You will need to be assessed by the dentist to see whether you are a suitable candidate for tooth whitening.
You should be informed of all available tooth whitening procedures and alternative options to change the colour of your teeth. Once decided on the best treatment for you, a dental examination (+/- radiographs) will be performed to ensure your mouth is healthy, and that there are no risk factors or oral pathology present.
Photographs will be taken with shade tabs next to your teeth and their colour recorded. (This is to demonstrate tooth whitening has been successful). Your dentist should be able to give you an idea of how successful the treatment will be.
What methods are available?
The most common type of whitening is called ‘Home whitening’ (supervised by the dentist). Impressions will be taken to construct custom tooth whitening trays, which will fit only your teeth. They will appear like snug thin gum-shields. The whitening gel is then put in the trays in the surgery at the day of fitting the trays, and you will be given a routine to follow at home.
Another option is called ‘chair-side whitening’, or ‘in house whitening’. You will be told if you are suitable for the treatment, and your dentist will supervise it. First the dentist, hygienist or therapist will put a rubber shield or a gel on your gums to protect them. They will then apply the whitening product to your teeth, again using a specially made tray. This is less common, as a higher concentration of gel is used which is now illegal. If you are having this treatment you must be informed of the legalities, risks and alternatives to consent to it. There is also chair-side ‘power whitening’, often called ‘laser whitening’. A warm bright light is used, not a laser. Gel is painted onto your teeth and your gums are covered with a protective layer. A light is shone onto the gel to speed up the whitening reaction. With this procedure you often have to perform the ‘at home tooth whitening treatment’ to ‘stabilize’ the whitening performed using the light. It can often be more painful due to an element of dehydration of the teeth.
How long Does Home Whitening Take?
The total length of the home bleaching treatment can vary depending on how discoloured your teeth are and the shade you want to get to. On average it takes 2-4 weeks. Each manufacturer is different. You may wear the trays anywhere between 30 minutes up to 8 hours a day depending on which product is used. The final outcome is generally similar irrespective of which manufacturer you use. If a Carbamide peroxide gel is used this will need to be worn for up to 8 hours, as this gel needs to be broken down into urea and hydrogen peroxide (the active ingredient) to work. Hydrogen peroxide gel is used this can be worn for as little as 30 minutes, up to an hour, as this is the active ingredient. The dentist will discuss with you exactly how long you should keep the tray in your mouth. It is important to follow the instructions that you are given to get the best result.