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    The ultimate guide to teeth whitening

    Do you ever see a photo of yourself and wish your teeth were just a bit whiter? If you do, you’re not alone. In a world where we’re bombarded on a daily basis by images of Hollywood’s finest grinning at us with their perfect, gleaming white smiles, it’s natural to start comparing our own look to theirs. In truth, those gleaming gnashers probably aren’t natural at all; they’ve almost certainly undergone some form of teeth whitening.

    Here, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons why we get teeth whitening, the different types of teeth whitening treatments available and, of course, teeth whitening costs to consider. If you’ve been wondering whether teeth whitening is for you, let’s dive in and explore this popular dental treatment to find out.

    Why get teeth whitening?

    Modern lifestyles don’t lend themselves naturally to the maintenance of a clean, white smile. Although the numbers of smokers have decreased in recent years, the amount of coffee drinking going on has increased exponentially. Did you ever consider that your Starbucks was to blame for your stained teeth?

    Taking good care of our teeth can go some way to keeping our teeth looking great, but sometimes its just not enough. Stubborn stains and inground discolouration often can’t be removed by brushing alone, which is where teeth whitening can step in.

    Discoloured teeth are a common problem for both men and women. Actually, teeth aren’t naturally gleaming white. Although the enamel on the surface is a clean, blueish white, the dentin underneath is yellow and as the enamel wears thinner, this yellow colour can show through.

    Most of us will start to suffer from thin enamel as we age, but this process can be accelerated by the things we drink, eat and other lifestyle factors. Some of the biggest culprits include:

    • Coffee: The dark colouring of coffee can cause staining of the enamel, making it look darker
    • Tea: Like coffee, the tannins in tea are incredibly staining to teeth
    • Wine: Red wine contains even more tannins than tea, which can lead to teeth becoming a grey colour. White wine doesn’t stain, but the high sugar content and acidity will erode teeth fast
    • Berries: Although berries have plenty of documented health benefits, consuming too much and too often can cause tooth staining. Imagine how hard it is to get berry stains out of clothes; that’s what they’re doing to your teeth too
    • Sauces: Powerfully coloured sauces such as curries, tomato sauce and sweet and sour sauce can contribute to staining over the years
    • Smoking: One of the worst substances for staining teeth is cigarette smoke. The tar and nicotine readily adheres to teeth, staining the surface, and over many years smokers may find teeth starting to turn brown

    Could your beloved coffee be staining your teeth?

    You might think that maintaining whiter teeth will be simply a case of avoiding all the things that cause staining. However, it’s not always that easy. Often, by the time we’ve realised these things are damaging our teeth, its too late, and the damage has been done.

    There are many ways you can achieve whiter teeth, from gels to strips, trays to bleach, toothpastes to laser. The right tooth whitening treatment for you will depend on your budget and the desired results you want.

    Tips and tricks to whiter teeth

    If avoidance isn’t working for you, you can minimise the impact of staining food and drinks by eating them with other foods that are good at preventing staining. Crunchy veg, such as celery, carrots and lettuce have natural abrasive properties which prevent stains from hanging around. Acidic foods can be balanced out by including more alkaline ingredients with your meal, such as rice, prawns or sweetcorn.

    If you’re refined enough to enjoy a cheeseboard at the end of your meal, you’re actually doing a great thing for your teeth. Cheese is excellent at rebalancing pH levels in your mouth, so a nibble on a little Camembert can help protect your pearly whites. Finally, and probably the best of our tips and tricks to whiter teeth drink plenty of water. Water is the ultimate diluter, neutraliser and protector, so be sure to have a good glug of H2O at the end of every meal.

    Different types of teeth whitening treatments

    There are so many different types of teeth whitening treatments, it can be daunting to try and think about which is right for you. Here, we’ll take a look at each different type of treatment available to help you understand your options.

    Teeth whitening treatments fall into two distinct categories: Those conducted either entirely or partly at a clinic, and those which are wholly completed at home with no involvement of a dentist. We’ve split the treatments into these two categories to make it easier to understand.

