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Are There Side Effects From Whitening Your Teeth?

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Updated July 26, 2010

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Are There Side Effects From Whitening Your Teeth? Photo: Sharon Dominick / Getty Images
Question: Are There Side Effects From Whitening Your Teeth?

A whiter smile doesn't come without a list of possible side effects associated with tooth whitening products. Even though tooth whitening is considered to be a relatively safe procedure, this list of tooth whitening side effects should be considered before you make the decision to whiten your teeth.

Answer: Most people that use tooth whitening products experience little to no side effects and are satisfied with the results, but yes, there are many people that may encounter one or more of the following side effects associated with teeth whitening:

  • Tooth Sensitivity - Sensitive teeth may be noticed during the process of whitening and for a short period after the procedure. This is due to the exposure of the dentin layer during the whitening process. People with tooth sensitivity prior to whitening should consult their dentist before whitening their teeth for advice on what teeth whitening options are suitable for their situation, or a list of brands of whitening products that may help alleviate the increased level of sensitivity during the whitening process.

  • Soft Tissue Irritation - Also known as a chemical burn, soft tissue irritation may occur if the whitening solution is exposed to the gum tissue during the whitening process.

    When soft tissue irritation occurs, the tissue generally appears white immediately after it has come into contact with whitening solution, especially when exposed to professional in-office teeth whitening solution. The tissue does return to normal very shortly after exposure to the chemicals in the whitening product, but many patients are alarmed when they see their gums after an exposure to a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. A prolonged exposure to teeth whitening gels or solution on the gum tissue also may result in the inflammation and redness of the areas affected by the whitening solution. And in extreme cases of soft tissue irritation from whitening solution, bleeding and pain in the gum tissue may occur.

  • Undesirable Results - Depending on the initial shade of the tooth, the results achieved after whitening your teeth may not be favorable. There are cases where people with heavy staining or internal tooth discoloration do not notice a change in the shade of their teeth after whitening their teeth. People who whiten their teeth too often may notice their teeth begin to appear gray or translucent, opposed to the creamy white shade everyone desires to see after whitening their teeth.

Before you decide to whiten your teeth, it is best to consult with your dentist. Your dentist will assess your teeth to see if you are an ideal candidate for tooth whitening procedures, and from there, you can choose whether or not you opt for professional in-office whitening, professional take-home whitening, or over-the-counter tooth whitening options.

Sources:

The American Dental Association. Oral Health Topics - Tooth Whitening Treatments. http://ada.org/2993.aspx?currentTab=1. Accessed June 20, 2010.

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