As we are exposed to more and more influencers, reality stars and celebrities with perfected smiles on our screens it makes sense that whitening – the most financially accessible option when compared with the cost of veneers and straightening treatments – has become so in demand.
We spoke to Founder of Chelsea Dental Clinic, dentist and EV Expert Dr Rhona Eskander about all things teeth whitening, and this is what she had to say…
What causes our teeth to discolour?Teeth discolour for several reasons. You have intrinsic and extrinsic causes of staining. Extrinsic causes are outside sources such as coffee, red wine and smoking which can be more easily removed. Intrinsic describes internal discolouration which is harder to eliminate.
Examples of intrinsic causes include trauma, when for example if you knock your teeth, they can essentially ‘die’ which affects the blood supply, making the tooth look purple.
Then there’s discolouration due to disruption of enamel formation as a result of taking antibiotics – this is known as tetracycline staining. Teeth can also be genetically more yellow, however as we get older the enamel on the outer layer of the teeth wears down due to acidic and abrasive foods, our bite and tooth grinding – and as the enamel wears down the underlying yellow dentine starts to become more visible.
What at-home whitening options are there?To remove extrinsic stains at home, you can use a WaterPik water flosser, electric toothbrushes, as well as whitening toothpastes.
These toothpastes target the surface of your teeth with a variety of substances, including abrasive agents and the chemical blue covarine. It may take time for whitening toothpastes to work, and their abrasive nature can cause sensitivity, however, those with blue covarine tend to look more effective after just one brush because the chemical makes your teeth appear whiter.
Whitening strips are also an at-home option. They contain a smaller amount of hydrogen peroxide than professional products and are usually applied one or twice a day to your teeth for a set period of time as indicated by the manufacturer.
What in-clinic whitening options are there?Home teeth whitening is considered the gold standard of teeth whitening, but this shouldn’t be confused with over-the-counter home whitening products.
You will need to visit your dentist so that they can accurately diagnose the reason for your discoloration – this will give you a realistic expectation as to what level of whiteness you can achieve. Then they can create bespoke trays, by taking a mold of your teeth. These trays are to be used at home and filled with hydrogen peroxide gel and worn every day for the course of two weeks; in so doing the teeth will lighten gradually.
There are also in-clinic whitening options like Philips Zoom and in the chair treatment that uses peroxide and LED light to accelerate whitening. However, in the UK, the percentage of peroxide dentists are allowed to use went from 33 per cent down to only 6 per cent. This means that in-clinic treatment is not as impactful as it once was, and still requires following up with at-home trays.
Are there any downsides to teeth whitening?Studies show that under professional guidance, teeth whitening is considered safe, however you may experience some side effects post treatment.
Your teeth may become more sensitive but this should diminish with time. Your dentist may recommend treating sensitivity with products that contain potassium nitrate and sodium fluoride gel.
You may also experience gingival irritation. This is when your gums become irritated and can happen when the whitening product comes into contact with the gums, but this side effect should go away after your treatments.
What is a realistic tooth colour?We have a shade guide in dentistry – B1 is considered to be the whitest natural shade but it is by no means a pure white, however, people have unrealistic expectations because they see influencers and celebrities on social media and on the red carpet with incredibly white teeth.
More often than not, what you see is edited, and more people than you think don’t even sport their natural teeth, instead their white smiles are actually thanks to veneers, that can be made in far whiter shades than B1.
Can you only whiten natural teeth?Yes, you’ll need to talk to your dentist about how to unify the colour of your teeth if you have veneers, implants, crowns, bridges, or dentures.
How long does teeth whitening last?You can’t whiten your natural teeth permanently. You’ll need to seek whitening treatments every so often for both extrinsic and intrinsic discolouration, but the length of time will vary on your eating, drinking, and oral hygiene habits.
After you’ve completed any whitening treatment, your teeth are still susceptible to staining from beverages like tea and coffee, and certain foods. Rinsing your mouth or brushing your teeth soon after eating or drinking can keep those kinds of discolouring agents from settling into the surface of your teeth — and decrease the chance for plaque to build up.
Rhona Eskander, dentist
In her final year at Leeds University in 2010, Rhona won the Best Case Presentation for her complex restorative case,...Book with Rhona Eskander