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What is tooth bleaching?


Tooth bleaching is a popular treatment catering to those who want to make their teeth appear whiter. The procedure works by lightening the natural colour of the teeth through bleaching and varies in length and intensity. The results vary from person to person.

Why would I want my teeth bleached?

The natural shade of a person’s teeth varies, but it is universally acknowledged that certain factors can contribute to darkening. Age, high intake of coffee or red wine and smoking can all make an individual’s teeth appear yellowed.

Teeth bleaching is a purely cosmetic procedure and people seek it because they would like a dazzling white Holywood smile or they simply want to get rid of the stain on their teeth. It does not otherwise affect dental health.

What does it involve and how would I go about getting it?

The first port of call for anyone who is considering having their teeth whitened should be their dentist. The British Dental Health Foundation does not recommend the use of home kits without a consultation first, because the procedure is fairly complicated and the product supplied is often abrasive and/or ineffective.

The treatment can be completed within three to four weeks, First, the dentist will create a rubber shield to protect the gums and a mouthguard. He or she will then supervise the first treatment by applying the bleaching product, which usually contains either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide as its ’active ingredient’, to the teeth and waiting for it to work. This can take between 30 minutes and an hour. The patient will then complete the treatment at home by repeating this process several times over the next few weeks.

There is now also a product which can be applied for up to eight hours at a time and the desired  effect can be achieved in as little as one week.

Laser whitening can achieve results even faster. A laser is shone on the teeth after applying a bleaching product in order to activate the chemical faster. It can also make teeth up to six shades lighter.

How much does it cost?

The cost of tooth whitening varies depending on the type of treatment and dental practise. Home kits offer a cheaper alternative, but the individual should always seek the advice of a dentist before considering this type of procedure.

Are there side effects?

The side effects of tooth bleaching are usually minimal and temporary. They can involve sensitivity to hot and cold, white patches on the gums, a sore throat and tender gums. These side effects should go away a few days after treatment and the individual is advised contact their dentist if they persist.

Bupa points out that there is no evidence to suggest that the procedure has any negative effect on the gums, but it is still unclear what the long-term impact on the nerves and blood vessels inside the teeth is.

How long does it last?

The results of tooth whitening can last up to three years, but this varies from person to person. Stopping smoking and limiting intake of coffee and white wine, for instance, can prolong the results. Using whitening toothpaste may also help in removing stain.

Celebrities who have had their teeth bleached include Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus.

Images: Wikimedia Commons and Editor B on Flikr

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