Teeth Whitening 101: What you need to know before getting a treatment

Dr Peta Leigh talks us through her top ten tips for those looking for a brighter smile...

teeth whitening Jack Fincham Dani Dyer
(Image credit: James Gourley/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

Everything to know about getting a dazzling smile like Love Island's Jack

When it comes to getting a brighter smile, teeth whitening is the holy grail – as Love Island's Jack Fincham has shown us every night for the last eight weeks.

But apart from knowing how good the end results are, you might not be clued up on what to expect when you make the step up from at-home teeth whitening kits.

We spoke to Dr Jerome Sebah of The Dentist Gallery, London, to get the lowdown.

What happens during your first appointment?

First things first, you're probably wondering what actually happens during the appointment.

'If you haven't had a dental hygiene cleaning recently, we start with scale and polish with an ultrasound scaler to remove the plaque and stains on the enamel,' explains Dr Sebah. 'We then use an aeropolisher with baking soda to remove the rest of the stains on the surface and in between the teeth.

'Baking soda will also increase the pH on the enamel, which allows the whitening gel to be activated quicker.'

After this, it's time for your whitening sesh. 'The whitening gel is then applied to the surface of the teeth and activated with a special light for 15 minutes; this is repeated three or four time,' he adds.

'The gel and light are not aggressive for the teeth or gums, so they don't need any protection.'

How does teeth whitening work?

teeth whitening

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Rex)

You already know what the end results look like, but how does the whitening process work, exactly?

'When activated by light, a chemical activator or heat, hydrogen peroxide is decomposed into two products,' explains Dr Sebah. 'This redox reaction will dissolve the colourants inside the teeth (H2O2 → HO2- + H).

'Blancone whitening light and activator are decomposing the peroxide faster than other whitening systems, which results in a quicker result and no sensitivity post-treatment.'

How many sessions will you need?

Fortunately, you won't have to spend that long in the chair to get the desired results. 'Most patients just need one appointment of 75 minutes, including the cleaning session,' says Dr Sebah.

'For a result that lasts longer, the treatment can be combined with home whitening trays – used an hour and a half every day for a week. We recommend using baking soda toothpaste at home daily – Arm and Hammer Whitening Pro Protect, £3, Boots – as well as keeping the mouth alkaline before wearing the trays,' he adds.

'Waterpik Whitening Water Flosser (£89.99, Boots) removes an additional 25% of stains than brushing alone and also contains whitening tablets, and is more effective for superior cleaning as opposed to brushing alone or using string floss.'

How much does teeth whitening cost?

At The Dentist Gallery, the hygiene scale and Prophyjet are £59 while the hour-long chair whitening session will set you back £250, ringing in at a total of £309 for your bright and shiny new smile.

Should you wish to add on the custom-made whitening trays (eight days' worth), it's an extra £250.

Lucy Abbersteen
Beauty Contributor

Lucy is a freelance beauty editor and contributor at Marie Claire, and has written for titles including Glamour, Refinery29, Popsugar, woman&home and more. She was previously Marie Claire’s junior beauty editor. During her career, she’s covered everything from backstage beauty at fashion week to interviews with famous faces like Drag Race royalty and Little Mix. As for her beauty ethos, she’s a big advocate for not having to spend a fortune on beauty products to get good results, and when she’s not got beauty on the brain you’ll find her reading or hanging out with dogs.