Common Side Effects of Teeth Whitening

April 20, 2014 — by Stephen Lipman
Tags: Teeth Whitening Cosmetic Dentistry

Windsor Teeth Whitening Side EffectsThere’s no denying that a bright, clean smile is an attractive and commonly sought feature. And while good hygiene habits are integral to a smile, even the healthiest of teeth can become discolored over time. Thankfully, there are multiple cosmetic treatments available to enhance the color of a smile, with teeth whitening being the most common among them. Whitening is both safe and non-invasive, giving patients the opportunity to enhance their teeth without damaging or altering tooth tissue.

Still, every dental procedure has its potential side effects, and teeth whitening is no exception. Before coming into our Windsor office for treatment, patients should learn what to expect both during and after the procedure. To this end, take note of the side effects commonly associated with whitening, as well as what you can do to minimize them.    

Tooth Sensitivity after Whitening Treatment

Our office utilizes Zoom!® teeth whitening products, which contain a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide (the bleaching agent) than over-the-counter products. Furthermore, the whitening gel is “activated” with a special light, which helps the peroxide penetrate surface enamel. This process yields superior and potentially long-lasting results, but it can also create heightened sensitivity in teeth afterward.

Typically, patients experience sensitivity for 24 to 48 hours after the procedure. For some patients, this may manifest as a dull ache at certain times, such as when drinking cold beverages or eating hot food. Other patients may experience sharper pains that occur more frequently or randomly. The level of discomfort is often dependent on a patient’s preexisting tooth sensitivity and dental health, particularly in regard to how thick one’s enamel is in relation to the underlying dentin tissue. In most circumstances, this sensitivity is easily manageable with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Gum Irritation after Whitening Treatment

A less common but potential side effect of whitening treatment is irritation of the gums. The bleaching agent responsible for tooth sensitivity can also damage gum tissue, albeit superficially. If any whitening gel comes into contact with the gums for a prolonged period, it can result in minor chemical burns. This leaves the tissue discolored and irritated, but only temporarily. Gums can be expected to return to a normal color by the end of the day, and any discomfort should not last longer than a day or two. Although this side effect is certainly possible in a professional procedure, it is usually seen in over-the-counter whitening products, since the gel is more likely to be distributed unevenly from a poorly fitting tray.    

Mismatched Restorations

Patients with any conspicuously placed restorations should be aware that such materials are not affected by teeth whitening. Thus, tooth-colored restorations such as porcelain veneers will remain their current color while surrounding teeth become whiter. If you are worried about the color of your restorations in relation to your new smile, speak with your dentist to more accurately predict whether they will stand out or continue to blend in.

Minimizing Sensitivity and Irritation

If you are worried about your teeth or gums being sensitive after treatment, the following steps can help increase your comfort throughout the procedure and afterward:

  • Consider a take-home kit: Rather than administering your treatment in a single in-office session, we can customize a whitening tray for you so that you can use the whitening gel at home. This allows patients to complete the treatment over multiple whitening sessions, thus lowering the concentration of hydrogen peroxide on teeth at any given time.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush: Brush your teeth gently with a soft-bristled brush. Aside from reducing sensitivity, this is a good tip in general for positive dental hygiene.
  • Use milder toothpaste: Look for toothpaste that is specially made for sensitive teeth.
  • Avoid certain foods: Foods and drinks that are hot, cold, or acidic can exacerbate sensitivity. Try to be wary of what you eat right after treatment, and use a straw if you drink a cold beverage.
  • Use an experienced, skilled dentist: Dentists with extensive experience in cosmetic treatments are less likely to overexpose teeth or let whitening gel come in contact with gums. Let Dr. Lipman whiten your teeth, and benefit from his skilled hand and decades of cosmetic experience.   

Learn More about Teeth Whitening

Our cosmetic dentistry practice is just as committed to your smile as you are. Whether you desire teeth whitening or an alternative cosmetic procedure, we will help you find and undergo the best treatment plan to keep your teeth healthy and bright. To learn more about our various services or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Lipman, contact our office today