Have you ever thought about whitening your teeth? Teeth whitening has become common practice and is one of the most affordable and accessible dental treatments out there. It is considered a cosmetic procedure in the sense that the sole aim is to improve the appearance of your teeth.
There are many ways to undergo teeth whitening, some of which can be done from the comfort of your home. You will also see many benefits of doing this, but it is still worth learning as much about the process as possible. So, consider this your one-stop guide for all things teeth whitening. Here, you will learn how the process works, the advantages of doing it, why you may want to consider it, and much more.
Let’s begin with the most obvious question…
What is Teeth Whitening?
Effectively, you can think of teeth whitening as a way of bleaching or polishing your teeth. The aim is to take your teeth from a darker shade to a lighter one. As mentioned in the introduction, this falls into the category of cosmetic dentistry. This is because no other work is done to your teeth other than them being whitened. Consequently, this is not a solution to make your teeth whiter if they have gone black or brown from tooth decay. It is purely for aesthetic purposes – if your teeth have decay, you need to visit a dentist for a filling or root canal.
How does Teeth Whitening work?
To understand this, we have to look at the process from two different perspectives:
- Professional teeth whitening
- DIY teeth whitening
Both serve the same purpose, but the techniques used will differ. So, let’s take a look at how both of them work!
Professional Teeth Whitening
This refers to any teeth whitening procedures carried out by a trained dentist. You will book an appointment with your local dentist, go in to see them, and receive the treatment. Again, within this category there are two different types of teeth whitening:
- At-home whitening
- Instant whitening
Whit at-home teeth whitening, you will need at least two visits to your dentist. The first will be for impressions, which are used to create plastic trays that fit in your mouth. The second appointment is where you collect these trays and the rest of the whitening system. It’s pretty simple; the dentist provides you with teeth whitening gel that you place in the trays before putting them in your mouth. The longer you keep them in your mouth (overnight is recommended) the faster they work. The gel helps to bleach your teeth and lighten the existing shade. You get to choose how much gel you way to use to control how white your teeth get.
Instant teeth whitening can be done in about an hour by your dentist. This is often referred to as laser whitening, and you’ll soon see why. Once again, a whitening product is applied to your teeth, but the key difference is that your dentist uses a laser to activate the product. The light from the laster speeds up the whitening process, and you can see results instantly. This form of professional whitening is typically used if you don’t have the patience for the at-home version.
DIY Teeth Whitening
DIY teeth whitening can be done at home all by yourself. You don’t need to see a dentist, meaning you have full control over how everything goes.
The most common form of DIY teeth whitening is to use whitening strips. The Crest Whitestrips are often considered the best in the UK, mainly thanks to how powerful they are. A key issue with some DIY whitening kits is that the strips aren’t strong enough to have an effect. Crest whitening strips are different as they provide you with professional-grade whitening power.
The idea behind whitening strips is that they’re a more convenient and affordable alternative to at-home whitening trays. With the tray systems, you put gel in a tray and put them in your mouth. It’s extremely effective, but can be uncomfortable. In many ways, it feels like you’re walking around with a retainer in. So, most people only use them at night. Whitening strips are similar in that they also cover your teeth. The big difference is that the strips are lighter and easier for you to keep in your mouth. They stretch over your teeth and adhere to them, staying in place for as long as it says on the packet. Then, you remove them and throw them in the bin. They work by removing surface stains and basically erasing the dark areas of your teeth. You can expect to see results within 3 days, and the Crest whitening strips provide full results after 20.
Professional vs. DIY Teeth Whitening
Which option is better? Well, much depends on the individual, as well as the state of your teeth. People with minor staining or slightly yellow teeth from drinking too much tea can opt for either system. If your teeth are severely strained or black, you may need professional teeth whitening, as it can be more powerful.
Ultimately, both options have some pros and cons:
Advantages/Disadvantages of Professional Teeth Whitening
- Professional-grade materials are used
- Can see instant results with laser teeth whitening
- Proven to work and work quickly
- Allows for more control over the tooth shade
- Slightly inconvenient as you need to visit a dentist
- Can be very pricey – the average price is around £200-£300 for at-home whitening trays, while laser teeth whitening starts at £500 minimum
Advantages/Disadvantages of DIY Teeth Whitening
- Incredibly convenient and can be done in your own time
- Far cheaper – a professional-grade Crest whitening strips kit costs between £20-£90
- A good whitening system still provides excellent results
- More comfortable than using whitening trays
- A powerful and effective system, but professional teeth whitening is still more powerful
All in all, DIY teeth whitening is a great option for people who can’t afford – or don’t want to pay for – professional teeth whitening. It is still effective, provided you follow the instructions on the packaging. The main issue with DIY systems is the lack of potency, but Crest Whitestrips are on-par with some professional whitening products.
