Ever fancied getting your teeth whitened but never known where to start? Check out Dr Richard Marques’ guide to achieving pearly whites the right way
Words Dr Richard Marques
Who can perform teeth whitening?
Anybody with the correct training can perform teeth whitening. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a dentist, and can be a beautician or nurse. However the best results will come from having professional whitening from a dental clinic, especially those with an interest in cosmetic dentistry.
What are the risks of teeth whitening?
There are no real risks as long as you receive the treatment from a reputable clinic which is EU regulated. The maximum percentage of hydrogen peroxide allowed in the whitening gel is capped at 6%.
What questions should I ask the dentist before going ahead?
Ask the dentist what foods you can eat afterwards. I tend to recommend white foods and clear fluids for at least 48 hours following the treatment for optimum results. Also, the procedure is not generally recommended during pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding, and the recommended age for whitening is 18 or above.
Any fillings or crowns you have will not change colour, so make sure your dentist is aware of this as they may need replacing afterwards. If you have any whites spots this may also need further treatment. The whitening will bring them to the surface and make them more noticeable. There’s a relatively new treatment called Icon by DMG that can be used to reduce white spots, so do ask your dentist if you have any concerns.
How can we ensure we’re receiving a safe service?
Go to a reputable clinic and select a dentist that has an interest in cosmetic & restorative dentistry and experience in teeth whitening. It is a complex procedure that can be performed unsafely and incorrectly by the wrong person.
What are the different ways to whiten teeth? And are there any you would particularly recommend or avoid?
There are many ways to whiten your teeth. These include natural whitening, such as using baking soda mixed with toothpaste and charcoal powder. I’m a big fan of Diamond Whites’ charcoal which you can now get from Superdrug. I would be wary of whitening strips bought online. The gels can be too acidic or too high in hydrogen peroxide which can damage teeth & gums.
What does the process involve?
We’ll start by identifying the ‘before’ shade and taking photos. Then we’ll insert a retractor frame to retract the cheeks and lips allowing further access for the laser light. We’ll then apply a hydrogen peroxide gel (6%) to the teeth and place you under a laser for around 45 minutes. Your ‘after’ shade will be noted with photos. We may provide customised top-up trays with some home-whitening gels, which you’ll be shown how to use yourself at home.
What about home kits?
The home kits sold by pharmacies tend to be the safest, but not most effective as they cannot contain high levels of the active whitening ingredients due to regulations. Again, be wary of anything bought online!
Is teeth whitening permanent?
Teeth whitening can last between six months and five years and can vary from person to person depending on dietary habits and smoking. For example, red wine, black tea & coffee and smoking cause the most staining so try to stick to white wine and milky drinks. Regular hygienist appointments can help maintain whitening, along with the top-up trays provided.
What’s the average cost?
It can vary from as little as £500 to several thousand depending on the particular procedure, location of clinic and experience of the provider. However the average cost is around £950.