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Whitening Products - Can They Have Side Effects?

Written and reviewed by
BDS, MDS - Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Advanced course in maxillofacial sugery
Dentist, Lucknow  •  47 years experience
Whitening Products - Can They Have Side Effects?

All of us love to flash a set of pearly whites with each smile. However, due to various reasons, we have teeth that are not-so-white. The bleaching agents come to the rescue as they can help whiten the teeth. In an overzealous manner, some people however, go overboard and over bleach their teeth. Bleaching agents should be used only with approval by a dentist and in a recommended manner, the frequency and the duration of application. Like anything else, they can also have harmful effects, which again can hurt the teeth, and if the whitening effect is lost, the person could be worse off than what they started with.

The following are common side effects seen with overuse of bleaching agents. Note that in most people, when used according to medical advice, these effects are very minimal.

  1. Tooth sensitivity: One of the most common side effects with teeth bleaching is the tingling feeling in the teeth. When done in office, it happens as the bleaching agent is reaching the tubules in the teeth. It could range from a one-off feeling to something that is constant and nagging. If being done in the office, you could indicate to the dentist so that subsequent sittings can be planned after the sensitivity settles down. The duration of each session may also have to be reduced.
  2. Gum irritation: The active bleaching agent is hydrogen peroxide which is caustic and can irritate the soft tissues. When done in office, the teeth are usually isolated using a rubber dam and so this problem is minimized. However, when trays are used at home, the gums do get exposed to the bleaching agent and so gum irritation is highly likely.
  3. Tooth pain and discomfort: This tooth pain usually sets in after a couple of hours after the bleaching is done. This happens again due to hydrogen peroxide penetrating the tooth, dehydration of the tooth, and using laser light for prolonged periods during the bleaching process. This usually subsides in a couple of days’ time and so need not be a cause for worry.
  4. Thermal sensitivity: A couple of days after the bleaching, the teeth may experience sensitivity to hot and cold foods, especially with beverages. This again is usually self-limiting and will disappear in a couple of days. Desensitizing toothpaste may be prescribed by the dentist in severe cases.

In all these cases, though bleaching is usually harmless, there are rare cases where side effects have been severe. Overenthusiasm to increase the whiteness is often the reason for these side effects. These can be avoided by opting for bleaching under strict supervision and following the dentist’s advise when being done at home. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Dentist.

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