Choose right before you go white – why whitening can be frightening if you get it wrong

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News that a father and son were jailed this month for selling dangerous DIY teeth-whitening kits serves as the perfect reminder for us all to always check the credentials of the person offering to treat us before ‘going white’.

The popularity of teeth whitening is booming – and unscrupulous companies are seizing an opportunity to offer illegal teeth whitening treatment, with many of us falling foul of their sales pitch, often attracted by the ridiculously cheap price tag. Terrifyingly, the DIY teeth-whitening kits – containing dangerously high levels of hydrogen peroxide – left some users with bleeding gums from chemical burns but not before the family business made more than £3 million in 10 years.

So, what can we do to protect ourselves from getting it wrong?

In a nutshell, only a dental professional can whiten your teeth – and that only includes a dentist, dental hygienist, dental therapist or clinical dental technician. There is a range of whitening treatments used by dental professionals and they will know the best one to suit you.

small_43616However, be prepared for them to refuse treatment. Your oral health will need to be in tip-top condition and your dentist will discuss with you the options available. They should also draw up a treatment plan.

A shade chart will show you the colour of your teeth and the lightened colour that’s most likely to be achievable. Not everyone’s teeth can go bright white! In the first instance, you will need to speak with your dentist who will either carry out the treatment him/herself or refer you to a dental colleague – this can only be a dental hygienist, dental therapist or a clinical dental technician.

Take note, a beautician or a hairdresser is NOT qualified to whiten teeth.

Don’t be shy to ask your dentist how many times they’ve whitened teeth and do ask them for patient testimonials or to see ‘before and after’ photos of patients who have had the same cosmetic treatment.

Is the person performing the treatment registered with the General Dental Council? You’d be wise to check and you can do this yourself quite easily. Go to www.gdc-uk.org and either type in the name of the clinician or their GDC registration number, which by law should be published on the dental clinic’s own website.
Also, do ask what types of tooth whitening are available and what the differences are between them. Dentists have their own preferred whitening systems and will know what’s appropriate for you. Some involved follow-up home whitening and the dentist will talk you through how to do this.

If you already have veneers, crowns or dentures, you will need to consider how or if your newly whitened natural teeth will fit with the shade of any other cosmetic dental work you have had done.

And finally, however tempting they may be – stay away from those over-the-counter kits as they may not be safe. The products you can buy online or from high street shops often fail to declare chemicals used so it’s very difficult to assess their safety and, as mentioned, there are a lot of whitening ‘cowboys’ out there. So, stay safe!

Find out more about teeth whitening the safe way >

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