Tooth Whitening: Success & Safety

With the summer upon us, many people want to brighten their smile with whiter teeth.  There are also frequently graduations, weddings and celebrations to attend, so a beautiful smile is desired.

There are many ways to have a whiter smile, but some people worry is it safe?

My staff and I have helped many of our patients safely and effectively whiten their teeth.  We understand the value of healthy, bright smiles and we provide a wide variety of services to create the smile our patients want and deserve.  Teeth whitening techniques have been studied extensively through the years for safety and efficacy.  The active whitening ingredient in most of the dental office and home whitening systems is carbamide peroxide, which is safe to use.  Whitening systems used in dental offices are generally stronger whitening solutions than is used in over the counter (OTC) products that you find in your drugstore, which makes them work faster and create longer lasting results.

Whitening may be done in various ways:

  1. In the dental office by isolating the gums with a protective barrier and placing the whitening product.
  2. In the dental office using custom whitening trays with a stronger concentration of whitening material.
  3. At home with varying strengths of whitening product dispensed from your dental office.
  4. At home using one of the many various OTC whitening products in the drug store. These may be as a strip, tray or toothpaste.

The results of whitening will depend on your teeth and what caused the staining in the first place.  Environmental staining, most often caused by the color of the food and drinks you consume are the easiest to change.  Teeth with a yellow-brown color whiten better than teeth with a grey color which is sometimes caused by developmental damage to the tooth itself.

Your Gums

If bleach gets on your gums, an irritation may develop.  The higher the concentration of whitening product, the greater the potential for irritation.  If you feel the gums burning, remove the whitener.  This irritation is typically white and burns some.  You can place Vitamin E oil on it to help soothe and heal the area.  Any issue with the gums typically heals in a day or two.

Your Teeth

Another common side effect is tooth sensitivity.  Some people already suffer with tooth sensitivity and find relief in sensitivity toothpaste.  Even with sensitivity paste, there is the potential for continued sensitivity if your teeth already react to extreme temperatures.  This is not usually a prolonged side effect.  Teeth with decay, broken fillings and fractures can experience more significant discomfort.  We recommend that patients have a thorough dental exam and evaluation with your dentist prior to starting any whitening procedure.

Your Existing Dental Restorations

The whitening process will not change the color of your veneers, crowns or bridges.  It may lighten the color of your resin (white) fillings.  This does not happen in all cases, so you need to consider if you will want your white fillings replaced after your whitening process, especially if the fillings are on your front teeth.  This is not a concern for all people, but you can discuss this with your dentist prior to whitening your teeth.

Is tooth whitening safe?

The quick answer is Yes!  It is safe! You may take ibuprophen before or after your professional whitening appointment to counteract any subsequent irritation.  If you have any sensitivity during your session, let your dental professional know.  With home whitening systems, remove your product and rinse your mouth with water if you experience sensitivity.

Wishing you all happy, beautiful smiles!