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More and more people are paying for brighter, whiter teeth. But does teeth whitening work and is it safe? Here are the answers to common questions about the treatment.
What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening involves bleaching your teeth to make them lighter. Teeth whitening can’t make your teeth brilliant white, but it can lighten the existing colour by several shades.
Who can perform teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a form of dentistry and should only be performed by a dentist or another regulated dental professional, such as a dental hygienist or dental therapist, on the prescription of a dentist.
Some beauty salons offer teeth whitening, but this is illegal if there's no dental professional present, and it may put your oral health at risk.
You can also buy DIY home teeth whitening kits but these may also carry risks.
What happens during teeth whitening at the dentist?
If you have teeth whitening you will need to make several visits to the dental surgery over a couple of months.
The dentist will take an impression of your teeth to make a mouthguard and will instruct you how to use it with a bleaching gel. Then, using your mouthguard at home, you regularly apply the gel for a specified period of time over two to four weeks. Some whitening gels can be left on for up to eight hours at a time, which shortens the treatment period to one week.
Another type of teeth whitening system that a dentist can provide is called laser whitening, which is also known as power whitening. This is where a bleaching product is painted onto your teeth and then a light or laser is shone on them to activate the whitening. Laser whitening takes about an hour.
What about home kits and beauty salons for teeth whitening?
You should only go to a registered dental professional for teeth whitening because whitening by people who aren't qualified, for example in beauty salons, is illegal. Home kits also carry risks.
What are the risks of home kits and salon teeth whitening?
Some home kits don’t contain enough of the whitening product to be effective. More generally, if a dental professional is not doing the whitening, the mouthguard provided may not fit properly so some of the bleaching gel may leak out onto your gums and into your mouth, causing blistering and sensitivity.
Where teeth whitening is carried out in beauty salons by staff without any training or dental qualifications it not only carries a risk to your oral health, but is also illegal.