Teeth whitening is a procedure that takes place at the dental practice and uses a light-activated bleaching gel to whiten your teeth. The procedure usually takes approx 1 hour and produces instant whitening results. Before the teeth whitening process is started a dentist will thoroughly clean the teeth, removing any surface stains and tartar. This procedure is commonly referred to as a scale and polish. The next step will be for the dentist to make a record of the colour of the teeth before the procedure. This is either recorded using a tooth coloured shade guide/chart or by taking a digital photograph of your teeth.Then the area is prepared for the procedure. The bleaching compound usually contains a high concentration of peroxide and so the dentist will usually place some form of protection around the gums so that only the teeth are exposed to the compound. This involves covering the gums with rolls of cotton and a protective gel material that hardens once applied to the gums. A cheek retractor is used to keep the lips and cheeks away from the teeth. It is very important that your dentist isolates your gums and lips with a protective material in order to avoid any potential damage or burning. Home whitening kits usually have a low concentration of peroxide so that there is less chance of any damage occurring. Eye protection goggles is also provided to prevent any damage to the eyes from the laser used or any accidental splashes of the peroxide. The whitening gel is then applied to the surface of the teeth and exposed to a light or laser, which activates it. Some systems do not use an activating laser and many dentists argue that the laser doesn’t make any difference to the end result. During this process if you feel that your lips or gums start to burn then you should let your dentist know immediately. After approximately 15 minutes the gel is removed and the process repeated another 2 times. During the procedure some people may feel sensitivity in their teeth, which are described as short-lived shooting pains. The dentist will finally wash off the whitening gel and remove any gum protection before evaluating the final result by taking a photograph or using a shade chart. The results are usually quite dramatic and can often be up to 10 shades lighter. Many patients’ teeth are quite sensitive immediately following this procedure and it is advised to try and avoid hot or cold drinks for a while. Sensitivity rarely lasts more than 48 hours, if symptoms persist for longer than this then contact your dentist.