Home Tooth Whitening


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As we grow older, our teeth tend to darken and some people are born with a darker shade of teeth than others. There are a wide range of things which can affect the colour of your teeth and cause tooth stains.

The stains which appear on your teeth are usually broken up into two main categories. 'Extrinsic' stains are those which appear on the outer surfaces of your teeth and are usually caused by factors in your diet and lifestyle such as red wine, coffee and cigarette smoke. Extrinsic stains can also develop through eating highly pigmented foods (including certain berries) and 'smokeless' tobacco products and chewing tobacco. Stains which occur on the inner layers of your teeth are known as 'Intrinsic' stains. These occur due to trauma or damage to the tooth which kills the nerve, an excess of fluoride during tooth development or simply due to natural discolourations associated with aging.

Causes of Tooth Stains

Research has consistently shown that your diet plays the biggest role in the colour of your teeth. Certain foods have been shown to contribute to stains more than others. The most common examples are red wine, coffee, tea, fiy drinks, acidic foods and citrus fruits. Studies have also shown that nicotine from cigarette smoke leaves brown deposits which become slowly absorbed by the tooth, causing hard-to-reach intrinsic stains. Bruxism, can cause cracking which can often darken the teeth. Similarly damage or trauma to teeth which produces cracks often leaves teeth vulnerable to staining.

At-Home Whitening Solution

The most popular way to combat stains is with tooth whitening. This process usually involves bleaching, where chemicals capable of penetrating the outer layers of your tooth and dissolving the staining materials are applied. Commonly used chemicals in bleaching include hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. In the past, whitening could only be performed by your dentist at a dental clinic. Fortunately, there are now more options than ever for those looking to whiten the colour of their teeth.

At-home whitening kits are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to in-house bleaching. Kits can be custom fitted by your dentist for use at home or simply bought over the counter at a pharmacy. Both methods make use of a specialised kit including a tray and an oxidating gel which is used to filter out stains. The kits bought over-the-counter tend to have a one-size-fits-all tray whereas if your dentist dispenses your kit, it is likely to be a custom build, which will provide a much better fit. In order to do this your dentist will take a couple of impressions of your teeth using dental putty, and using this, your custom tray will be designed and created.

In home tooth whitening the tray is filled with a whitening gel (typically containing carbamide peroxide) and should be worn for a couple of hours a day, or overnight for a couple of weeks at a time. If you follow all the instructions carefully, at home whitening can be very effective. However, teeth which have been newly whitened are extremely vulnerable to staining, so it is important to avoid stain-causing substances such as tea, coffee, red wine and cigarette smoke following home whitening.

Home whitening kits can usually be purchased over the counter and are relatively inexpensive. They tend to be based around either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, although it should be a weak solution.  There are a wide variety of products available on the open market, either on the high street or on the internet. It is important to choose the appropriate product for you, so research the product carefully before you purchase it. Also ensure that it carries the logo that shows it is approved by the British Dental Health Foundation.

Tooth Whitening Kits

Most at home tooth whitening kits contain a rubber mould which will roughly fit the shape of your teeth and a solution of peroxide – usually carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. The solution is applied to the inside of the rubber mould and then applied to the teeth and left to take its effect for a small period of time. The bleaching effect can usually take your teeth a couple of shades lighter than the current colour.

Teeth Whitening Gels

Most at-home whitening kits use a weak solution of peroxide, but some use a gel based whitener. The gels tend to have a much more intense concentration but work in the same way. After brushing your teeth, and usually before bed, you apply a little gel to a rubber mould and fit it over your teeth. Systems like this offer to take your teeth at least several shades brighter than the current colour of your teeth.

Teeth Whitening Strips

Unlike traditional at home whitening kits, the strip system comes pre-prepared with peroxide. A thin strip of plastic in the approximate shape of your teeth with a thin coating of peroxide already placed along the inside can be applied with less mess and preparation. Other than the delivery of the solution, these kits work in the same way as a traditional at home whitening kit. As with other at home kits you ought to consult a dentist to be sure that you are safe to be using the kits, and read all instructions and health and safety advice carefully. Make sure you select a product which carries the logo of the British Dental Health Foundation.


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Guide to Teeth Whitening in London & UK