    Clinic based teeth whitening treatments

    Some clinic based whitening treatments are conducted from start to finish on the premises. Others may begin with a dentist’s involvement but will involve you doing much of the treatment at home yourself. Whichever way the processes work, a dental professional will be involved from start to finish.

    • Boutique
    boutique teeth whitening

    The Boutique tooth whitening system offers fast, effective results

    Boutique Whitening is a top quality whitening gel, designed to deliver amazing results in a very short space of time. It uses pH neutral gels to bring complete protection to teeth and gums, and has integrated potassium nitrate which serves to reduce sensitivity. This treatment uses a personally created gum shield to bring you the convenience of a home whitening kit with full dental support. Results are visible in just a few days, although we usually recommend using it nightly for one to two weeks.

    • Enlighten
    Enlighten tooth whitening

    Custom trays are used for comfortable, effective tooth whitening

    Patients opting for the Enlighten whitening system are almost always pleasantly surprised by the amazing results. Enlighten has been proven to brighten teeth up to 16 shades whiter, and uses a patented tooth serum before treatment to reduce the potential for sensitivity issues. Custom trays are fabricated with the help of your dentist, which should be worn for two weeks. After this, treatment is completed with a final session with the dentist.

    If you’re keen to get the best results from your investment in teeth whitening, choosing clinic-based treatments is always recommended over kits and other at home solutions. The reason for this is that, not only will you have access to the best gels, tools and technology out there, you’ll also have the support of a dental professional to ensure what you are doing is safe and healthy.

    Over the counter kits and other at home solutions

    If you’re on a tight budget, you might be tempted to plump for one of the cheaper kits or solutions available which claim to keep teeth whiter. These can also seem far more convenient to the busy person, as they are done completely at home, under your own steam, with no involvement from a dentist and no trips to a clinic.

    • LED whitening

    LED whitening kits are relatively inexpensive and fairly easy to use. They are sold with a standard tray, which you fill with a whitening gel and then use an LED light to activate the gel. Some of the more expensive versions use mouldable trays which you can immerse in hot water to achieve a more customised fit. The kits require treatments of 30 minutes a day for 10 – 14 days. Some results can be seen within about 6 days, but some people may not notice any change at all. Those that do find their teeth are whiter may discover that results fade rather fast.

    • Whitening trays and kits

    Similar to the LED kits, these use a tray to apply whitening gel to your teeth for a set amount of time. The main difference is that these kits don’t use a light to accelerate the effects. Treatments take around two weeks and require you to use the tray for between five and 20 minutes each day. You’ll see results within 10 days, but they are unlikely to be as dramatic as you had hoped.

    • Teeth whitening strips

    Available over the counter, teeth whitening strips are transparent treatment strips which you place over the top of your teeth. Treatment will take around a fortnight, with applications lasting 10 – 60 minutes at a time. By the end of the treatments you should see a change, again perhaps not as dramatic as you might have like. On the plus side, you don’t have to deal with messy gels and some strips are available in peroxide free version, making them a better choice for those with sensitive teeth. However, it can be difficult to get the strip into every crevice of the teeth, which can mean you end up with uneven whitening results.

    • Whitening pens

    Called pens but more like brushes, whitening pens are basically a tube of whitening gel with a built-in brush type applicator. Because they are small and packable, they can be a convenient option for people on the go. They’re pretty convenient if you want quick results, but the concentrated peroxide can aggravate teeth which are sensitive, so do use them with caution. Check reviews before buying as users report wildly varying successes with these pens.

    • Whitening toothpaste

    Whitening toothpaste really needs no introduction. It’s sold as a whitening solution in every chemist and supermarket in the country, and if you’re keen to get whiter teeth, you’ve probably already tried a brand or two. While whitening toothpaste can protect your teeth against picking up new surface stains, we recommend you read our section below on ‘does whitening toothpaste work’.

    Although there are a lot of products out there which claim to be as effective as a treatment by your dentist, there is a big problem with over the counter and home administered kits. Due to a law which affects all of Europe, kits are not allowed to be sold over the counter containing any more than 0.1 per cent peroxide concentration.

    In contrast, treatments at your dentist will generally use concentrations of around 15 per cent in the whitening gel, which is clearly going to have a much more dramatic result than anything you can buy to administer at home.

