Are Teeth Whitening Side Effects Worth that Bright White Smile?
For most people that whiten their teeth on occasion (once per year), teeth whitening side effects are usually minimal and involve tooth sensitivity and irritation to the gums. Teeth whitening side effects may include, tooth sensitivity, sensitivity or pain to temperatures when eating or drinking, gum pain or soreness, bluish (translucent) enamel, uneven whiteness, “zingers” (a term that dentists use to describe a sharp pain in a tooth), vomiting, nausea, irritated skin, and headaches from swallowing peroxide. More importantly, teeth whitening can cover up the symptoms of potentially dangerous health conditions and over use of whitening products can damage tooth enamel.
Teeth Whitening Side Effects: Tooth and Gum Pain
The most common teeth whitening side effects are tooth sensitivity or pain either during or after the teeth whitening process. Any sensitivity or pain should fade away within 24-36 hours, but in some cases may continue up to a month. Sensitivity happens because of chemical reactions in the enamel of the tooth or the peroxide entering into the nerve chamber of the tooth (pulp). Some people only feel mild sensitivity while others feel severe pain. Your dentist may recommend a toothpaste containing potassium nitrate for some teeth whitening side effects to help alleviate any discomfort. Unfortunately, this remedy only works for some, partially for others, and not at all for most.
During and/or soon after bleaching, you may experience what feels like a sharp, immediate, intense pain, right down the length of an individual tooth. This type of teeth whitening side effects is referred to as a “zinger” by dentists and tends to be spontaneous, with no clear cause. Although no one knows for sure what causes this pain, there is one hypothesis that is becoming widely accepted. Teeth often are formed with or get little pathways through the tooth structure that let molecular hydrogen peroxide to enter the pulp during and after whitening. The hydrogen peroxide enters the pulp and forms an intrapulpal oxygen bubble. This is similar to the bubbles that are produced when hydrogen peroxide is put on a cut. Tooth pulp is within a rigid compartment that is incapable of expanding. When hydrogen peroxide enters the pulp and forms bubbles it causes an instantaneous expansion within the pulp chamber and creates a highly significant rise in intrapulpal pressure. This significant and instantaneous rise in pressure results in immediate acute pain. The pressure disperses and levels out quickly and the pain disappears. To alleviate teeth whitening side effects of this sort, research is looking at ways to plug the pathways in the teeth so that the peroxide does not reach the pulp.
Teeth Whitening Side Effects: Gum Irritation and Burns
Sometimes, the pain and sensitivity might not be from the teeth but the gums. Pain in the gums after whitening is usually caused by the peroxide ingredient used in the bleaching process. Peroxide is very harsh and you should avoid it touching the gums or you may experience this type of teeth whitening side effects. It should also be shielded from other sensitive mouth tissues such as the inside cheek. Normally, a burning sensation is felt when the peroxide touches a sensitive part of the mouth. Trays from home bleaching systems are often too large for people’s mouths, which causes the peroxide to touch the gums and other tissues that can cause pain. Also, overuse of teeth bleaching products can actually burn the gums. If you experience any severe pain or gum soreness after teeth bleaching, contact your dentist.
Teeth Whitening Side Effects from Swallowing Peroxide
It is inevitable that during teeth whitening you will swallow some of the peroxide. Swallowing hydrogen peroxide may cause teeth whitening side effects that include nausea, vomiting, irritated skin, or headaches. Both gingival sulcus fluid and saliva have high levels of peroxidase that disintegrate peroxide. Salivary peroxidase is capable of breaking down 29mg of peroxide (4.5 times more than found in two bleaching trays) per minute. Depending on how much peroxide you swallow you may experience some nausea and even vomiting, but there is no health concern about swallowing peroxide gels for most people. However, if you are allergic or highly sensitive to peroxide, you should not use teeth whitening products. Additionally, if you overuse bleaching products and continually swallow the peroxide, it may cause teeth whitening side effects such as stomach problems
Teeth Whitening Side Effects: Long-term Safety of Bleaching Procedures
Teeth whitening side effects have continued concerns about the long-term safety of unsupervised whitening procedures, because of misuse and potentially undiagnosed or underlying dental problems. You may cover up or mask decay or gum disease. For example, if you have a crack or a leaky filling in a tooth, the bleach can enter into the pulp which can lead to severe pain and require treatment. It is vital that cavities and gum disease are treated before starting professional or home teeth whitening. Although published studies suggest that whitening is a fairly safe procedure, researchers continue to report harmful effects on hard tissue, soft tissue, and restorative materials. The American Dental Association (ADA) advises patients to consult with their dentists to determine whether they are a candidate for teeth whitening and/or on the most appropriate whitening treatment. This is especially important for those with tooth sensitivity, dental restorations, extremely dark stains, and single dark teeth. Additionally, a patient’s tooth discoloration may be caused by a specific problem that either will not be affected by whitening agents and/or may be a sign of a disease or condition that requires dental treatment.
Teeth Whitening Side Effects: Enamel Damage
Studies have shown that minute amounts of enamel are damaged during teeth whitening. When you are in the process of bleaching your teeth, the enamel which is porous, will absorb the bleaching agent. Although these are less common teeth whitening side effects, prolonged exposure to bleaching agents can damage teeth by thinning your enamel. Individuals that compulsively use abrasive whitening products have caused their teeth to lose enamel resulting in bluish or translucent teeth and damaging their gums. You could become a “bleachorexic.” In other words, bleaching your teeth too much could lead to obsessive behavior. Although, as teeth whitening side effects go, this is an extreme example. Like anorexia nervosa or compulsive cosmetic surgeries, this form of behavior in some instances can be classified as a type of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a condition in which the affected person is excessively concerned about and preoccupied by a perceived defect in his or her physical features.
It is popular to whiten teeth to get that “Hollywood Smile” but, could this be another unhealthy fad like tanning booths? Teeth are naturally yellow and there are many different causes for discoloration in teeth such as, food and beverages that have strong pigments like blueberries, red wine, and coffee; cigarettes and medications. It might be difficult to cut all of these things out of your daily routine, but some moderation will help to keep your teeth whiter. It is important to note that whiteners may not correct all types of discoloration. For example, yellowish hued teeth will probably bleach well, brownish-colored teeth may bleach less well, and grayish-hued teeth may not bleach well at all. It’s easy to do things that make us look and feel good, while ignoring the possible consequences that may unfold. Luckily, with a little research and some common sense; we can easily avoid teeth whitening side effects, before they create problems for us.