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Teeth Whitening and Long Term Effects on Tooth Health

Having pearly white teeth takes years off your appearance! Who doesn’t want a brilliant smile? Unfortunately, age, food and life tend to leave our teeth yellow and stained. Many of us use teeth  whitening products to revitalize our smile. However, side effects from improper/overuse are possible. We will take a look at those and investigate best practices.

How Whitening Products Work

Tooth Whitening are products and procedures that lighten tooth colour and remove stains and yellow colour that ages our teeth and our overall appearance. The most popular cosmetic procedure, whitening, is cost-effective and timely, making us feel positive about our smile. Note that periodic touch-ups are required to maintain our brilliant smile.

Bleaching products use hydrogen peroxide to diffuse through the enamel to breakdown stains and discolouration. Various products are more or less effective based on the percentage of peroxide, with in-office dental products using a higher concentration of peroxide than over-the-counter whitening strips. With the higher percentage of In-office products, supervision is needed by dentists or dental staff. 

What are my Whitening Options?

Deciding which whitening product is the best for you, should begin with a chat with your dentist. A brief outline of available products appears below:

  1. Stain-removing Toothpaste: Toothpastes all have an abrasive component to remove the stains on our teeth. Whitening toothpastes have additional polishing agents to remove stains, but unlike bleach, they do not actually change the colour of your teeth. 
  2. In-Office Bleaching: Usually a one-time visit, chairside bleaching is when the dentist or dental staff applies a protective gel to your gums before applying bleach to your teeth. Though still available in some dental offices, these methods are less popular and no longer cost-effective. 
  3. At-Home Bleaching from the Dentist: Your dental office can provide custom-made trays, or a bleaching kit, along with instructions to easily apply the peroxide gel to your teeth. 
  4. Over-the-counter bleaching: There are bleaching strips and gels available over the counter from your local grocery or drug store. The concentration of the peroxide within these products is considerably lower than the in-office products. 

Limits of Over Whitening

There is a limit to the use of whitening products. After some time, the whitening process plateaus with the peroxide no longer whitening teeth. Instead, the peroxide starts to break down the proteins of the enamel and alter its structure.  Dentists have shade guides to follow the progress of bleaching; however, such guides are not as readily available with over-the-counter bleaching products. If you overuse tooth whitening products, you do run the risk of damaging your teeth over time.

What are the Side Effects when you Over Whiten?

Listed below are some of the possible side effects of Over Whitening:

Tooth Sensitivity:  Overuse can make teeth more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, making consuming some food and beverages unpleasant. Usually, the sensitivity dissipates within a few days of treatment. Those who have sensitive teeth after brushing, flossing or a hygiene appointment, might be more prone to sensitivity after using a bleaching product.

Gum Irritation:  One of the risks of tooth whitening is that of a chemical burn, more common with at-home products.  Carbamide Peroxide, essential for bleaching teeth effectively, has the potential to irritate soft tissue like gums, the inside of your mouth, or throat, leaving them raw and irritated for a few days after use. 

If products are used properly, as per instructions, your custom trays or at-home kit should not result in anything but a passing irritation. 

Loss of Enamel: Overuse of teeth whitening products can erode tooth enamel leaving you at a higher risk of tooth decay. As enamel cannot be regenerated, damage to tooth enamel is permanent. 

Translucency: Over whitening with peroxide-based products may leave your teeth with a translucent appearance rather than a white one. Over whitening can cause your teeth to appear discoloured, especially around the edges, which is irreversible. Rather than a bright smile, your teeth might seem dull and brittle with a discoloured grey colour. At this point, veneers might have to be an option to restore your teeth’s natural appearance. 

Is Teeth Whitening Safe?

As teeth whitening is non-invasive and a topical procedure, it is safe when performed correctly. Most products use hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient, which dissolves safely into water and oxygen as the treatment progresses. 

Note that the whitening solutions will not brighten crowns, veneers or fillings.

It’s a Wrap!

Finally, whitening your teeth is safe as long as you use products approved by your dentist. Follow their instructions or those included within the product documentation. There are side effects to over whitening, some of which can cause permanent damage to tooth enamel. Side effects are relatively uncommon, but it is a good idea to be aware of potential risks so you can avoid them. Another good idea is to address your dental history with your dentist before whitening. Thankfully, there are good whitening options available, both cost-efficient and effective. 

If you have questions, contact Kesteven Dental Care at 604-826-8087 or

By Lorelei Kesteven