TEETH WHITENING: A dentist will recommend the best method
It’s not just in Hollywood that a perfect set of pearly whites is essential. In the UK, driven by celebrities such as Victoria Beckham and Katie Price, demand for cosmetic dentistry is growing at a rate of 40 per cent a year, costing us more than £700million.
Teeth whitening, ranging from over-the-counter kits costing a few pounds to expensive veneers costing thousands, is the most popular treatment. However, there is growing concern among experts that in the search for the perfect smile many people are putting their teeth and gums at risk by opting for super-strong whitening solutions and using them too often.
Some are so powerful they are not legal but can easily be bought on the internet. Another fear is people are seeking bargain treatments from beauticians who are not qualified to whiten teeth.
Conventional whitening involves using hydrogen peroxide, a bleaching agent, to penetrate the surface of the tooth and make it lighter. This can be done by using a gum shield-type treatment over a few days or at the dentist where a special light is used to activate the whitening gel. This is known as power whitening or laser whitening, although there are lots of different brand names.
Over-the-counter kits can be bought at pharmacies but by law must be very weak. Only dentists are permitted to supply stronger solutions for home use or to apply them in a surgery.
Karen Coates, a dental adviser for the British Dental Health Foundation, is worried about the easy availability of stronger treatments. She says: “This type of treatment is highly popular.
“On the internet I’ve come across kits which are up to 33 per cent hydrogen peroxide which is much too strong.”
D entists can make the gum shields to measure, ensuring tissue around the teeth is protected but that is not the case for internet kits. The bleach can seep, mildly burning gums and lips and leaving them sensitive.
Very strong solutions could damage tooth enamel. Karen adds: “You see so many celebrities with lovely looking teeth there is a temptation to overdo it.”
Whitening only lightens teeth slightly. To get the very white looks seen on the likes of Simon Cowell, expensive porcelain veneers are the only solution. They fit over teeth but some of the enamel has to be removed to make sure they stay in place. If the treatment is repeated too often, teeth can be damaged.