Teeth Whitening Guide

You’re looking to brighten your smile.

Maybe you’ve been considering home teeth whitening kits or professional teeth whitening at your local beauty salon or dentist. We look at the best options here.

Beauty salons

First, let’s look at the teeth whitening treatments available through a Beauty Therapist. Teeth whitening treatments have been classified as ‘the act of dentistry’ that must only be carried out by a trained and registered Dentist (or Dental Therapist, Hygienist or Technician working to the prescription of a dentist), so it is actually illegal for teeth whitening treatments to be carried out in beauty salons. The British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology have stated that they would not insure any of their members for any whitening they undertake. Even if kits are offered to you to fit yourself, it is still counted as a dental treatment, so you may want to think carefully before choosing this as an option.

Not everyone is suitable for teeth whitening and if incorrectly applied, permanent damage can be caused. Only a dental professional has the expertise to assess you and guide you through the treatment planning process.

You can check if a person offering to supply you with teeth whitening is registered with the General Dental Council.

Home application

Whitening toothpastes available on the high street help remove food particles and light stains. As they tend not to contain bleaching ingredients they are less effective in making discoloured teeth whiter, but can be an economic way to keep white teeth white especially when used with a power electric toothbrush.

To really achieve whiter teeth you need to uses professional teeth whitening products which have the bleaching agents hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to alter tooth colour and so give you a whiter smile. This can be applied to the teeth in a variety of ways: strips, using a mould or painted directly onto the teeth.

Strips which you apply to teeth can be a cost-effective way of keeping your teeth white after whitening, but may not have sufficient chemical strength to significantly change your tooth colour to begin with.

The most effective way to apply whitening product to your teeth at home is using a custom tooth mould or ‘tray’. This will ensure the bleaching liquid remains in contact with your teeth and doesn’t leak out onto your gums. Hydrogen or carbamide peroxide can irritate gums, leading to sensitivity and bleaching of the gums.

Home teeth whitening kits with pre-made tooth trays are an affordable option you to custom fit yourself. You have to keep the trays in place for 30 – 60 minutes at a time or whilst you sleep.

The tray may not provide such a tight fit to your teeth, so the whitening fluid is more likely to leak onto your gums. Depending on the kit, the solution may also have a lower concentration of peroxide or none at all to reduce this risk of gum sensitivity, which may result in less effective results.


The reason teeth discolour can be because the outer layer of the tooth has become stained or because changes have taken place within the tooth itself. Your dentist will be able to examine your teeth to establish the cause of the discolouration, and recommend the teeth whitening treatment that is appropriate for you.

If you’ve already had dental work such as white fillings or dental crowns, bridges or implants, it may not be possible to whiten your teeth to match these, but instead you can whiten your teeth and have your existing dental work replaced to match your newly whitened teeth.

A dentist will be trained to offer the correct professional teeth whitening service to suit your teeth. This may mean treatments that are carried out in the dental practice, you applying whitening gel at home or a combination of both. Your dentist will be able to take accurate impressions of your teeth and use these to make a custom tray for you to wear – the tight fit will mean less leakage, and therefore less likelihood of gum irritation and bleaching.

Alternatively, to ensure effective coverage of your teeth a dentist can accurately paint on the bleaching gel and avoid the gums within the dental surgery, which will help reduce the risk of sensitivity.

Some teeth whitening treatments include a high intensity light focused onto your teeth. There is conflicting debate amongst dental professionals as to whether using a light activated whitening gel provides quicker and longer lasting results or not.

These professionally delivered treatments may come at a higher cost than DIY treatments, but as the gel used contains a higher concentration of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide they can be more effective.


All tooth whitening treatments have the potential to cause sensitivity if the bleaching agent comes into contact with the gums, but this risk is lessened if applied accurately. In some cases people have described pain coming from within the teeth either during or after the treatment, but this is temporary.

So to round up, there are many teeth whitening treatments out there to suit your budget. The results will vary, but a lot of people favour dentist-applied treatments as they can use stronger bleaching agents and there is less risk of teeth and gum sensitivity.

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