How it works
Tooth whitening (or bleaching) can be done either at the dentist's or at home.
Either way, it involves lightening the colour of your tooth enamel using a hydrogen-peroxide or oxgenated water-based gel.
The procedure is painless.
Dentist bleaching is carried out at a dentist's in one or two sessions.
The dentist first creates a protective shield for your gums from a teeth impression and then applies the highly concentrated whitening gel to your teeth for between 20 and 90 minutes, depending on what condition they're in.
In certain cases, a high-energy or laser light may be used to accelerate the whitening process.
Laser whitening treatment is also available.
At-home bleaching also requires a shield for your teeth, but the gel used is less concentrated and can be applied at home. You leave it on for between 15 minutes and an hour a day for 15 days. It's also possible to have a whitening session at the dentist's followed by a course of home whitening.
Prices vary and start from around £300, depending on the number of sessions and the method used.
How long does it last?
The results are good for an average of 4 years if you don't expose your teeth to much tobacco or caffeine.
Single-use shields: These are hygienic, handy, come ready to use and are thrown away after use. Most come with individual doses of whitening gel.
Whitening strips: These are handy strips covered in gel (which is less concentrated than the gel used in dental surgeries). They stick to your teeth precisely, ensuring an even application of the gel.
Gel with a brush: This allows for a very precise application of the gel to specific teeth or to parts of a tooth.
These products should be used once or twice a day for 15-30 minutes over a 14-day period.
Prices vary from around £10 - £80.
How long does it last?
These kits only give a satisfactory result if tooth discolouration is caused by age or eating habits, and are only effective for up to 12 months.
What you need to know
- Shields can't be fitted to the exact shape of your jaw, which means that the procedure carries a risk of altering tooth enamel and damaging teeth.
- Whether you get your teeth whitened by a dentist or at home, never do it without getting a thorough dental check-up and having any tartar removed.