Teeth-whitening or -bleaching techniques are now available to suit different budgets, time frames and temperaments, and are universally valued as a safe and effective way to regain white teeth and a bright smile. Whitening solutions range from scheduled in-office bleaching sessions to home treatments with professionally dispensed whitening kits and convenient, affordable over-the-counter bleaching agents from companies like Bleach Bright.
Whatever option you go for, you should be aware of the risks involved and ask your dentist before whitening your teeth. As long as do-it-yourself and in-office whitening procedures are done as directed, tooth bleaching can be safe and effective. However, the following risks are a real possibility.
During in-office bleaching, strong chemicals are used to remove stains from tooth enamel. These chemical agents are corrosive, and care must be taken to avoid enamel damage, which would result in sensitivity to temperature, pressure and touch. Dentists use precautions such as protective gels to ensure this does not happen, though some patients do report increased sensitivity immediately after the treatment.
Patients most at risk for developing tooth sensitivity are those with heavy staining, which requires the use of high-concentration bleach, as well as those with gum recession. Cracks in teeth caused by trauma, grinding or faulty restorations also increase the risk of bleaches infiltrating the tooth surface and causing pain and sensitivity inside of the tooth.
Typically, sensitivity after bleaching only persists for a few days; dentists recommend the use of toothpastes containing potassium nitrate for patients with intense sensitivity.
A fast-acting and powerful bleaching agent known as hydrogen peroxide is used in in-office bleaching when time is of the essence and effective whitening is desired. However, one of the drawbacks of using such powerful bleach is that there is a risk of burning or irritating the gums.
Dentists usually employ safety precautions to ensure that this does not happen often, but some bleaching agent can reach the gums and cause discomfort and irritation. The irritation is however just short-term, typically disappearing in a few days.
This is a term used to describe a scenario where teeth are not evenly whitened. Restorations such as crowns, bonding or porcelain crowns are not affected by bleach, meaning that they retain their original color while natural teeth are whitened. This results in an unsightly scene of unevenly colored teeth, which can affect a patient’s smile.
As always, ask your dentist for advice and personal recommendations before starting any whitening treatment.