The Possible Side Effects Teeth Whitening

Most people who use whiten their teeth experience few or no side effects and are satisfied with the results. However, some people may encounter one or more side effects associated with teeth whitening. Tooth sensitivity and soft tissue irritation are two common ones.

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

Side effects of teeth whitening may vary depending on whether you are doing an at-home treatment or get a professional one. They may also depend on the whitening agent, which can include:

  • Abrasives to remove stains (often in toothpaste)
  • Coloring agents
  • Bleaching peroxides
  • Surfactants to remove compounds from the tooth surface

This article discusses the types of teeth whitening products available and a few common side effects they can cause. It also explains why it's important to speak to a dental health professional before you use them.

Tooth Sensitivity

Whitening products tend to cause sensitivity to teeth during the whitening process and for a short period after the procedure. This is due to the exposure of the inner 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 gotten a professional treatment.

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 a creamy white shade.

Additionally, if you have caps, crowns, veneers, or fillings, the whitening solution won't work on them. This may mean color variations between your teeth.


Whitening agents may improve appearance by removing some stains on teeth but the same product may not be right for everyone. Results may vary, depending on the individual. You also may experience sore gums and other side effects.

Before you decide to whiten your teeth, it's best to consult with your dentist. They 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.

2 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. Epple M, Meyer F, Enax J. A Critical Review of Modern Concepts for Teeth Whitening. Dent J (Basel). 2019 Aug 1;7(3):79. doi:10.3390/dj7030079.

  2. 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.