Looking for that Hollywood smile? We don’t blame you. With advances in dentistry happening at an unprecedented rate, there’s no better time to get those pearly whites you’re after. Not only will they help improve your confidence, but they could also take years off your appearance.
That’s not to say all teeth whitening methods are equally effective. There’s a wealth of information across the internet and, coupled with that, a lot of misinformation floating around. From using baking soda to using lemons, it is vital to know the facts before you take whitening your teeth into your own hands.
Fortunately, we’re here to help. Here is our quick introductory guide to teeth whitening:
1. Why do teeth change colour?
There are a number of reasons why your teeth change colour. Many foods and drinks contain certain chemicals that can stain your teeth over time. These include citrus fruits, red wine and fizzy drinks to name just a few.
If you are a smoker, the tar and nicotine within your cigarettes will stain your teeth a dark yellow colour after progressive use. Likewise, age, trauma and certain types of medications (such as anti-histamines and chemotherapy) will also cause your teeth to change colour over time.
2. What exactly is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening effectively means bleaching your teeth using one of two chemicals: hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These bleaches work by breaking down stains in the teeth, making them appear less concentrated and your teeth looking brighter.
3. What types of teeth whitening options are there?
If you are serious about getting your teeth whitened, make sure you talk it through with your dentist first. Not all whitening options are suitable for everyone, so it’s important to know which ones are likely to be effective or not. For instance, if your teeth have grey or brown stains on them, bleaching may not actually have much of an effect and could leave your teeth looking worse than before.
Here are some of the main whitening options to consider:
- Stain removal toothpastes. All toothpastes are designed to remove surface stains, using mild abrasives that gently scrub the teeth. Whitening toothpastes feature additional polishing agents which make teeth appear shinier than simply using a bog-standard toothpaste. However, as they don’t contain any bleaching agent in them, they won’t change the colour of your teeth – they will only remove any surface stains you have.
- Chairside Bleaching. Pretty self-explanatory really but this form of teeth whitening happens in a dentist’s office at their chairside. The dentist will apply either a protective gel or rubber shield to protect your gums, before bleaching your teeth.
- At-Home Bleaching. Again fairly self-explanatory – your dentist will provide you with all the tools you require to bleach your teeth yourself at home. This is often many people’s preferred option, as it’s usually cheaper and means you can whiten your teeth at your own pace.
- Over-the-counter Bleaching Products. If you pop down to your local chemist or supermarket, you’ll probably see several different teeth whitening products, including toothpastes and strips that can bleach your teeth. The difference between the products and the aforementioned dentist procedure is that the concentration of bleaching agent used is much, much lower. It’s safe to use but won’t show as big an effect as getting your teeth professionally whitened at the dentist.
4. Which teeth whitening method do we recommend?
Over the years, there have been many changes to safety regulations, which have had a significant impact on what we think the ‘best’ teeth whitening method is. We used to recommend a procedure known as ‘laser whitening’ but we no longer believe that is as effective as advertisers say it is. The whitening effects just don’t last as long as they do when using other methods.
We also think that over-the-counter products are too weak to have much of an effect on the colour of your teeth. By UK law, only dentists are allowed to dispense products with stronger formulations, which you need if you really want to see a difference.
Therefore, based on our 24 years’ worth of experience in tooth whitening, and from analysing several independent scientific studies, we believe that the dentist-prescribed at-home bleaching method is the safest and most effective system to use.