Skip to content

Risks Associated With Teeth Whitening

The two side effects that occur most often with teeth whitening are a temporary increase in tooth sensitivity and mild irritation of the soft tissues of the mouth, particularly the gums. Tooth sensitivity often occurs during early stages of the bleaching treatment. Tissue irritation most commonly results from an ill-fitting mouthpiece tray rather than the tooth-bleaching agent. Both of these conditions usually are temporary and disappear within one to three days of stopping or completing treatment.

If you do experience sensitivity, you can reduce or eliminate it by:

  • Wearing the tray for a shorter period of time (for example, two 30-minute sessions vs. two 60-minute sessions).
  • Stop whitening your teeth for two to three days to allow teeth to adjust to the whitening process.
  • Ask your dentist or pharmacist for a high fluoride-containing product, which can help remineralize your teeth. Apply the fluoride product to the tray and wear for four minutes prior to and following the whitening agent.
  • Brush teeth with a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. These toothpastes contain potassium nitrate, which helps soothe the teeth's nerve endings.

Whitening Product Safety

Some whitening products dispensed through dentists' offices as well as professionally applied (in-office) bleaching products have received the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, which indicates that the product has met ADA guidelines for safety and effectiveness. Currently, only dentist-dispensed home-use products containing 10% carbamide peroxide and office-applied products containing 35% hydrogen peroxide have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Over-the-counter bleaching products are not endorsed by the ADA, because the organization believes that professional consultation is important to ensuring safe and effective use. No whitening products using lasers are on the ADA's list of accepted products. Several whitening toothpastes that are available in drugstores have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance. For a list of specific toothpastes that have gained the ADA's Seal of Acceptance, visit www.ada.org.

It should be noted that not all manufacturers seek the ADA's Seal of Acceptance. This is a voluntary program that requires considerable expense and time on the part of a manufacturer. Just because a product does not have the ADA Seal of Acceptance does not necessarily mean that the product is not safe and effective. You can be assured, however, that products that do carry the seal meet the ADA's standards for safety and effectiveness when used as directed.

Teeth whiteners are not drugs and therefore are not regulated by the FDA.

Tips for Pretty Teeth and Gums

See how to keep your teeth healthy, white, and even.
View slideshow