What about Whitening Toothpaste?
Some of you may wonder where teeth whitening toothpaste fits into things. This is one of the most widely advertised solutions to whiten your teeth at home. Do these products work? If so, why haven’t they been included in the above discussion?
What is Whitening Toothpaste?
In simple terms, this is like a supercharged version of normal toothpaste. It works by scrubbing your teeth and removing the tough stains you get through daily life. At the same time, this toothpaste also protects your teeth from cavities.
Typically, you will see two key ingredients:
- Micro-cleansing whiteners
Fluoride is a vital ingredient that should be present in any toothpaste you use. This is what protects teeth against decay and cavities. Now, some whitening toothpaste will not contain fluoride – for whatever reason. It’s not recommended that you use toothpaste without this ingredient as you’re not protecting your teeth. Always use a product that contains the right amount of fluoride for ample protection, like the Crest 3D White Brilliance Whitening Toothpaste.
Now, the micro-cleansing whiteners are what separates whitening toothpaste from the rest. Essentially, this provides a deeper clean that polishes your teeth. When combined with the fluoride, you end up with teeth that are sparkling clean and protect from harm.
Is Whitening Toothpaste effective?
At this point, you’re probably wondering why you should bother with whitening strips if toothpaste also whitens your teeth. However, the effectiveness of whitening toothpaste is up for debate. Well, more specifically, it’s argued that toothpaste on its own will not have the desired effect for most people.
Certainly, you will not see results as quickly as if you use a teeth whitening system. Why? Think about it logically. With Crest whitening strips, you keep them in your mouth for at least 30 minutes a day. Professional whitening trays are in your mouth for hours on end as well. Brushing your teeth for two minutes in the morning and evening will hardly have the same effect. Your teeth will be cleaner, and you will gradually see improvements, but it isn’t as fast-acting as a teeth whitening system.
Furthermore, toothpaste on its own will be largely ineffective for anyone with badly stained teeth.
Having said all of this, whitening toothpaste can still be very useful when whitening your teeth – the key is learning how best to use it!
How should you use Whitening Toothpaste?
If you have minor stains, then whitening toothpaste can be an effective and affordable way of gradually getting rid of the stains. It’s often used by people who don’t have yellow or dark teeth but would like to make them a shade or two lighter.
However, it is most effective when used in conjunction with a teeth whitening system. If you’re using whitening strips, you should use whitening toothpaste alongside it. This can enhance the effects of the system, leading to longer-lasting and faster results. The same goes for an at-home whitening kit with trays – it’s often recommended that you brush your teeth before putting the trays in your mouth (and the same with the whitening strips). Why? Because the trays and strips lock-in the toothpaste to increase its effects. They also form a protective barrier, so the toothpaste doesn’t get washed away by food, drink, or saliva.
What’s the difference between Whitening Toothpaste and Whitening Gel?
You may also encounter whitening gel, which can look a lot like whitening toothpaste. This is another DIY product you can use at home. The difference between it and toothpaste is that it isn’t used to clean your teeth. You should not rely on whitening gel on its own! These products tend to be designed to provide one final coating or polish after you’ve brushed your teeth.
As such, this can also be used to elevate the effectiveness of whitening toothpaste. You’ll see the Crest 3D White Brilliance 2 Step Whitening System as a great example of this. Here, you get a tube of whitening toothpaste, which you use as normal. After brushing your teeth, you apply the whitening gel to polish and whiten your teeth. It’s a slightly more affordable alternative to whitening strips. Again, it doesn’t work as quickly or as effectively, but it is still very good at gradually whitening your teeth. This offers a great natural progression and can also be used after you’ve finished your strips.
For example, you may use whitening strips for a couple of months until you’re happy with the results. Then, you can use whitening toothpaste and whitening gel to maintain the results.
To sum up this entire section, whitening toothpaste can be effective as a solo-treatment for people with very minor stains. However, if your problems are more severe, it’s best to use it in conjunction with another whitening system. Also, be sure you get toothpaste with fluoride to prevent cavities.
What are the benefits of Teeth Whitening?
In this section, we’ll look at some of the benefits of teeth whitening in general. It will help you understand what you can gain from this process.
Yes, the obvious benefit is that you get whiter teeth from undergoing this process. From an aesthetic standpoint, this can mean a lot to you. If you’ve always had yellow teeth, then it’s a nice change to finally smile and see some pearly whites looking back in the mirror. Not only that, but whiter teeth can also lead to further advantages.
It will amaze you what a white set of teeth can do to your confidence. There are lots of scientific links between your smile and mental health. Specifically, the more you smile, the happier you tend to be. If your teeth aren’t white, you’re less inclined to smile. In turn, this can make you seem less confident and more self-conscious. Especially if your friends have white teeth and they smile next to you in photos. You become plagued by your yellow smile and keep your mouth shut.
