Sunday, 23 September 2012

Teeth Whitening - what's the current position?

In recent times, teeth whitening has grown in prominence as more and more people have chased the 'celebrity smile' but is it legal, who can do it, is it safe and what results can be expected?
When teeth whitening gels were originally introduced in the UK, they were classified as cosmetic products and a legal maximum peroxide concentration of 0.1% was set.  Unfortunately, this is much too low to have any whitening effect and, whilst more powerful gels were supplied to dentists by reputable dental manufacturers, a parallel market grew up via internet based retailers and beauty salons providing/using stronger gels that were not always safe.  New EU legislation has increased the legal maximum to 6% of hydrogen peroxide (or equivalent) which is sufficient to whiten teeth.  As a result, there will be an increasing move away from in-surgery whitening towards take-home kits which are a far more cost effective route to whiter teeth.

The opinion of the General Dental Council is that teeth whitening amounts to the practice of dentistry and, as a result, only dentists (and some other dental professionals under the guidance of a dentist) can in their view perform teeth whitening treatments.  They have successfully prosecuted beauty salon owners who have provided teeth whitening for illegally carrying on the practice of dentistry.

Providing whitening gels from a reputable supplier are administered by a dentist on a dentally fit patient, teeth whitening is a safe, non-invasive treatment.  Some sensitivity may be felt during or after the treatment but this should subside within 24 hours.  It is, however, not safe for either children or pregnant/nursing mothers.

So what results can you expect?  First of all, it's important to bear in mind that the photographs of models in fashion magazines have often been digitally altered ('Photoshopped') to whiten the teeth and some celebrities with very white teeth have had them veneered (similar to a false nail but for teeth).  However gel based whitening can give very good results although, as the effects of whitening depend on a number of factors - including the existing shade of teeth, diet and  anatomy - it is impossible to predict the final shade with certainty.  Also, whitening gels only act on natural teeth - not crowns, bridges or veneers - so these may need changing if their shade was matched to non-whitened teeth.

In summary, therefore, teeth whitening can be a cost effective route to a whiter smile but be realistic about your expectations for the treatment, always have it done at a dental practice and if you have any problems with your teeth, get these fixed before starting whitening. 

At AllClear, we use Colgate MaxWhite products for whitening teeth.  After a check to ensure that you are dentally fit and that the whitening treatment is likely to give the results you're looking for, we take impressions of your mouth for custom trays.  A few days later, you return to the practice to collect your trays and home whitening kit; you then wear the trays with a small amount of gel inside for 30-60 minutes per day for the next 1-2 weeks to complete the treatment.  For further details, call in, phone (020 8688 3869) or see our website.

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