The Basics of Teeth Whitening

There are many reasons why people are not happy with their teeth. It can be because they are crooked, are growing out slow or they are worn down in some way, or they might be discoloured. Teeth are integral to our health and well-being, but it can also be very important to how we feel about the way we look. Taking care of your teeth is important as we live longer and the teeth you have as a grown-up are the teeth you will live with for the rest of your life. With 33% of the British population not being satisfied with their smile, it is clear that there is a real issue to be dealt with.

According to many dentists, the majority of patients that are not satisfied with their smile say that they are unhappy with the natural colour of their own teeth. If you open a magazine you are faced with celebrities and models with pearly white teeth, although for many, this is not their natural teeth colour. In today’s society many see discoloured teeth as unhealthy and unhygienic, although there is not necessarily a correlation between the two. You might notice how your hair can change colour when you are on holiday and under the sun all day, or your skin might have changed colour as you are getting older, and your teeth change in the same way. With about 90% of dental patients telling their dentists that they would not mind whiter teeth, the dental industry is seeing a significant increase in requests for teeth whitening procedures in the UK.

Some of the common causes of tooth discoloration:

  • Coffee & Tea
  • Curry
  • Red wine
  • Coca Cola

There are certain illnesses that can cause tooth discolouration, but many can improve their teeth colour by cutting down on the items mention above. So called extrinsic discoloration is what occurs when teeth are not cleaned properly and the teeth get covered in plaque rather than actual damage to the enamel. Intrinsic tooth discolouration can only be diagnosed by a dentist performing a full examination of the patient’s teeth and dental record.


There are many teeth whitening products available on the market, but according to research some of these are just a waste of your money. Some are surprised that the toothpastes that market themselves as “teeth whitening” have no effect at all, even when bought at a chemist. You should also avoid buying teeth whitening systems and gels online, as there is no bulletproof way of knowing what is in them, and much of creams and medication bought online have dangerous additives in them and can cause more harm than good.


You should always consult your dentists before undergoing any kind of treatment for your teeth. Most dentists are today recommending the use of bleaching trays. These are fitted at a dentist and will always be tailored to fit your teeth. The dentists will give instructions on how the equipment should be used at home and provide the correct amount of bleaching gel to avoid damage to the teeth and gums. This also gives the patient the opportunity to ask any questions or raise any concerns they might have.

The second option often favoured by dentists is laser whitening of the teeth. This procedure, which is often called power whitening, is performed by a specialist dentist who will carefully apply gel to your teeth and then use a laser to activate the ingredients in the gel. This will whiten your teeth and can be followed up with some home whitening to remain the result. The results are instant, so if you are in a hurry or need white teeth for a special event or occasion, this might be a good option for you.

Whichever way you choose, make sure that you have discussed all the available options with your dentist, and keep your expectations realistic to avoid disappointment that your teeth are not “Hollywood-white” after the first treatment.

Laura Jennings

Riverside Dental is a dentist in Norwich. It is a private surgery specialising in a range of dental hygiene and cosmetic procedures.

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