Feeling confident in your smile can make all the difference in your day. And, these days you have numerous options to create a smile you enjoy sharing. Teeth whitening methods are perhaps the most popular way to do this and can help you achieve that smile makeover in less time.

It’s true your teeth naturally darken some with age and often with specific diets and habits. Coffee, red wines, tobacco, and many other foods and drinks lead to staining. So do certain health conditions or certain medications.

woman framing her mouth with white teeth

Fortunately, teeth whitening methods are now easily accessible and can be used by almost anyone. The convenience of over-the-counter products to use at home and the quicker method of seeking out the help of a cosmetic dentist to do it for you make it a much more feasible option. Even so, you may be wondering if there are any negative side effects to teeth whitening.

How Teeth Whitening Methods Work

It’s essential to understand how whitening products and methods work. This way, you can identify if issues you are experiencing are directly related to the whitening or if something else is going on.

Overall, whitening products consist of a bleaching ingredient of either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Different concentrations of these bleaching agents are found in different methods, with higher levels in dentist-supervised treatments, either as a take-home or in-office service.

The bleaching agent diffuses through the tooth enamel and breaks down compounds creating the yellowing, staining, or discoloration located there.

Over-the-Counter whitening toothpaste or gel contains lower concentrations of these bleaching agents and depend on an abrasive ingredient, such as baking soda, to help whiten teeth. These take longer to create the whitening effect, and you’ll need to follow the directions that come with your product.

Two Common Side Effects of Teeth Whitening

While teeth whitening is safe, a few negative side effects can occur. Many factors may be involved, including the concentration of the bleaching agent, method of application, and how long the agent is used.

1. Teeth Sensitivity

During the teeth whitening process, the bleaching agent flows through the enamel into the dentin layer of your teeth. This process can leave portions of the tooth exposed, leading to what is known as dehydration of the tooth. Your saliva is full of organic matter, which will quickly correct this but, in the meantime, sensitivity can occur.

With bleaching agents reaching the underlying layers of your teeth, sensitivity often results in the 2-3 days that follow the treatment. You’ll feel this when consuming hot or cold beverages or food or wince when trying to enjoy sweet or salty foods. Cold wisps of air might also bring about that sensitivity feeling, often described as a quick wave of pain.

The tooth whitening agents are also known to irritate the nerve of the tooth. If this happens, tingling may occur in addition to the temperature sensitivity.

If your dental health involves previous cavities or other issues, the sensitivity may last longer than normal, but in most cases is not a cause for alarm.

On another note, if you already experience teeth sensitivity before even applying whitening agents, talk with your dentist first. You can learn about the best options for you and any preventive measures you can take before, during, and after the whitening treatment.

If choosing to go with the in-office whitening method provided by your dentist, you can ask for a desensitizing product be applied to reduce the aftermath sensitivity.

If the sensitivity doesn’t fade away within a few days or grows worse, call your dentist. Other dental issues may be involved.

2. Irritation of Soft Tissues of the Mouth

Depending on which whitening method you choose, concentrations of the bleaching agent can be high. While this is beneficial to the whitening of your teeth, it can cause issues in the soft tissues of your mouth. These, however, are usually temporary.

The bleaching agent commonly spills over onto your gums and the other soft tissues in the mouth. Essentially, these are chemicals and can result in irritations and sometimes pain in these areas. In most instances, these oral burn symptoms will lessen, and the areas will heal within a short amount of time, such as a few hours.

In addition, the bleaching agent may cause a mild irritation or burning sensation in your throat as small amounts escape there. You may also experience a burning or upset stomach if you swallow some of this bleaching agent.

Another common reason for gums and soft tissue irritation is poorly fitting whitening trays. These trays may cut into your gums, irritate the gums and tissue, and cause acute sensitivity in these areas. It should only take one to two days for this to dissipate, however.

If you use a tooth whitening system at home, avoid prolonged exposure. This can cause inflammation in areas and lead to more irritation as well.

Negative Effects of Long-Term Use of Whitening Products

Neither of these side effects is harmful in the short term. However, repetitive use of whitening gels will increase negative side effects. Using a whitening toothpaste that is too abrasive or repeatedly applying a whitening gel can damage the outer tooth enamel layer. Higher concentrations of bleaching agents can also affect already damaged tooth enamel.

While the use of enamel-strengthening toothpastes can help if minor damage occurs, more severe cases may require the application of veneers or other measures.

By being aware of what negative side effects can occur with teeth whitening, whether done at-home, in-office, or with over-the-counter methods, you’ll be prepared if and when they happen to you.

Learn More at Stiles Dental Care in Medford, NJ

Essentially, teeth whitening is safe and can be a terrific way to create a smile makeover and boost confidence at the same time. Before getting started, or if you need advice on the best methods for your particular teeth and dental health, contact Stiles Dental Care for guidance. We offer take-home or professional in-office whitening treatments, both with customized mouth trays for a better fit. Call our office today at (609) 451-2016 to learn more.