    Does whitening toothpaste work?

    Whitening toothpaste

    We’ve all tried it, but does whitening toothpaste really work?

    If you’re wondering whether a whitening toothpaste, used regularly, could be as good a solution as a more expensive treatment, the short answer is no. All these other treatment use bleach of varying concentrations to physically make your teeth whiter. Without bleach, it’s not possible to change the underlying colour of your teeth, no matter how hard you scrub.

    What whitening toothpaste does do is to remove new surface stains before they have a chance to take hold. This is achieved by the inclusion of tiny, abrasive particles in the paste, which literally scrub the surface of your teeth. However, if you know you have problems with thin or soft tooth enamel, you could end up damaging it even further, exacerbating the problem of yellowing and causing tooth sensitivity.

    Whitening sensitive teeth

    If you know you already have sensitive teeth, approaching whitening with great caution. Some of those with tooth sensitivity have claimed to experience unbearable pain following whitening treatments, both those conducted at home and in the clinic.

    The main issue here is the use of hydrogen peroxide, which is known to cause temporary tooth sensitivity even in those who don’t usually suffer with sensitive teeth. If you already have issues with sensitivity, you can imagine that the problem will be magnified if you whiten without caution.

    Choosing products which do not contain peroxide can prevent this issue, but these treatments are also known to be less effective. A more suitable solution is to discuss your concerns with your dental professional, who may be able to offer advice. Many patients have achieved amazing results using remineralisation gel prior to treatment, so chat to your dentist about whether this is right for you.

    White teeth

    If you’d love whiter teeth, get in touch today

    Teeth whitening costs

    The cost of teeth whitening treatment varies wildly depending on what you would like to do. A tube of whitening toothpaste will set you back just a few pounds, whereas a professional laser treatment could cost you upwards of four figures.

    In terms of truly effective, dentist approved treatments, home whitening kits are the most affordable out there. However, do remember that under European law, whitening kits are not allowed to contain any more than 0.1 per cent peroxide, so the majority of these kits will have only minimal whitening effects.

    Clinic based teeth whitening costs will vary depending on the type of treatment you choose. Treatments which involve the dentist custom making a tray for you and then you taking care of the treatment at home are usually the most affordable.

    NHS dental treatments are only available for procedures that improve overall dental and oral health, therefore teeth whitening is no covered. However, if a tooth has discoloured due to dental problems such as a root canal, you may be able to have it whitened under the NHS pricing structure. For the majority of situations, however, this type of cosmetic dentistry will be self-funded.

    Is teeth whitening safe?

    In general, yes, tooth whitening is a very safe, straightforward treatment with little to no risk involved. However, we always recommend only choosing in clinic teeth whitening treatments, as this means you will have a dental professional by your side, making sure everything is OK from start to finish.

    The peroxide used in whitening is known to cause sensitivity in around 80 per cent of patients, although this is usually temporary and not severe. If you have microscopic cracks or leaks in your teeth, you could experience more dramatic sensitivity changes. Having a dentist on hand can mean issues like this can be mitigated for much more readily than if you were at home, alone.

    Over the counter whitening kits have trays manufactured to standard mouth shapes. Inevitably, your mouth will not fit this shape particularly well, which can mean the tray is uncomfortable and, worse still, that the peroxide gel is touching your gum. This can cause gum redness and irritation, which can be uncomfortable to say the least.

    Overall, when administered properly by a trained professional, teeth whitening is both safe and effective. However, if you choose to ‘go it alone’ with a home kit, neither results nor safety can really be guaranteed.

    If you’d like to find out more about teeth whitening costs, safety and what treatments will suit your needs, why not have a chat with our friendly team today. We’re here to support and advise you and have some of the latest and most effective treatments available for you to try.

    Dr Nicholas Riley BDS 1996, MJDF 2012

    Nik qualified from Cardiff Dental School in 1996. He has always had a keen interest in clinical excellence, and further education. He recently gained his MJDF qualifications Nik dedicates much of his time to attending many world renowned courses in restorative, aesthetic and implant dentistry, so he can ensure that patients benefit from the most up to date solutions.