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What Are the Side Effects of Teeth Whitening?

December 7, 2016 by karafin

210137485Just about everyone wants to have an attractive smile, but years of surface stains can leave teeth darkened or yellowed. If you already have a healthy smile, why not show it off with bright and clean looking teeth? At our Rancho Santa Margarita dental center, we offer professional whitening treatment through Venus® products, allowing patients to effectively brighten their smiles by multiple shades.

Teeth whitening offers visible and immediate benefits with little risk, making it the most popular cosmetic treatment in dentistry. Still, as with any procedure, we want our patients to know what they can expect after treatment. Before heading into your whitening appointment, be prepared for the few side effects that may be experienced in the following hours or days. 

Tooth Sensitivity: A Common Side Effect

For many patients, the only concern following professional whitening treatment is sensitivity. This is because the whitening gel’s active ingredient, hydrogen peroxide, works its way into the enamel to reduce or remove stains near the surface. As a result, it may also interact with the top of the dentin layer, which is a softer and more sensitive tissue layer within teeth. Patients who already have eroded enamel or exposed dentin are likely to experience more poignant or prolonged sensitivity.

Depending on the patient, this sensitivity can vary from a mild, dull ache to sporadic pain that shoots through the centers of teeth. Regardless, any instance of increased sensitivity should last no longer than a few days after treatment. Additionally, there are a few steps you can take to reduce any discomfort:

  • Speak with your dentist: If you already have sensitive teeth, let your dentist know ahead of time. A lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide can be used in the whitening gel, a desensitizing gel can be used ahead of time, or treatment may be tailored to better suit your needs.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures: Sensitive teeth tend to hurt when exposed to very hot or cold temperatures, such as when eating or drinking. If you want a cold beverage, use a straw to avoid contact with teeth (this will also prevent new stains right after treatment).
  • Consider a sensitive brand of toothpaste: Some toothpaste brands specialize in sensitive teeth, using ingredients that are less likely to harm weakened enamel or exposed dentin tissue. Consider switching to a sensitive-formula toothpaste around the time of treatment.

The Possibility of Gum Irritation

Because whitening gel is meant to interact with tooth enamel, it can cause temporary burns when coming in contact with softer tissues, such as the gums. These burns result in no permanent damage, leaving only irritation and discoloration that should gradually dissipate in the coming days.

Of course, we will take every precaution to ensure that the gel remains on teeth. By holding the cheeks away from teeth and isolating the treatment area from the gums, a dentist can ensure that little if any gel touches nearby gum tissue. When compared with the inaccurate, clunky devices of over-the-counter whitening products, professional whitening is a great way to limit the chances of gum irritation.

Whitening Addicts Beware

Since teeth whitening offers such a simple yet effective way to improve one’s smile, some patients wish to undergo multiple sessions. In other cases, patients may try at-home bleaching products before or after professional treatment. However, due to the strength of professional whitening gel, this is rarely a good idea. Single whitening sessions are relatively risk free, but multiple treatments in succession can “over-bleach” teeth, permanently weakening the enamel. Consequently, patients who over-bleach may experience long-term sensitivity or may even expose their dentin tissue, resulting in internal discoloration.

Before using multiple teeth whitening products or treatments, speak with your dentist about the risk of over-bleaching.

Get a Brighter Smile

A cleaner, brighter smile may be just one dental visit away. To learn more about our cosmetic dentistry options and whether you might benefit from teeth whitening, contact our office to set up an appointment.


Family dentist Scott Karafin in Rancho Santa Margarita can help you and your entire family to enjoy outstanding oral health. He offers comprehensive general, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry services in a relaxing, friendly environment.

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