Tooth whitening: What is it and what are the side effects?

Tooth whitening is a treatment that is in increasing demand. The aesthetics of our smile is, therefore, a very common concern in today’s society.

This could very well be your case: you are not entirely satisfied with the appearance of your teeth and you are thinking of having a whitening treatment, but you have a series of doubts when it comes to deciding.

Patients who come to the clinic are concerned above all about the effectiveness of the treatment and also about the possible side effects it may have on the health of their teeth and gums.

In this article we will tell you if there are any risks when starting teeth whitening and what you can do to minimise them.

How is teeth whitening performed?

Tooth whitening is a procedure aimed at lightening the white enamel of our teeth by one or more tones, which, over time, gradually loses its original colour.

Specialists recommend two different methods:

Outpatient tooth whitening consists of making customised splints for the patient’s mouth on which, with the help of a syringe, the whitening agent is applied. For the treatment to be effective, the patient must wear them in the mouth for approximately 4 or 5 hours a day.

Tooth whitening in the clinic by photoactivation. After adequately protecting the gums, the whitening gel is applied, the results of which are intensified thanks to the technology activated by an LED light, which includes a variable intensity adjustment to provide maximum comfort for the patient.

Combined teeth whitening combines the application of the splints in the mouth with a cold light – or laser – session in the clinic. Its use enhances the action of the whitening agent, achieving better results that will also last longer.

The whitening agent penetrates through the pores of the enamel, reducing the colour of the tooth surface by several shades, thus improving the aesthetics of your smile.

Although it is minimally invasive, there are sometimes side effects that may be uncomfortable for the patient.

What side effects can teeth whitening have?

Specialists stress that tooth whitening is a painless and simple treatment. However, some side effects may occur, which are detailed below.

> Irritation of the gums

The gum (gingiva) is the fibrous connective tissue that surrounds the neck of the teeth and covers the alveolar bone. It supports and holds the teeth in place.

During treatment, the gums may be exposed to the action of the bleaching agent and therefore suffer some irritation, which will subside when the product is removed.

However, if this sensation of inflammation is very pronounced, it would be ideal to interrupt the treatment and consult your case with the specialist.

> Allergic reactions

Very rarely, the patient reports an allergic reaction to the components of the bleaching agents.

In this case, the procedure should be stopped immediately.

> Other side effects:

Tooth whitening can also cause sensitivity of the teeth to cold or heat, sore throat and white spots on the teeth. However, these effects should disappear after a few days, if not, contact your dentist.

When should teeth not be whitened?

In some cases your dentist may advise you not to have your teeth whitened. For example, if you have cavities, they should be treated before starting a whitening treatment; also if you have any gum problems, they should be treated beforehand. If your teeth are extremely sensitive to hot or cold foods and drinks, whitening is not recommended.

Effectiveness and guaranteed results

The result of tooth whitening depends on many factors, including the degree of enamel staining as well as consumption and oral hygiene habits.

For this reason, tooth whitening is not an effective procedure in all cases when it comes to improving the aesthetics of the mouth:

In the case of patients with tetracycline staining, tooth whitening is ineffective in removing enamel stains. Instead, the dentist would opt for the aesthetic treatment of dental veneers.
Smoking has a very negative impact on the colour of your tooth enamel. For this reason, people who are frequent smokers will see the results of the treatment fade much more quickly.

It should also be noted that once you have undergone this type of procedure, you should have your teeth whitened regularly.

Specialists recommend this once a year if the tooth surfaces are stained, and more sporadically – as recommended by the specialist supervising your case – if there are no stains.