Teeth whitening

What is tooth whitening?

Tooth whitening can be a very effective way of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of the tooth surface. It cannot make a complete colour change, but it may lighten the existing shade.


Special gels are used to make teeth whiter. Whitening is the actual change of the colour of the tooth structure itself so sometimes referred to as bleaching of the teeth. This is different from removing stains and debris and adhesions like plaque and calculus, which is what is done when you have scaling done by a dental professional and which is sometimes referred to as “cleaning”. Teeth whitening can be likened to when you put bleach on a coloured cloth and the colour comes off leaving it white (a colour change), while scaling can be likened to only washing off any mud or dirt or stains on the cloth with the cloth now clean and its colour retained.


Why would I need my teeth whitened?

There are a number of reasons why you might get your teeth whitened. Everyone is different; and just as our hair and skin colour vary, so do our teeth. Very few people have brilliant-white teeth, and our teeth also get darker (become more discoloured) as we get older. Some people may have staining under the main outer surface of teeth, which can be caused by certain antibiotics or tiny cracks in the teeth which take up stains. The discolouration of the actual material the tooth is made of is called intrinsic staining and only teeth whitening, i.e. bleaching of the teeth, can change this colour. If you want or need a quick result that will make your teeth many shades whiter in one visit, the practice can help you with the in-surgery whitening with Philips Zoom!

Your teeth can also be stained on the surface by food and drinks such as tea, coffee, red wine and blackcurrant. Smoking can also stain teeth. Calculus or tartar and other adhesions can also affect the colour of your teeth. These type of stains are just on the surface of the tooth or teeth and are referred to as extrinsic stains, but may go into cracks and other defects in the tooth. Removal of surface stains will brighten the look of such teeth, though not whiten. For some people the brightening of their teeth can be achieved with over the counter materials from approved reputable manufacturers. Some of the over the counter aids that can help achieve a brighter look are whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes and gels specially formulated by manufactures towards this purpose. Sometimes just avoiding certain foods and drinks keep the teeth brighter, e.g. tea, coffee, red wine, etc. Professional intervention by periodontal and hygiene treatment and maintenance removes a lot of the topical staining. Teeth whitening/ bleaching materials and procedure from the dentist will also usually achieved brightening as well as whitening, most times this is combined with a prior periodontal or hygiene scaling or treament.

Staining of teeth could also be due to tooth decay or failed restoration, fracture of the tooth, the type of restoration e.g. the silver amalgam filling that turns dark with time due to tarnishing. Many of these cases need restoration or changes of restorations to achieve your desired look and smile.


How long does teeth whitening take?

Philips Zoom! in-surgery LED light teeth whitening can be done same day if required by you, depending on availability of surgery time. Please be aware that the in-surgery whitening will most times require about 2 hours to 3 hours of surgery time even if wanted immediately. However we will usually want to make custom made tray(s) for your teeth for your use for additional home application gel top up given with the treatment course, in which case it will take 2 visits one week apart, as that gives time for fabrication of your custom made tray(s). At your wish, your ZOOM LED light teeth whitening can be provided as a stand a lone, without any home application.


For the take home or home application teeth whitening alone, the total treatment can usually be done within three to four weeks, you will need two or three visits to the dentist. Your dentist will need to make custom made tray(s) that fits specifically to your own teeth for each jaw, and will need to take impressions for this purpose at the first appointment.  You then return in about 1week to collect all the materials you need for the process, and you will usually apply the gel using the custom made tray(s) every day when you go to bed over 2 weeks.


Teeth whitening can be done at home or in the surgery, or a combination of both which is sometimes referred to as power whitening. Home application means regularly applying the whitening product over two to four weeks, for 30 minutes to one hour, or even 4 hours or more depending on the product being used. However, there are now some new home application products which can be applied for up to eight hours at a time. This means you can get a satisfactory result in as little as one week.