Can You Get Your Teeth Whitened for Free in the UK?
The NHS is a wonderful system and we hope it gets the funding it deserves to continue serving the nation and providing free healthcare services for everyone in the UK, but, surprisingly, dental treatment is not always covered on the NHS. The health service does reduce the cost of some procedures, although others remain very expensive, which unfortunately leads people to neglect their dental hygiene.
So who gets free dental treatment in the UK and can you get your teeth whitened on the NHS? Read on to find out.
Can You Get Your Teeth Whitened for Free in the UK?
Dental care on the NHS is only free to certain groups of people, including:
- Under 18s
- Under 19s in full-time education
- People with income support (including job seekers allowance and employment and support allowance)
- People whose annual family income is less than £15,276
- Pregnant women or those who have given birth within 12 months (including stillbirths)
- Those on a low income with an HC2 certificate (and some HC3 certificates)
- People who have a disability requiring dental treatment and are receiving payments on the War Pension Scheme or Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
People who fit into any of these categories may receive free dental treatment with NHS dentists but are encouraged to check the cost before any dental procedures, as not all treatments are considered necessary, including cosmetic dental work. Teeth whitening is considered a cosmetic procedure so the NHS website states that it is not generally available on the NHS – but this language implies that in certain cases it is.
As with other cosmetic procedures, if you receive a doctor’s approval that you are suffering from severe mental health disorders as a result of not having this treatment, it may be available to you on the NHS. However, even in this case, teeth whitening would only be free if you fall into one of the above categories. Check with your GP and your dentist if you think you may be entitled to cosmetic dental treatment on the NHS.
Teeth Whitening: How Does it Work?
Although teeth whitening does have benefits for our mental and dental health, it is a cosmetic procedure and is not a permanent fix for yellow teeth. However, the process itself is delightfully simple; book your initial assessment with your dentist to see if teeth whitening is the appropriate choice of care for your teeth and, after your dentist’s approval, your teeth will be covered with a special gel containing hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide before being exposed to UV light. The teeth whitening process takes less than one hour, so you can easily have your teeth shining bright on your lunch break!
You can also pick up an at-home teeth whitening kit from your private dentist so you can whiten your yellow teeth when it suits you. The teeth whitening kit will include a personalised mould of your teeth and a gel, so you can fill the mould, also known as a tray, with the gel and place it over your teeth for a certain time each day for around two weeks.
Since it doesn’t use UV light to speed up the process, at-home teeth whitening takes longer to show results than teeth whitening you can have done at the dentist, but it is more convenient for some people.
Only registered dentists are legally permitted to perform teeth whitening procedures in the UK, so if you would like your teeth whitened, check the dental register to see where you can have it done professionally.
Who Can Have Their Teeth Whitened?
Most people can have their teeth whitened, however, dentists do conduct an initial dental check to ensure the process won’t be harmful to your teeth. People with very sensitive teeth, a lack of protective enamel and sensitive gums may not be suited to having teeth whitening treatments as it may cause pain or irritation in the mouth.
There are different ways of whitening teeth though, so if your dentist decides that professional teeth whitening is not the best option for you, they will recommend an alternative, such as veneers.
How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost?
Dental treatment in the UK can be very expensive – even the NHS charges up to £306.80 for certain dental treatments, and some private dentists can be extortionate. Check the price before you have any treatment so you’re not left with a nasty bill.
At Didsbury Dental Practice, we aim to make dental procedures, including cosmetic dental treatment, affordable for everyone so no one has to feel ashamed of their smile. Our teeth whitening treatments start at £150, well below the average national price of £500, so people can still afford to look after their teeth even with the ever-increasing cost of living.
Professional teeth whitening treatments are the most popular ways to brighten smiles due to their reasonable price and positive results, so there’s no need to go for expensive laser teeth whitening that is among the most expensive dental treatments, at around £1000.
How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?
How long your teeth remain white after your teeth whitening treatment depends largely on how well you look after your teeth afterwards. Looking after your teeth well will leave your teeth white for around 1 year, while poor oral hygiene and a poor diet will see you need your teeth whitened again within just a few months.
Dentists recommend using soft toothbrushes to remove bacteria and food residue from your teeth without removing the protective enamel on your teeth, as well as regularly brushing, flossing and using mouthwash to ensure the removal of all harmful bacteria from your mouth in the morning and before going to bed. You should also brush your teeth first thing in the morning rather than after breakfast, as cleaning away the bacteria first will help protect your tooth enamel from harm, as opposed to eating sugary or acidic food and feeding the bacteria in your mouth. If your teeth are yellow despite brushing, this may be the cause.
Your dentist will advise you on what you can eat and drink immediately after treatment, however, the most common advice is to avoid foods that are high in sugar, acid, chromogens and tannins, as these will re-stain your teeth quickly. Only consume pale or colourless food and drinks in the first 72 hours after treatment. You should also avoid smoking to keep your teeth white.
Tips for Keeping Your Teeth White for Longer
The first three days after having your teeth whitened are the most important in terms of avoiding harmful foods and those containing substances that will stain your teeth such as coffee, tea, red wine, curry and tomato-based sauces. However, for whiter teeth without having professional teeth-whitening treatments, or to maintain your new white teeth for longer, you should permanently cut down on:
- Fizzy drinks
- Food and drink with high sugar content
- Acidic food and drink
- Food and drink with tannins
The easiest way to know if something is going to cause your teeth to become yellow is to think: if it’ll stain your shirt, then it’ll stain your teeth.
Foods that are safe to eat after teeth whitening and should be consumed regularly for healthy white teeth include:
- White rice
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but generally speaking, if the food lacks colour, it won’t easily stain your teeth.
Affordable Teeth Whitening in Manchester – Didsbury Dental Practice
At Didsbury Dental Practice, we pride ourselves on providing affordable dental work, including cosmetic dental work that you can’t get on the NHS, so you can leave our practice with a bright smile and your confidence returned.
Book your teeth whitening appointment today, or come in and collect your at-home teeth whitening kit.