Does teeth whitening really hurt? W&H Beauty Editor finds out...

(Image credit: Yuri Arcurs YAPR)

With a massive 50% of Brits admitting the first thing they notice about someone is their smile, it’s fair to say we’re a nation obsessed with our teeth.

But, when you then consider 70% of people told a survey by Colgate they felt self-conscious about their teeth, it’s not necessarily for the right reasons.

It’s not surprising then that teeth whitening is becoming an increasingly popular treatment.

So I went on a mission to find out everything there is to know about teeth whitening...

Why did I want to get my teeth whitened?

I’ve always been pretty happy with my teeth. Thanks to braces in my teens they’re relatively straight and, as I’m not a fan of coffee or red wine, they’re not too stained either.

But I’m getting married soon (not as soon as I hoped, due to the pandemic) and want my smile to be at it’s whitest, shiniest best when the day rolls around.

I made an appointment with Dr Safa Al-Naher at Care Dental Platinum in Hammersmith. The practise specialises in dental phobia and helping patients feel at ease, so I knew I was in good hands.

What happens when you get your teeth whitened?

The treatment I chose was Philips Zoom Whitening Treatment. The first part is in-office bleaching, with a kit to carry on the process at home.

My appointment started with a quick consultation and check-up. Not everyone is suitable for teeth whitening, and results can be unpredictable on patchy staining, so this step is really important to manage expectations.

I chatted with Dr Safa about how white I hoped to go (bright, but not reality star levels) and she made a note of my starter shade so we could measure my progress.

Next up, I had my mouth scanned in order to make bespoke, at-home whitening trays. As they’re perfectly moulded to your mouth, they’re far more comfortable to wear than high-street versions.

They just look like a clear retainer or mouth guard. The only real difference is a small nodule at the front of each tooth where you insert a blob of the whitening agent.

Now for the main event. Dr Safa propped open my mouth using a cheek retractor, before applying a 6% hydrogen peroxide solution to my teeth.

Then, my teeth were exposed to the Phillips Zoom Whitening machine for four 15-minute sessions. Using a combination of light and heat, it accelerates the whitening process for real-time results.

While I can’t say the process was entirely comfortable, it certainly wasn’t painful. I experienced a few pangs of sensitivity, which Dr Safa assured me were completely normal.

How long does the teeth whitening process take?

From start to finish, my appointment took just shy of 2 hours. And I did walk out of the practice the proud owner of a noticeably brighter, whiter smile.

However, the bulk of the teeth whitening process happens at home. I used the trays overnight for a few weeks, waking up to even whiter teeth each morning.

As my teeth are normally prone to sensitivity, which can be exasperated by bleaching, I chose to take a break from the trays every third evening.

Three weeks was enough time for me to reach my desired shade, but this timeframe can vary from person to person. Best results are achieved on yellow and brown shades, with grey staining harder to shift. Most people will see a noticeable difference in 2-5 weeks.

After the initial treatment, it’s recommended you use the trays every couple of months to maintain your new shade. Or, repeat the process with a whole vial of solution in the run up to a big event.

How long do teeth whitening results last?

How long your teeth whitening results last varies from person-to-person, but the average is around 1-2 years.

Cutting down on tea, coffee, red wine, berries and curries, or brushing your teeth after enjoying them, will help stop new stains from forming. Quitting smoking will make a real difference too.

How much does teeth whitening cost?

Philips Zoom Whitening Treatment varies in price between practices, but tends to be between £200 and £300.

Jess Beech

Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is a former Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.