The Possible Side Effects of Whitening Your Teeth

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If you're thinking about whitening your teeth, rest assured that it's a very safe procedure. However, like any chemicals we use, a whiter smile doesn't come without a list of possible side effects associated with tooth whitening products.

Woman applying teeth whitening strips
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc. / Blend Images / Getty Images

Most people who use tooth whitening products experience few or no side effects and are satisfied with the results. However, some people may encounter one or more of the following side effects associated with teeth whitening:

Tooth Sensitivity

You may notice that your teeth are sensitive during the whitening process and for a short period after the procedure. This is due to the exposure of the dentin layer during the whitening process.

If you have tooth sensitivity before you decide to whiten, consult your dentist beforehand for advice on what teeth whitening options are suitable for your situation.

Your dentist can also give you a list of brands of whitening products that may help alleviate the increased level of sensitivity during the whitening process.

Soft Tissue Irritation

Also known as a chemical burn, soft tissue irritation may occur if the whitening solution is exposed to the gum tissue during the whitening process.

When soft tissue irritation occurs, your gums will generally appear white immediately after they come into contact with the whitening solution, especially if you've been exposed to the professional in-office teeth whitening solution.

The tissue does return to normal very shortly after exposure to the chemicals in the whitening product, but many patients are alarmed when they see their gums after exposure to a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.

Prolonged exposure to teeth whitening gels or solution on the gum tissue also may result in the inflammation and redness of the areas affected by the whitening solution.

In extreme cases of soft tissue irritation from whitening solution, bleeding and pain in the gum tissue may occur.

Undesirable Results

Depending on the initial shade of your teeth, the results achieved after whitening your teeth may not be what you were hoping for. If you have heavy staining or internal tooth discoloration, you may not notice a change in the shade of your teeth after whitening.

If you whiten your teeth too often, you may notice that your teeth begin to appear gray or translucent, as opposed to the creamy white shade everyone desires to see after whitening their teeth.

Additionally, if you have caps, crowns, veneers, or fillings, the whitening solution won't work on them.

A Word From Verywell

Before you decide to whiten your teeth, it's best to consult with your dentist who will assess your teeth to see if you're a good candidate for tooth whitening procedures and if they'll work on your particular discoloration.

From there, you can choose whether or not to go for professional in-office whitening, professional take-home whitening, or over-the-counter tooth whitening options.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Li Y, Greenwall L. Safety issues of tooth whitening using peroxide-based materials. Br Dent J. 2013;215(1):29-34. doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2013.629

  2. Markowitz K. Pretty painful: Why does tooth bleaching hurt? Medical Hypotheses. 2010; 74(5):835-840. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2009.11.044

  3. Alqahtani MQ. Tooth-bleaching procedures and their controversial effects: A literature review. The Saudi dental journal. 2014;26(2):33-46. doi:10.1016/j.sdentj.2014.02.002

By Shawn Watson
Shawn Watson is an orthodontic dental assistant and writer with over 10 years of experience working in the field of dentistry.