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Fashion and Beauty, Beauty

Whiter Teeth, Brighter Smile?

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“Kits sold over the counter (or online) … won’t harm your teeth, but equally, won’t do much to lighten them”
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National Smile Month starts on 13 May and it’s ironic, but usually a trip to the dentist isn’t too much to smile about. I guess it depends on the dentist, though. I went down to London’s Wimpole Street to meet Dr Tom Crawford Clarke of Luceo Dental to find out more about teeth whitening.

I soon found myself in an elegant yet cosy first floor surgery – which felt more like entering the pages of an interiors magazine than a sterile clinic – to be greeted by Tom, who had all the enthusiasm and good looks of an influencer.

Tom is clearly utterly dedicated to all things dental. I was there to talk about teeth whitening, and he was happy to fill me in on everything I needed to know. I’ve always considered myself fairly lucky with my teeth, thanks to a great NHS dentist when I was younger and a mother who insisted on regular check-ups. This has left me with relatively even teeth and despite the copious amounts of coffee I inhale, the discolouration has been slight enough to never really bother me. That said, teeth are key to our how we form our initial first impressions: whiter teeth make the whole face look brighter, more groomed and more attractive and I’d be lying if I said that doesn’t appeal.

Up until I met Tom, I was wary of two things: damaging my enamel and/or ending up with Ross-from-Friends blinding, blue-white teeth. Happily, he was able to put my mind at ease on both fronts.

First, a long conversation about the process. There are many different ways in which teeth can be made to look whiter. The quick-fix solutions can work by dehydrating the tooth which will instantly make it appear whiter, but the effect will always be temporary. Once the tooth has rehydrated through the natural process of saliva production (and normal eating and drinking), the original colour will be restored. Further, some whitening toothpastes will be too abrasive for everyday use. For a more permanent solution, Tom uses hydrogen peroxide-based formulae and explained that the percentage of active ingredient is very carefully monitored in accordance with EU law. Kits sold over the counter (or online) can legally only contain 0.1% which won’t harm your teeth, but equally, won’t do much to lighten them. To get effective results, you need a higher dose which is only legally possible to obtain in a procedure overseen by a UK dentist who can prescribe up to 6% – unlike their American counterparts who can go up to 35%. Such high concentration could potentially damage the enamel but at the levels approved in the UK, research has shown that damage is almost impossible.

What Tom offers at Luceo is sufficient to lead to permanent lightening but at a safe, managed level. And, whilst Tom warned me that my teeth can become discoloured once again after whitening, they will nonetheless always maintain a somewhat lighter appearance from having gone through the process. The words ‘avoid’, ‘red wine’ and ‘coffee’ may have been uttered but as a warning, not a rule.

Suitably reassured, that just left the intensity. Tom carefully analysed my teeth and assessed which of his samples I was a match for. He then showed me various options which he held in place to allow me to get a good idea of the shade I would be able to achieve. Tom identified that a porcelain crown on my bottom jaw was lighter than my natural teeth and so took that as his guide and after discussing my preferences, we settled on aiming for somewhere between three and four shades lighter. Taking into account that teeth can be lightened up to eight shades, this seemed like the ideal solution. I would advise anyone undertaking the procedure to be clear on your desired outcome and also listen to what your dentist is telling you.

After checking for my mouth for cavities or any other issues which might prevent effective whitening, images of my teeth were taken with a 3D scanner from which moulds, or trays, would be made. These were to hold the gel and needed to be worn for an hour or so a day. Results were promised within a couple of weeks.

A second visit was arranged once these had been created so that Tom could ensure the fit was good and that was it; I was sent home with my trays and syringes of gel, thoroughly briefed in how to use them. So, if you see me around and you’re wondering why I look more refreshed than usual, it’s not just my cheery smile, it will be my whiter, brighter teeth.

Tooth whitening at Luceo costs from £400. Video consultations are available, for more information or to make an appointment, visit luceodental.com

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