth which take up stains.

What does tooth whitening involve?

Professional supervised bleaching involves taking impressions, sending them away to have customised trays made. These can then have gel applied at home.

How long does this take?

The total treatment can usually be done within three to four weeks. First, you will need two or three visits to the dentist. Your dental team will need to make a mouthguard and will take impressions for this at the first appointment. Once your dental team has started the treatment, you will need to continue the treatment at home. This means regularly applying the whitening product over two to four weeks.

How long will my teeth stay whiter?

The effects of whitening are thought to last up to three years. However, this will vary from person to person. The effect is less likely to last as long if you smoke, or eat or drink products that can stain your teeth. Ask your dental team for their opinion before you start the treatment.

What are the side effects?

Some people may find that their teeth become sensitive to cold during or after the treatment. Others may have discomfort in the gums, a sore throat or white patches on the gum line. These symptoms are usually temporary and should disappear within a few days of the treatment finishing.

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

Yes. Sometimes dead teeth go discoloured after a root filling. If the tooth has been root treated, the canal (which contained the nerve) may be reopened. The whitening product is applied from the inside to whiten the tooth.

When might tooth whitening not work?

Tooth whitening can only lighten your existing tooth colour. Also it only works on natural teeth. It will not work on any types of ‘false’ teeth such as dentures, crowns and veneers.

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