So you want to whiten your teeth

An african woman with a flawless smile


  • Teeth whitening and teeth cleaning.

First, it’s important we differentiate between teeth cleaning and teeth whitening.

Teeth whitening is a safe cosmetic procedure done frequently in the dental office to lighten the colour of teeth. While teeth cleaning is part of oral hygiene and involves the removal of dental plaque from teeth with the intention of preventing cavities (dental caries), gingivitis, and periodontal disease.

Many times before teeth whitening you’ll be required to get your teeth cleaned; this is to remove all debris, plaque and teeth deposits from your teeth and gums.

  • How long would it take to whiten my teeth?

Teeth whitening in our dental office could take you about one and a half hours so if you include teeth cleaning, you’ll expect to spend about two hours in the dental clinic.

  • How is whitening done in the office?

Teeth whitening involves the application of whitening gel on your teeth after isolation and using a LED Blue light on your teeth which activates a chemical reaction on your tooth which results in whitening. This would be done in 3-4 cycles but you would at least have done three cycles to get desired results. Each cycle is about 15 minutes.

  • Instructions after whitening.

Avoid discoloring food and drinks (e.g. coffee, red vine, tea, cola, red sauces, cigarette smoke for at least 48 hours) this is because your teeth becomes more receptive at this time.

Avoid cold/hot drinks, this could stimulate sensitivity.

  • Who shouldn’t do whitening
  • Pregnant women
  • Breastfeeding mothers
  • Those allergic to peroxide
  • Those who can’t avoid discoloring agents with 24-48 hours

N.B:- Pre-existing crowns and veneers don’t get whiter with whitening procedures.

  • Side effects of whitening

Teeth sensitivity is the most reported side effect. Initial assessment by the Dentist would help minimize sensitivity; measures like the use of desensitizing agents in prefabricated trays would help.

After the whitening procedure, your new teeth shade should last at least 6-18 months which depends on your diet and habits so you might require another session to maintain your shade or with the use of “At home” whitening gels and toothpaste.

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