Risks of Teeth Whitening: What You Need to Know Before Getting Started

Dr. Ash Sagar

Teeth whitening is a famous cosmetic dental treatment because it can enhance your smile by making your teeth several shades whiter.

But similar to other dental services, teeth whitening also comes with risks. Fortunately, these side effects are usually mild and can include tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. Before getting your teeth whitened, you must talk to your dentist about the potential risks and side effects.

Read on to find out more so you can make an informed decision.

This dental treatment is a safe and effective way to lighten the colour of your teeth. It involves using bleaching agents, such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, to remove stains and discolouration from your tooth’s surface.

This procedure can restore the natural colour of your tooth or even make it several shades lighter. Depending on the person, its effects can last up to 2 to 3 years, or as less as six months.

There are reasons why your teeth can become discoloured or stained over time. These include:

  • Drinking coffee, tea, red wine or sodas
  • Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products
  • Eating certain foods (such as blueberries)
  • Taking certain medications (such as tetracycline)
  • Not taking proper care of your teeth
  • Ageing

You have to note, though, that there are two main types of tooth whitening: in-office and at-home. A dentist does professional in-office teeth whitening in a dental clinic, which usually takes an hour or less and requires only one session.

On the other hand, at-home teeth whitening is a do-it-yourself method that uses a bleaching kit. It involves wearing a mouthguard-like tray filled with a bleaching gel for a certain period (typically 30 minutes to an hour) on a daily or nightly basis until you achieve the desired results, often up to 2 weeks. You can purchase this whitening product from a dentist or over the counter.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?


The bleaching agents used in tooth whitening work by breaking down into oxygen molecules. These oxygen molecules then penetrate your tooth enamel and break up the stains and discolouration, making them appear brighter and whiter.

Two types of bleaching agents can be utilised in this procedure, including:

  • Hydrogen peroxide. This is a more potent bleaching agent than carbamide peroxide, so it can provide faster results. However, it can also cause more tooth sensitivity.
  • Carbamide peroxide. It breaks down into hydrogen peroxide, so it’s not as strong as pure hydrogen peroxide. For this reason, it may take longer to see results. At the same time, it’s less likely to cause tooth sensitivity.

What Are the Risks of Tooth Whitening Treatment?


This procedure is generally considered safe. However, as with any dental treatment, you should be aware of potential risks and side effects before whitening your teeth. These include:

1. Tooth Sensitivity

This usually happens when the bleaching agents penetrate too deeply into your tooth enamel, causing the dentin to become exposed. Dentin is your tooth’s layer that’s softer and more porous than enamel. It helps support the tooth’s structure and protects its pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels.

When your dentin becomes exposed, it can make your teeth feel sensitive to hot and cold temperatures and sugary and acidic. This sensitivity is often temporary and should go away once the bleaching agents are removed from your teeth.

If you suffer from tooth sensitivity after the treatment, try using toothpaste for sensitive teeth or rinsing your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash. You can also consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to help relieve any discomfort. Talk to your dentist if your tooth sensitivity persists.

2. Gum Irritation

Gum irritation can happen when the bleaching agents come into contact with your gums. It can make your gums become red, swollen and sore. It usually resolves on its own after one to a few days, but you may try mouth rinsing with salt water or using a topical numbing gel to help relieve any discomfort.

If you have gum disease, you tend to be more prone to gum irritation after getting your teeth whitened. That’s because the bleaching agents can irritate and inflame your gums.

3. Over Whitening

This usually occurs in home-based treated teeth, as patients tend to overuse the whitening agents in an effort to achieve faster results. Over whitening your teeth can cause them to become translucent, making the yellowish colour of your dentin more visible. It can also make your teeth look blue or grey.

To avoid this occurrence, talk to your dentist about how often you should whiten your teeth and what concentration of bleaching agent is right for you. Your dentist can also help you determine how long you should leave the bleaching agent on your teeth.

4. Burns and Blisters

In rare cases, the bleaching agents used in teeth whitening can cause burns or blisters on your gums. This usually happens when the gel used is left on your teeth for too long or if it’s not applied correctly.

If you suffer from these burns or blisters on your gums after getting your teeth whitened, you may rinse your mouth with cold water and apply a topical numbing gel. If the pain persists, see your dentist.

5. Allergic Reactions

In some instances, you may also have an allergic reaction to the bleaching agents used in teeth whitening. This can cause symptoms like:

  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips and tongue

Visit your dentist or doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms after getting your teeth whitened.

6. Upset Stomach

In another rare case, teeth whitening can cause an upset stomach. This usually happens when you swallow the bleaching agents used in the procedure. If you have an upset stomach after whitening your tooth, try drinking plenty of fluids and eating bland.

7. Rough Teeth

Unfortunately, this treatment may make your teeth feel rough, as well. This usually occurs when the bleaching agents used in the procedure are left on the teeth for too long.

If your teeth feel rough after getting them whitened, try using toothpaste for sensitive teeth or rinsing your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash. You can also consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to help relieve any discomfort. Talk to your dentist if it persists.

Is Tooth Whitening Safe?