With teeth whitening, you breathe new life into your smile. You feel far more confident when displaying your teeth, leading to a boost in your mood. As you walk around, you find yourself smiling more frequently. One of the biggest causes of self-confidence issues is a bad smile, and this can help solve it.
Non-invasive and pain-free
A big benefit of teeth whitening is that it is completely non-invasive. Even with professional treatments, you don’t need to have any injections or additional treatment. With a DIY whitening kit, you can do everything while standing in front of your bathroom mirror. It’s entirely pain-free, so you don’t have to worry about walking around with a sore or numb mouth.
This is advantageous when you consider some of the other options available. Some people may choose to have veneers or crowns to replace/cover their teeth and create a whiter appearance. Deep cleaning from a hygienist is also an option, but this can be very uncomfortable and painful. You won’t find a less invasive or painless way of improving your smile than teeth whitening.
An affordable cosmetic treatment
Normally, cosmetic surgery is incredibly expensive. Furthermore, cosmetic dentistry is often one of the most costly sub-sections of dentistry. So, cosmetic dental treatments tend to be reserved for people with a lot of money. This is where teeth whitening really comes to the fore.
It is by far and away the most affordable cosmetic treatment available. If you opt for whitening strips, then you’re paying well under £100 to whiten your teeth. Even professional cleaning is cheaper than a lot of other cosmetic procedures. We mentioned veneers earlier, and we’ll mention them again to show you how expensive other treatments are. Veneers are a popular cosmetic treatment, but they cost between £150-£1000. Already, that sounds a lot, but it refers to the cost of one veneer. If you wanted a mouthful of veneers, it would cost thousands of pounds!
You see, teeth whitening suddenly becomes even more affordable than you first thought! It can save you a fortune if you were considering another cosmetic procedure to make your teeth look nicer and whiter.
Can enhance the rest of your appearance
As well as making your smile look better, teeth whitening can bring out other features of your appearance. They almost brighten up your face, which can bring out your eyes and make you feel more attractive. Additionally, your new teeth work as a distraction against other issues you might be conscious of.
Wrinkles, for example, become less noticeable after teeth whitening. They don’t go away, but people take less notice because they’re drawn to your smile. You’ll notice this when taking selfies or looking in the mirror. It feels like something is different, and it will be because your smile is moving your eyes away from the areas of your face that you used to be self-conscious about.
Proven to work
So many things in life are not proven to work or just seem to be a waste of money. Teeth whitening doesn’t fall into that category. There is evidence that shows this works for lots of different people. All variations of this treatment will work if you get the right products and follow all of the instructions.
Speaking of which, most teeth whitening failures come when people don’t follow the instructions properly. They might do things that hamper the effectiveness of the treatment. Or, if you’re supposed to use whitening strips for 30 minutes a day, they may use them for 10 minutes. Obviously, doing things like this will not lead to the desired results.
With that in mind, the next section will look at some key things you should do if you want to whiten your teeth!
Teeth Whitening Do’s & Don’ts
You will increase the chances of seeing excellent results if you learn what you should and shouldn’t do when whitening your teeth. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but you’ll be surprised at how many people slip-up and fall into bad habits. Follow these steps, and you will see excellent results and whiter teeth:
Follow a proper oral hygiene routine
Be sure to follow a strict oral hygiene routine while undergoing teeth whitening. This is essential for a number of reasons. The first is obvious; you need to protect your teeth and gums from common oral health problems. As we’ve alluded to previously, some people slip into poor habits when whitening their teeth. Most notably, switching out a fluoride toothpaste for some whitening gel. You must continue using fluoride toothpaste, as well as following other oral hygiene practices.
To help you out, here are a few things you definitely should do:
- Brush your teeth before bed every night and at one other time in the day
- Floss as frequently as possible – daily is ideal, but 3-5 times per week is still beneficial
- Don’t rinse your mouth out with water after brushing your teeth, this will wash off the fluoride and leave your teeth unprotected
- Avoid eating too many sugary or acidic foods as this can cause cavities and erode your teeth, rendering the whitening pointless
- Don’t eat or drink for at least 30 minutes after brushing your teeth
- If you use mouthwash, either use it before brushing or at a random point in the day – don’t use it immediately after brushing your teeth for the same reason you shouldn’t rinse your mouth out with water!
It’s important to follow an oral hygiene routine as this keeps your teeth in excellent condition. There’s no point trying to whiten your teeth if they suffer from decay or you have gum disease. They will end up needing fillings or will fall out.
