Tooth whitening is an easy and non-destructive way to achieve a healthy-looking smile. So says, cosmetic dentist Dr Safa Al Naher “It’s remarkable to see how much whiter teeth can improve people’s confidence and it can help them look more youthful as tooth enamel dulls as we age.”
Dentists can whiten teeth dramatically in just one session in the practice. Dr Safa explains “There are a number of professional systems available some of which patients use at home and others give a combination of options - at home or in-practice - or both. I use an in- practice chairside system to lift the colour of patients’ teeth by several shades in an hour to kick start the process (Philips Zoom is my preferred system). Then I create special tailor made trays to fit over the teeth so that patients can continue the process safely at home with two weeks of whitening gel use, either for an hour or so during the day or overnight to suit their lifestyle.”
“I would recommend a boosting chairside teeth whitening treatment a month before a big event like a wedding, followed by two weeks of at-home whitening to take the colour to its optimum shade. However, if you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, your treatment may take longer as we’ll need to make sure there are no underlying gum health problems before whitening, so plan accordingly.”
Teeth whitening is something that needs to be done by your dentist. DIY tooth bleaching is ubiquitous on social media, despite being illegal without a prescription from a dentist. “The problem with getting your teeth whitened by anyone but a dental professional is that carried out incorrectly, whitening can result in damage to the gums or tooth enamel,” says Dr Safa. “It can also lead to zinging tooth sensitivity.”
“Not to mention, they probably won’t be effective – for example, tooth whitening products need to contain 6% hydrogen peroxide to give us pearly whites, but over the counter treatments are legally only allowed to contain 0.1%.”
Teeth whitening in a dental clinic is a safe way to lighten the colour of your teeth and combat the effects of staining. “Tooth whitening is our most popular dental treatment at Care Dental Platinum”, says Dr Safa. “After an hour and a half, patients are able to see a visible difference. During the treatment the gums and soft tissues in the mouth are protected, exposing only the teeth. A specially formulated whitening gel is then applied to the teeth and a blue light lamp is turned on. An hour later their teeth can be up to six or seven shades lighter”
“After this, we always recommend a home whitening protocol in addition to the chairside treatment to amplify the whitening by a further few shades and ensure the colour change is long-lasting. The at home stage can be repeated for a few days every year to maintain the shade.”
With some tooth whitening systems you might experience some tooth sensitivity during your treatment, but this is transient and will subside. “We take into account factors such as teeth sensitivity so that we may tailor your whitening protocol (whitening every other day for example), and we use Philips Zoom gel which contains an anti-sensitivity ingredient. We can also give you a special tooth mousse to reduce any temporary pain”, says Dr Safa
And what to avoid
Once you have gleaming, white teeth, you’ll want to keep them that way. Dr Safa shares her advice: “There are some staining foods and drinks which you may want to limit. These include wine, sugary sports drinks, tea and berries, curries, soy sauce and turmeric, which are all staining as they contain pigmented molecules. If you do fancy a cup of tea or glass of wine, rinse your mouth with water within 30 minutes of drinking. This is better than brushing your teeth, as brushing so soon after consumption increases absorption of enamel-eroding acid into the teeth. Smoking also causes teeth to yellow, and may undo tooth whitening, so should be avoided.”
While a nice smile has always been desirable, the rise of social media and reality television has arguably led to the pursuit of ‘perfect’ teeth. Dentist Dr Safa Al Naher reveals the dangerous dental treatments we should avoid at any cost, before sharing her expertise about how to obtain a flawless smile, no filter needed. She sees an increasing number of patients coming into practices to rectify problems stemming from treatments from unregulated providers, or as a result of do-it-yourself dentistry.
While the incredibly white, uniform teeth we often see on Love Island stars may be sought-after, Safa notes the look is often only achievable through veneers. She says: “Veneers are a speedy and effective solution for people with stained, chipped, misshapen or crooked teeth. However, it is worth noting that veneers are irreversible, and your dentist will need to change the structure and shape of your teeth to apply them, and remove the outer layer of enamel. For some people, this can lead to sensitivity.”
Connor Durman who featured on 2020's Winter Love Island has been honest about his dental past, bragging that he went to Thailand to get veneers, after finding a ‘random dentist’ on Google. While treatment in countries like Thailand is considerably cheaper than in the UK, Safa shares why this route to the perfect smile comes with risks.
“Patients travelling for dental treatment often end up with teeth which look too big for the mouth and unnatural in appearance. Teeth can be overly drilled to make room for the porcelain, which can result in nerve death and infection.”
Social media has set expectations that dental treatments can be immediate, and cheap – with some patients even cutting out the dentist. DIY braces are now widely offered online, while at-home tooth bleaching is ubiquitous on Instagram, despite being illegal without a prescription from a dentist.
Safa warns: “The problem with getting your teeth whitened by anyone but a dental professional is that carried out incorrectly, whitening can result in major damage to the bones, roots or nerves. It can also lead to zinging tooth sensitivity”