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Teeth whitening can be a simple and quick way to refresh your smile. It’s one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures and the results can be quite dramatic. An hour in a dental chair can transform stained or discoloured teeth into a whiter smile.
Likewise, a whitening kit recommended by your dentist may allow you to lighten your teeth in the comfort of your own home.
Causes of discoloured teeth
There are various reasons why teeth become discoloured. Some people are simply born with yellowish teeth while, for others, their teeth yellow as they age.
The biggest cause of stained teeth is due to what is put in the mouth. Smoking, coffee, tea and red wine can all colour the teeth. And, of course, the more you partake, the worse the staining will be. Dark foods such as beetroot, cherries and mulberries can also stain the teeth.
Finally, various medications may also make the teeth look yellow and stained. Fortunately, teeth whitening treatments work effectively on the vast majority of people.
Is whitening right for you?
A thorough dental examination is the best way to determine whether you’re an appropriate candidate for whitening, or if there’s a reason to your teeth discolouration that needs to be addressed first. After all, you may have an underlying dental problem that needs treatment rather than a course of teeth whitening.
Teeth or gum sensitivity and fillings may prevent the use of some products. A short discussion with your dentist will reveal if there is an alternative solution for you.
Some brands of teeth whitening kits are unsuitable if you have any crowns or veneers because the peroxide in the product simply can’t penetrate the surface. Once again, your dentist can advise you about the best method to brighten your teeth.
Different types of treatments
There are two main ways to whiten your teeth: you can receive a professional treatment administered by a dentist, or self-apply a home whitening kit after consultation with your dentist.
A whitening treatment at a dental surgery can usually be completed in one visit. The dentist will give your teeth a quick check-up to ensure they are in good condition prior to the procedure. A gel is used to protect the gums and a solution containing hydrogen peroxide is applied to the teeth. The teeth are then exposed to a special bright light that causes oxygen to be released. Stains are lifted off the surface of the teeth and the dentine is whitened.
In laser whitening, the same procedure is followed but a laser is used to activate the oxygen in the compound.
Your dentist can also provide you with a home whitening kit. It will include a custom-made tray that looks like a thin mouthguard, with a whitening solution to fill it. Full instructions on the correct way to use the kit will also be provided.
There are also many over-the-counter home whitening kits available. These can include strips, gels, toothpastes and whitening trays. To ensure you choose the safest, most effective option that will work effectively on your teeth, discuss your selection with your dentist.
As a general rule of thumb, no matter which method of whitening you decide to use, it’s always a good idea to get your dentist’s advice on the matter before going ahead.
How long will the whitening last?
While whitening can last for years, it’s dependent on which product and technique you use. Good oral hygiene and regular dental cleans will help keep your teeth white for as long as possible. However, diet, ageing, alcohol, smoking, medication, and many other factors can change the shade of your teeth over time. The good news is that when the inevitable happens, you simply need to see your dentist for a touch-up to maintain your smile.
*Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.