What you need to know about teeth whitening, as told by a dentist

teeth whitening
Written by Dr Robert Zabihi of The Pinner Dental Practice for Doctify

Despite being of Britain’s most popular and commonplace cosmetic dental procedures, there is still a lot of confusion regarding tooth whitening. Based on my experience as a General Dental Practitioner at The Pinner Dental Practice, this article will aim to address the most common concerns that patients have about tooth whitening.

Different types of tooth whitening

The two most commonly practised methods for tooth whitening are the use of at-home trays, and chairside laser tooth whitening. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages and it is important for you to consider which type of whitening is right for you. It is important that you address any concerns and discuss the different options with your dentist before committing to any treatment.

  1. Chairside( laser) tooth whitening: The benefit of this type of tooth whitening is primarily that it saves on time, and can deliver as close to instant results as can be expected. It normally involves a half-hour chairside dental session where the dentist will apply the whitening gel directly onto your teeth and a mounted light will activate the gel over the course of your appointment. This may be the one you have heard the most about as it was not too long ago that you could find instant whitening booths at your local shopping mall.The speed of this method is somewhat a double-edged sword when it comes to it. Though you are likely to have results relatively quickly, it has been known that should you not be fully satisfied with the results, you would need to attend again for another course. This also applies for months down the line, should your teeth pick up staining again, and should you wish to repeat the process. It also, as with any other whitening method, comes with increased risk of tooth sensitivity.
  2. At-home trays for tooth whitening: This is by far the most popular and commonly offered whitening modality, and at my clinic in Pinner, this is the method that we offer to our patients. This method involves a visit where the dentist will take moulds of your teeth, these will then be cast up and customised whitening trays would be constructed. These whitening trays are yours to keep and can be worn overnight as a reservoir for whitening gel. A course of treatment would normally involve wearing the trays every night over two weeks before you can see results.

I tend to find generally higher patient satisfaction with the latter method. The reasons for this are primarily because of the fact that it addresses the main disadvantages of the laser whitening method.

  • With laser whitening should you wish a repeat a few months or so down the line you would need to pay and undergo the whole process again, whereas with at-home whitening trays, if you manage to hold onto the trays, the same trays can be used to apply a top-up dose of whitening gel which you can buy from most practices at a fraction of the price.
  • If you are unhappy with the final shade you have reached after your first course, all you need to do is take a week rest and start the cycle again for another week. 
  • If the teeth are getting too sensitive, then it is possible to reduce the amount of time you wear the trays for.

The last two points, in particular, are worth bearing in mind, as an at-home whitening tray gives the clinician and patient more control, to tweak the treatment over the course of the two weeks to better suit the patient’s expectations. If it’s too sensitive, wear it for shorter periods, if it’s not white enough, you can continue a little whilst after your first course. A disadvantage to consider is that it requires motivation to keep up with the wearing of the whitening trays overnight. 

Am I eligible for teeth whitening procedures?

Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure can only be undertaken by patients who are over the age of 18.  It is not recommended for pregnant women to undergo teeth whitening. As with all treatments, it is very important to discuss any concerns, and a detailed medical history with your dentist prior to commencement.

Who can provide teeth whitening procedures?

Teeth whitening in the United Kingdom is only available from a qualified dental professional. As mentioned earlier in the article, you may be able to remember a time where teeth whitening stalls were everywhere in your local shopping centre, and being carried out by beauticians. A relatively recent court hearing in 2013 reinforced the fact that whitening can only be done by dentists. That would explain why they are not anywhere near as prevalent as before. This means that in the United Kingdom should you wish to have your teeth whitened, the most effective and best means to do it would be to talk to your dentist.

Some patients sometimes ask me about ordering teeth whitening products from the internet. Though there are many different kinds of whitening toothpastes and whitening gum, these may be beneficial as an adjunct to whitening treatment, but the only clinically effective ingredients can be provided by dentists. You may also see some whitening strips for sale online, however, there are many risks posed as there is no guarantee what you are buying is effective, and worse yet could be dangerous. Only a dentist can provide the bespoke tailor-made treatment experience necessary for effective results. It is important to consider that what you can buy online is NOT the same as what you get from your dentist.

Book a specialist

Found for you

For Patients

MIGS is an abbreviation which stands for minimally invasive glaucoma surgery. MIGS refers to a range of different implants, techniques ....

For Patients

Dr Garry Savin, Programme Director of Health Assessments at Lumen, part of UME Health, explains the importance of health ....

For Patients

Written by Dr Irfana Koita Egg Freezing is a popular treatment for women who would like to have children ....