Teeth Whitening Guide

Stained or discoloured teeth are a major problem for many people. We all start out with beautiful, white teeth but over time, our teeth begin to discolour as a result of many factors. These factors include tea or coffee drinking, food especially curries and nicotine stains as a result of smoking.

Another factor is that of genetics: some people do find that their teeth are prone to staining more than others. Others notice that their teeth start to yellow or darken with age.

We may think of staining on just one level but there are in fact, 3 levels of stains:

  1. Surface level or superficial stains: these can be removed using a good whitening toothpaste or via a scale and polish by your dentist.
  2. Deep rooted stains: these are stains which, over time, have worked their way into the structure of the teeth. Often caused by eating, drinking and smoking.

    These cannot be removed by a scale and polish or whitening toothpaste and so require a professional approach.

  3. Developmental or inherited stains: these are largely genetic in origin. For example, if someone has been taking a course of tetracycline antibiotics during tooth development then these can, unfortunately, result in greyish looking teeth.


    Some teeth whitening treatments can help but often the only solution is to have cosmetic bonding or a porcelain veneer.

Whatever the reasons or level of stain, discoloured teeth are a cause of embarrassment and self-consciousness for many people.

But, if you are one of these people who dread smiling because of the state of your teeth then teeth whitening can help. It can also give you that pearly white smile so often seen on celebrities, models and film stars.

  • Am I suitable for teeth whitening?
  • How much does Teeth whitening cost?
  • Does Teeth whitening hurt?
  • How long does the whitening treatment take?

What is teeth whitening?

We talk about teeth whitening as an individual treatment


        At home tooth whitening


In-surgery treatment involves the use of a bleaching agent and a laser/light to activate and speed up the whitening process.

This procedure involves the use of a home whitening kit. These contain a bleaching agent, whitening gel and custom made trays (taken from an impression of your teeth). 

Note: if you have a dental implant then be aware that the replacement tooth (or restoration) will not change colour as a result of the whitening process. The reason for this is that tooth whitening only changes the colour of a natural tooth as it directly affects the enamel and dentine.

At Home Teeth Whitening

'At Home Tooth Whitening' kit is the most popular type of tooth whitening. It involves the wearing of custom fitted trays at night over usuallya two week period. The trays are filled with a whitehing gel and whiten the teeth gradually. At 250 euros it is cheaper than the in-surgery 'Zoom' treatment and although they take longer some patients prefer this more controlled approach.

These kits include personalised bleaching trays and a whitening gel. The trays are produced via a process in which your dentist makes a wax model of your teeth which is sent to a dental laboratory. The laboratory uses this to create bleaching trays which are customised to your teeth only.

These trays contain the whitening gel, which is a peroxide compound that bleaches your teeth. This gel can be pre-loaded into the trays or if you prefer, you can take home a set of syringes which contain this gel. This gel can then be added to the trays when you are ready.

How long do these trays take?

The trays take only a few days to make and you are then advised to wear the trays for a period of 14 days to allow the whitening gel to work. For some patients it takes more than 14 days to get the best results.

The whitening gel is active for up to 12 hours so some patients choose to wear these trays overnight. However, most of the whitening takes place in the first few hours so if it is only possible to wear them for a couple of hours very good results can still be achieved. If necessary they can also be worn during the day.

After 2 weeks you will need to return to your dentist for a review of the teeth.

Will it hurt?

You may experience some sensitivity in the form of twinges, shooting pains or even a dull ache but this perfectly normal. If you have a tendency to sensitive teeth then there is a greater chance of this happening but it is a temporary state of affairs.

We recommend our patients use a 'sensitive tooth paste' for 1 week before the whitening procedure and as necessary during it.

Any pain or discomfort can be controlled with painkillers. It will, however, settle down after a day or two.

There have been some horror stories in the media about people who have used home whitening kits, which have resulted in damaged gums and lips. These kits have tended to contain high concentrations of peroxide which have led to soft tissue damage.

These kits have been bought online and may seem like a good deal but teeth whitening should be carried out by a trained dental professional.

Will I need to repeat this treatment?

By following some simple post whitening care instructions, your teeth will always be lighter than they were before. To keep your teeth looking their best, we recommend flossing, brushing twice daily, and having them cleaned every 6 months. Some patients like to 'top up' their tooth whitening every few years and gel is availble at the surgery for this.

These maintenance or ‘top ups’ will vary from one patient to another. This depends on the amount and rate of change.

Patients themselves can do a lot to retain their newly whitened smile. This includes brushing teeth twice a day and having regular cleaning appointments with their dentist.

Will it damage my teeth?

No. The effects of this treatment are no different to the effects of any other form of dental treatment.

Are there other options?

Yes. These include whitening toothpastes, in-surgery 'Zoom' tooth whitening, dental veneers and crowns.


Can anyone have this treatment?

The initial consultation between you and the dentist is where he or she will determine your suitability for this procedure. Dentists will not recommend this treatment to pregnant women or women who are currently breastfeeding.

If you are currently undergoing chemotherapy or have lots of sensitivity then whitening is generally not advisable.

And, if you are taking any prescribed medication or over the counter medicines which are light sensitive then check with your GP first.

If you are not suitable for this treatment then you will find that the dentist can suggest a good alternative.

I wear a denture, is it likely to damage this?

No. If you wear dentures, or have dental veneers or crowns then these will not be damaged by this treatment. They will also not react to the treatment either as Zoom only changes the colour of natural teeth.

If you have a veneer or a crown then you may be able to change this to a lighter coloured one to fit in with the rest of your teeth.

Will my teeth be white immediately after this treatment?

Some patients find that the results are instant and that they have white teeth after the one treatment. However, others find that they require further treatments to achieve this result.

Basically, if your teeth are heavily stained then you are likely to need more than one treatment.

Do I need ‘top up’ sessions?

Patients find that the results last a long time although teeth will start to discolour after a period of time. It’s a good idea to have ‘top up’ session, using a home based whitening kit, supported by regular visits to your dentist.

Following a good oral health routine such as cleaning your teeth twice a day can also help.