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Side Effects and Risks of Teeth Whitening

By Eugene D. Stanislaus on June 10, 2014


A couple with beautiful, bright smilesTeeth whitening is the most popular cosmetic dentistry procedure in America, and with the growing number of products and procedures available, it seems as if the trend will continue. Given the relative safety and ease of whitening, it’s understandable why so many people are eager to achieve a brighter smile. Still, whitening procedures are not without some side effects, and when performed too frequently, patients may even be putting their teeth at risk. Whether you are just considering teeth whitening or are looking for a follow-up procedure, it’s important to learn the potential risks of any cosmetic treatment. Take note of what you can expect from Zoom!® teeth whitening, as offered at our Brooklyn dental office.

The Side Effects of Teeth Whitening

Most whitening products utilize hydrogen peroxide (HP) as the primary bleaching agent, and this is also true of Zoom!® whitening gel. When HP is absorbed by tooth enamel, it helps remove stains embedded in the tissue while lightening the overall shade of enamel. When used occasionally and at appropriate concentrations, this does very little damage to the enamel and leaves patients with no longer-term side effects.

However, the bleaching process does tend to leave teeth with heightened sensitivity for the following 24 to 48 hours. This effect varies based on the HP concentration and previous sensitivity of a patient’s teeth. For some patients, this may only be an occasional ache, such as when eating or exposed to hot or cold temperatures. Other patients, such as those who already had thin enamel layers, may experience more acute pains throughout their teeth during this time. In all cases, though, this sensitivity is only temporarily and will gradually subside after treatment.   

Another possible side effect of whitening is irritation of the gums. If gum tissue is directly exposed to whitening gel, it may result in a mild and temporary chemical burn that presents as discoloration and discomfort. This effect is less common due to the precautions taken by dentists, and does not typically last longer than the first day or two after treatment. 

Reducing Tooth Sensitivity

Patients seeking whitening treatment are sometimes concerned with the prospect of heightened sensitivity, especially if their teeth are already sensitive. Zoom!®already partially addresses this concern through the inclusion of amorphous calcium phosphate, which strengthens enamel and reduces discomfort from treatment. Depending on availability, patients may also have the option of a take-home kit, which allows them to administer their own whitening treatment in the comfort of their homes. This treatment breaks down what would otherwise be a single procedure into multiple sessions, thus using a lower concentration of HP at any given time.

After treatment, patients are advised to avoid foods that are particularly hot or cold, as this will lessen any discomfort. Likewise, beverages should be sipped with a straw, reducing their contact with newly whitened teeth. Patients may also want to consider purchasing toothpaste that is made for sensitive teeth, some of which are also formulated for pain relief. 

The Risk of Over-whitening

Some patients are so pleased with their whitening results that they decide to undergo additional whitening sessions in the near future. Although a touch-up procedure can be useful, patients should be wary of having too much whitening in too short a time-span. If teeth are constantly exposed to high concentrations of HP, the enamel may deteriorate at an advanced rate, exposing the underlying dentin tissue. Patients who bleach their teeth excessively thus risk the comfort and health of their teeth, and may actually end up discoloring them due to the yellow shade of dentin. If you have recently had whitening treatment, whether professional or over-the-counter, speak with your dentist before deciding on a subsequent whitening procedure.  

Keep Your Smile Bright and Health

We are eager to help you achieve your ideal smile, but we also want you to stay informed about any potential treatment. Contact our office to learn more about teeth whitening or any of our various cosmetic dentistry services.

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