Drink through a straw
If possible, you should avoid food and drink that can cause staining. The most common culprits of this are tea and coffee. This is because they both contain a substance called tannins, which lingers on your tooth enamel and causes gradual discolouration. Just look at the name, tannins, it sounds like ‘tan’, which is basically what it does to your teeth – it tans them.
Not drinking these beverages is the best way forward, but it’s also pretty impossible. You can cut down, but you should also drink through a straw. This is a great tip as the liquid bypasses your teeth and goes down your throat. As a result, less tannin ends up sticking to your teeth, so they don’t stain as badly.
Clearly, doing this is vital if you’re whitening your teeth. No matter how strong your whitening kit is, it will have no effect if you keep drinking tea and coffee or eating foods that cause staining. You’ll keep undoing the work that the whitening kit has done. Aside from drinking through a straw, chewing some gum after eating can also help remove things from your teeth and minimise staining.
Use the whitening kit after brushing
Technically speaking, you can use your teeth whitening kits whenever you like. However, for the most effectiveness, it makes sense to use them after brushing. We spoke about this earlier in the guide, but the idea is that the whitening strips or trays will lock-in the toothpaste or whitening gel you used.
In turn, this provides added protection for your teeth, but it also helps them appear whiter. Whitening strips are far more effective when used on cleaned teeth. Why? Because you can take them off and leave the whitening solution to carry on doing its work. If you haven’t brushed your teeth yet, you’ll need to do it at some point. Therefore, you scrub off the whitening material.
So, the best advice is to use your teeth whitening kit before going to bed, after you’ve brushed your teeth.
Follow all the instructions
Don’t expect to see great results if you neglect the instructions that come with your teeth whitening kit. If it tells you to do something, make sure you do it. A common mistake is that people will leave teeth whitening strips on their teeth for too short a period. This limits the effectiveness as the strips don’t get to work for as long as possible. The same is true for anyone that uses an at-home kit with trays and gel. Keep your whitening materials in your mouth for as long as it suggests. If it gives you a minimum and maximum amount, it’s better to keep yours in for closer to the maximum. The longer they’re in, the more effective they will be.
Use your whitening kit as frequently as possible
Following on from the previous point, you need to use your whitening kit as often as possible. Some kits will instruct you to use them every single day for a set period – usually a month. If you want to see results, you have to use them every day. Again, another mistake is to use whitening strips and kits too sporadically. If you use them once or twice a week, don’t expect to see results in the time advertised on the packet.
Try and get yourself into a routine where whitening your teeth comes naturally. This is another reason why doing it before bed and after brushing is excellent. It’s so easy to fit this into your bedtime routine, meaning you don’t forget. You could even set a daily alarm to be sure you stay on top of it.
Are you a good candidate for Teeth Whitening?
After consuming all of this information, you may wonder whether or not this is the right thing for you. The good news is that most people are perfect candidates for teeth whitening. It’s rare that someone has perfectly white teeth without undergoing any treatment. This is because we eat and we drink, so our teeth naturally start to stain. So, if your teeth aren’t the ideal colour you’d like them to be, you are a good candidate for teeth whitening.
Furthermore, if you have healthy teeth, you’re also a good candidate. Problems arise when you have issues with your teeth and gums. People with tooth decay should not undergo any teeth whitening as it is essentially pointless. You have to get the decay sorted before you think about any cosmetic treatments. Otherwise, you’ll whiten your teeth, then need a filling or an extraction – or maybe even a root canal.
As well as this, there are other conditions to be wary of:
- Gum disease – If you have gum disease, it’s not a good idea to spend money on a teeth whitening kit. It’ll still work, but gum disease is a massive issue as it causes your gums to recede. When this happens, your teeth no longer have the support structures they depend on. As such, they become wobbly and can fall out. Thus, all the time you spend on teeth whitening is pointless. Work on improving your gum health, then you can get teeth whitening products.
- Sensitive teeth – If you have super sensitive teeth, then you may find it hard to handle the products used when whitening your teeth. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but it’s worth taking into consideration. If you try it out and do get a bad reaction, you should stop right away. Use sensitive toothpaste to calm your sensitivity and then try it again.
Lastly, you won’t be a good candidate for teeth whitening if you have unrealistic expectations. Yes, you will see results, and they will be clear for all to see. You can definitely make your teeth whiter, but don’t expect it to happen overnight. Recognise that it will take time to see results, and you have to stick to your whitening routine every day.
Teeth Whitening: A Summary
To summarise, teeth whitening is a process that can remove stains from your teeth and improve their appearance. It’s a great option if you want to enhance your smile and deal with yellow or brown teeth. There are lots of ways to whiten your teeth, including DIY whitening strips that you can use at home.
Results can vary, but if you stick to the instructions and follow good practices, you will see great improvements in just a few weeks.