Possible Secondary Effects

While most people don’t experience any secondary effects from their tooth whitening treatment, some people do. These secondary effects may include:

1. Bleach spots. These can happen if there were calcium deposits on the teeth prior to whitening. These calcium deposits will grow brighter during or initially following bleaching, but will normalize following treatment.

2. Sensitivity. Some users experience tooth sensitivity early on in the whitening process. This may be due to the active whitening agent causing temporary break down of the minerals in the enamel (a process called demineralization) which allows sensation of hot, cold, and sugar through to the dentin. People who have naturally thinner enamel or more porous enamel need to be aware of the possibility of sensitivity associated with this treatment or process. In-office, dentists will monitor patient sensitivity during the procedure particularly if the patient has a history of tooth sensitivity.

Sensitivity can be reduced by using a tooth-sensitivity toothpaste containing fluoride afterward, or by applying a high-fluoride product (ask your dentist or pharmacist) following treatment. These will help the enamel remineralize and ease sensitivity symptoms.

3.Gum (soft tissue) irritation. Concentrations of hydrogen peroxide of more than 10 percent can irritate mucous membranes or skin and may result in a sensation of gum or tissue burning. This is why such treatments need to be done under the care and guidance of a dental professional even if you’re doing this treatment at home. Many such incidents occur from people putting too much whitening gel in the tray, or ill-fitting trays that allow the whitening gel to leak or squeeze out. This is why it’s important to follow the instructions on the package if you’re using a do-it-yourself whitening kit or product. If you go the in-office route, the dentist should apply protective gels to your gums so that the only thing the bleaching agent touches is your teeth.

4. Overbleaching. Overbleaching can happen when people overuse bleaching kits. This can mean using too much gel, leaving the product on too long, using the products too often, or generally not following the instructions on the package or provided by a dental practitioner. The dental industry is staring to call this “bleachorexia.” The generally accepted shade of white for whitened teeth is to about the same as the white of the eyes. Overbleaching can result in abnormally and unnaturally looking white teeth, and irreparably etch or damage enamel which can in turn make teeth more sensitive to heat, cold, and sweets.

5. Enamel etching. Etching of the enamel can happen if a person eats something acidic or brushes their teeth too soon or too hard after whitening treatments or applications. Etching tends to happen with whitening formulations that are too acidic. In-office dental treatments and at-home products usually include an acidic component to remove the protective protein pellicle to get to the stains underneath. Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste will help the enamel remineralize, also protecting it from strongly colored foods such as tomato-based sauces, coffee, and red wine to bind themselves to the weakened enamel.

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