Frequently Asked Questions About Teeth Whitening

FAQs about teeth whitening

Is tooth whitening safe, will it damage my teeth?


As long as tooth whitening is carried out by a trained dental professional it is perfectly safe. Your dentist will be able to make sure that you are a suitable candidate, and if you are, can go through the options available to you. If done correctly, there will be no damage caused to your dentition, in fact it is a much safer procedure than veneering your teeth as it doesn’t involve irreversible damage to tooth structure. Dental hygienists and dental therapists can also carry out whitening, as long as the treatment is prescribed by a dentist.


Can beauty therapists or non dental professionals carry out tooth whitening?

It is illegal for non dental professionals to carry out tooth whitening. They will not be able to assess your mouth prior to treatment and you may have other problems that need to be rectified before whitening is suitable.


How does tooth whitening work?

Your dentist will prescribe a whitening gel that is placed in trays that fit snugly over your teeth. The gel is a concentration of hydrogen peroxide (or carbamide peroxide) that acts to break down stains in your enamel and dentine. Following new legislation introduced in 2012, the highest concentration that can be prescribed is 6% hydrogen peroxide or 16% carbamide peroxide (carbamide peroxide breaks down to release hydrogen peroxide). This process is repeated over a number of days until you are happy with the shade of your teeth. Sometimes extended periods of whitening are needed for more heavily stained or discoloured teeth, this will be discussed before you start your course of treatment.


Will it hurt?

Most patients report some sensitivity when whitening their teeth. This is completely normal and tends to settle once treatment is finished. Desensitising agents are usually now included in whitening gels, and patients can also help with sensitivity by using desensitising toothpastes before, during and after treatment. For patients that already have sensitive teeth, longer periods between sessions can be prescribed, along with topical application of desensitising toothpastes during treatment. Ask your dentist for more advice regarding options if you have sensitive teeth and are considering whitening. Some patients may also experience some tenderness in the gum tissue whilst they are whitening their teeth. Again, this is usually short lived.


How long does is last?

This is difficult to predict as dietary habits, so drinking black tea, coffee, red wine etc., will cause your teeth to become stained again with time. However, regular hygiene maintenance with the hygienist will help keep the shade white for longer, and regular top ups of a few days every 12 – 18 months should be enough to maintain the shade. Again, please discuss this with your dentist prior to treatment to give you an idea of how to maintain the shade best.


Do over the counter products work?

Over the counter products may not be safe and should be avoided. There are however some toothpastes that can help maintain white teeth, please ask your dentist for more advice regarding this.


Nicholas McAulay BDS (Manchester) MJDF