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Teeth Whitening Risks: What to Think About

Professional teeth whitening is a safe and effective cosmetic dentistry procedure. But a careful consumer will want to ensure the procedure is the right option for them.   

First Step: Talk to Your Dentist

The Academy of General Dentistry recommends talking to your dentist before any tooth whitening for one important reason: If your teeth are damaged, the bleaching product may seep into a tooth, hitting a nerve. This can cause severe pain and internal damage. In extreme cases, the damage could lead to a root canal infection.

Our practice in Astoria concurs. If you plan on undergoing teeth whitening it is imperative you visit your dentist first, even if you plan on using an over-the-counter product. Any whitening method can cause problems if placed on an open cavity. However, having a cavity will not disqualify you from teeth whitening. It simply means the cavity must be repaired before whitening.

What Are Other Risks?

Two common, temporary side effects of whitening are tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. These effects normally go away a few days after completing treatment.

Gum sensitivity may happen if the whitening gel comes in contact with the gums, which can occur with an ill-fitting mouth tray. A custom tray tailored for your mouth by a qualified cosmetic dentist makes that scenario less likely. A properly designed tray holds the gel against the teeth, keeping it away from gums. 

If tooth or gum sensitivity is an issue, a cosmetic dentist can also modify the strength of the whitening agent or the length of treatment to reduce these side effects.

Even with these measures, some people with normally sensitive teeth and gums are more likely to have irritation during and after bleaching. If this describes you, our cosmetic dentist can help you decide if bleaching is the path for you or explore other options that are more appropriate.

Mixed Results

A variety of factors can affect results, including, the degree and type of discoloration. While most people are happy with their results, the outcome of teeth whitening is not 100 percent predictable.

Yellow-colored teeth usually respond well to whitening. Brownish-colored teeth usually have a less dramatic effect. Gray stains are the most difficult and will not change dramatically. Gray stains are caused by smoking, taking tetracycline, or too much fluoride.

Restored Teeth

Another consideration with tooth whitening is the amount of restoration work in your mouth. Crowns or tooth-colored fillings will not whiten along with your real teeth during the bleaching process. When that happens, the restored teeth will no longer match the now-whitened teeth. This is a larger problem when a front tooth has a restoration. A cosmetic dentist can help determine the best option in this scenario.  

Other Things to Consider

  • Teeth whitening is not permanent. Over time the whitening will fade as your teeth are exposed to daily activities: Smoking, drinking tea or coffee, or taking certain medications. Lifestyle choices affect how long teeth remain white.
  • Allergies. Anyone allergic to the chemical used in teeth whitening should not whiten their teeth.
  • Misuse or overuse. Teeth whitening for too long or too often can lead to problems. Follow instructions and limit teeth whitening to twice a year, or less.

Next Steps

Are you a good candidate for teeth whitening? Contact us to find out. If you are, we can offer guidance that is unavailable with over-the-counter options. Even if you opt for an over-the-counter treatment, we can determine if your teeth are healthy enough for the process.

If issues exist that make teeth whitening a risk for you, we can discuss other options that are more appropriate for you.

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