While there are several risks associated with teeth whitening, the procedure is generally safe when done by a professional. They are trained and certified and know how to apply the bleaching agents properly and how long to leave them on your teeth.

If you have gum problems and are considering getting your teeth whitened, discuss it with your dentist first to know if it’s safe for you.

Can I Get a Tooth Whitening Treatment if I Have Gum Disease?

There are various kinds of gum diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can be reversed with proper dental hygiene. However, periodontitis is a more severe form that can damage the gums and the bones that support the teeth.

If you have any gum conditions, you may want to avoid whitening your teeth. This is because the bleaching agents used in the procedure can irritate your gums and make the problem worse. Consider addressing your gum issue first before getting your tooth whitened, or inform your dentist so that they can plan what’s best for your condition.

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Who is a Good Candidate for Tooth Whitening?

People who have healthy gums and teeth are good candidates for this dental treatment. However, certain conditions may make you ineligible for the procedure. These include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children under the age of 16
  • People with gum disease
  • People with tooth decay
  • People with sensitive teeth
  • People who are allergic to the active ingredients of teeth whitening, such as peroxide

During your dental visit, your dentist will tell you if you have any of these conditions and give you professional advice on what to do next.

What Are the Advantages of Getting Your Teeth Professionally Whitened?

There are a number of benefits of getting your teeth professionally whitened, such as:

  • Long-lasting results. Professional teeth whitening may last for a few years, whereas over-the-counter products generally only last for a few months.
  • Less chance of side effects. When done by a professional, there is less chance that you will experience side effects from the procedure.
  • Improved self-esteem. Whiter teeth can boost your self-confidence and make you feel better about yourself.
  • Quick procedure. Professional teeth whitening is generally a quick procedure that can be done in one or two office visits.
  • Professional and customised procedure. When done by a dental professional, your tooth whitening procedure will be personalised to your specific needs. For instance, your dentist can consider the severity of your tooth discolouration and tailor the procedure accordingly.
  • Better oral health. When performed by a dentist, this procedure can actually improve your oral health. It’s because tooth whitening involves the removal of surface stains that can harbour bacteria.
  • Cost-effective in the long run. Although professional teeth whitening may be more expensive than over-the-counter products, it’s generally more cost-effective in the long run since it lasts longer. You don’t need to buy new products every few months to achieve your desired results.
  • Professional post-advise from a dental professional. After your procedure, your dentist can advise you on how to keep your teeth looking their best.

How Can You Maintain Your Teeth's Whiteness After a Whitening Treatment?

Below are some measures you can take to maintain your teeth white after a whitening treatment, including:

  • Brushing your teeth on a regular basis (at least twice a day)
  • Flossing daily
  • Using a whitening toothpaste
  • Eating crunchy fruits and vegetables
  • Sipping through a straw
  • Limiting consuming staining foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, and red wine
  • Avoiding acidic foods or beverages, such as orange, mandarin, lemons
  • Scheduling routine cleanings and check-ups with your dentist

Are There Alternatives to Teeth Whitening?

If you’re not a candidate for tooth whitening or you’re looking for an alternative, there are a few options available, such as:

Dental Veneers

These are thin pieces of porcelain installed over your tooth’s front surface. They can be used to improve the appearance of your teeth and make them look whiter by hiding any staining or discolouration.

Dental Bonding

This is a procedure wherein your dentist applies a tooth-coloured resin to the surface of your teeth and then hardens with a UV light. This can help improve your teeth’s appearance and make them look whiter.


Crowns are especially beneficial for both restorative and cosmetic purposes. They can be used to cover up discoloured teeth, protect a weakened tooth from further damage, or support a tooth that has been damaged. The treatment involves taking an impression of your teeth and sending it to a laboratory where the crowns will be made. These are then placed over the entire surface of your teeth, covering them completely.

Final Thoughts

In general, teeth whitening is a safe and effective way to improve the appearance of your tooth, giving you a brighter smile. While some risks are involved, these can be avoided if the treatment is performed by a dental professional. The most common teeth whitening side effect is tooth sensitivity. This often subsides within a few days to a week after treatment. Other potential side effects include gum irritation, redness, and soreness in the mouth. These side effects are also typically temporary and will resolve on their own.

If you’re considering getting this confidence-boosting procedure, consult with Narre Warren Dental Care to learn more about the risks and how to mitigate them. You can visit us at 3A / 420 Princes Hwy Narre Warren, 3805 VIC, or call at 08 771 4137 for an appointment. Our friendly staff will be happy to book you with one of our dentists.

At Narre Warren Dental Care, we have a team of four compassionate and experienced dentists providing a wide range of dental services. These services are categorised into five: cosmetic, general, orthodontics, children’s, and emergency. We can see you immediately if you’re experiencing severe pain and discomfort due to a broken tooth, toothache, excessive gum bleeding and swollen mouth or jaw.

Disclaimer – Use At Your Own Risk :- The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as advice for any individual case or situation. Any action you take upon the information on these blogs are strictly at your own risk. We will not be liable for any losses or damages in connection with the use of the information from these blogs.

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