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Tooth Whitening

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. Bear in mind that it can only lighten your existing tooth colour and only works on natural tooth tissue. It will not work on fillings or any types of ‘false' teeth such as dentures, crowns and veneers. If you have many of these in the visible areas of the mouth, you may need to have replacements made after the teeth have been whitened.
As this work is purely cosmetic, it is not available under the NHS and you should ask the dentist for an indication of the likely cost before you start treatment.

There are a number of reasons why you might get your teeth whitened. Very few people have perfectly white teeth and our teeth can also become more discoloured as we get older. Your teeth can also be stained on the surface by food and drinks such as tea, coffee, red wine and blackcurrant. Smoking will also stain teeth.

External bleaching is the most usual method of tooth whitening. Your dentist will be able to tell you if you are suitable for the treatment, and will supervise it if you are. They will make a tray which fits into your mouth like a gum-shield then show you how to apply the whitening product to your teeth. The ‘active ingredient' in the product is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. As the active ingredient is broken down, oxygen gets into the enamel on the teeth and the tooth colour is made lighter.

The treatment usually takes a few weeks. Your dentist will need to make the trays and will take impressions for these at the first appointment. Once these are ready, your dentist will check they fit well and will provide you with the whitening gels. You will need to continue the treatment at home. This means regularly applying the whitening product over two to four weeks as directed. It is essential that you clean your teeth very thoroughly before inserting the trays each day as plaque will act as a barrier between the product and the tooth surface.

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.

The effects of whitening are thought to last up to three years. The effect is less likely to last as long if you smoke, or regularly eat or drink products that can stain your teeth. There are several whitening toothpastes on the market. Although they do not affect the natural colour of your teeth, they may be effective at removing staining so may also help the effect to last, once your teeth have been professionally whitened.

Internal Bleaching
Many dead teeth become 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 inside the tooth and sealed in. This may be done at the same time as external bleaching.

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