What is Dental Whitening or Bleaching?

8 April 2024

What Is Dental Whitening? 

Teeth whitening or dental whitening is a cosmetic treatment which involves bleaching your teeth to make them whiter. There are different reasons why teeth might need whitening, for instance teeth can naturally discolour with age as the enamel becomes thinner, they can darken through trauma or they can yellow through smoking and consuming food & drinks that contain strong colourings for long periods of time.

Is Dental Whitening Safe?

Yes, if carried out by a registered and properly trained dental professional in a healthy mouth. You must be over 18 and will need to have a dental consultation with a registered dental professional to check the teeth and gums are healthy ahead of treatment. It’s best to delay having your teeth whitened if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
The process shouldn't produce any irritation to your teeth and gums but it can make your teeth feel sensitive during the whitening treatment. Don’t mistake this as a problem. The sensitivity should subside within a few days of stopping the dental whitening treatment.

What Does Dental Whitening Involve?

In most cases the person carrying out your teeth whitening will create a mould or take a scan of your teeth to make a tray which fits comfortably in your mouth.
Most tooth whitening gels contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide as the whitening agents which is squeezed into the tray every day. The tray with the whitening agent inside is then worn either for a few hours during the day or overnight, for two to four weeks.

Alternatively, you may be offered a type of Laser Whitening. This is where the bleaching product is painted onto the teeth and a light or laser is shone onto them to activate the whitening which takes about an hour to complete. The results of this type of whitening are more rapid but tend not to last as long as the treatments that are carried out at home over a longer period of time.

It’s best to avoid smoking and consuming food & drinks that contain chromogenic (staining) ingredients for the duration of your treatment. Reducing the consumption or stopping altogether after your treatment will mean the results last for longer.

Dental whitening isn’t designed to make your teeth brilliant white, but it can lighten the existing colour by several shades improving appearance and confidence in most individuals who decide to have it carried out. Also bear in mind that teeth whitening won’t lighten the colour of any existing crowns, veneers, bridges or dentures.

How Long Does Dental Whitening Last?

The effects of whitening can last up to three years although this will vary from person to person. The effect is less likely to last as long if you smoke or eat or drink products that can stain your teeth.

How Can Guided Biofilm Therapy Help with Dental Whitening? 

Guided Biofilm Therapy is a modern, effective way to remove stains and deposits from the tooth surface. It uses warm airflow technology and no-pain piezon to gently lift debris from the teeth leaving them clean, fresh and stain free.


There are two types of tooth staining: ‘intrinsic’ (meaning inside) refers to the colour of the structure of the tooth and ‘extrinsic’ (meaning outside) refers to stains that are stuck to the outer surface of the tooth. Intrinsic stains can only be lightened by teeth whitening. Extrinsic stains such as tea, coffee, tobacco & red wine stains, can be removed with professional dental cleaning.

Guided Biofilm Therapy is one of the most effective ways to clean teeth as AIRFLOW® can access 100% of the tooth crown including in-between the teeth and underneath the gums. Depending how much extrinsic stain is present, removing it can leave teeth looking several shades whiter and improving the overall appearance without having to have dental whitening done.

Plaque biofilm and hardened calculus (tartar) that forms on the teeth can also give them a yellowish appearance. Removing the sticky film of bacteria and hardened tartar not only improves the colour but also allows light to bounce off the teeth more easily giving them a glossier appearance.


Ahead of having teeth whitening carried out, the tooth surface needs to be clean and free from stains and tartar so that the active ingredient can be fully and evenly absorbed. Airflow is more effective at cleaning than traditional polishing because it penetrates deep between the intricate enamel prisms lifting debris from microscopic and otherwise inaccessible areas.

It’s also important that gum health is optimum ahead of any cosmetic treatment. The whitening gel will only whiten the part of the tooth that is exposed above the gum. If gums are unhealthy or inflamed, they may cover up part of the tooth enamel preventing the whitening gel from accessing it and leaving the neck of the tooth (the part closest to the gum) looking more yellow than the rest of the tooth.


In order to keep the teeth looking bright and white, plaque biofilm, tartar and stains need to be kept to a minimum. Guided Biofilm Therapy is minimally invasive so there is no limit to the number of times you can safely have the treatment carried out. Regular attendance for GBT will eliminate stain and deposits before they can impact on the appearance of the tooth colour. This will reduce the frequency that top up whitening treatment is required.


Part of your GBT appointment includes bespoke oral hygiene homecare and cleaning instruction. Your GBT clinician will be able to offer regular advice on diet how to prevent unsightly deposit from building up as quickly. Looking after the gums with minimally invasive treatment can also help to keep your smile looking healthy.