The Effects of Over-Whitening Your Teeth - Smile Dental Center

Many people try teeth whitening to fade yellowing and stains that have developed from age, coffee and wine drinking, smoking and other lifestyle habits. Yet it’s important to consult with a dentist to avoid overexposing your teeth to a whitening solution.

In your efforts to achieve a brighter smile, over-whitening can potentially increase tooth sensitivity and staining or trigger another side effect.

What Is Teeth Whitening?

Teeth whitening involves applying a bleaching agent directly to the teeth to lessen discoloration. This procedure primarily addresses surface stains to lighten the color of your teeth over the course of multiple treatments.

Teeth whitening helps address staining from long-term coffee, tea and wine drinking, eating acidic foods, using tobacco, taking medications that may discolor your teeth and age-related changes. As the process is fairly straightforward, whitening continues to be one of the top-requested cosmetic dental procedures.

Treatment varies; especially if you have sensitive teeth, your dentist might initially direct you to over-the-counter solutions like whitening toothpastes, mouthwashes and bleaching kits. As these products use lower concentrations of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, you will see results more gradually.

Patients without tooth sensitivity may be recommended for an in-office whitening procedure. This series of whitening treatments applies a stronger solution to your teeth, protects your gums during application and may include laser therapy.

How Over-Whitening Occurs

Over-whitening can happen when you have too many in-office treatments spaced close together, use too much of an over-the-counter product or combine over-the-counter solutions with in-office procedures.

At Smile Dental Center, we make sure to appropriately space out in-office procedures to protect the teeth from the effects of over-whitening. While patients may initially experience tooth sensitivity following a whitening procedure, this feeling typically fades.

Yet for patients who have over-whitened their teeth, the sensitivity remains. This effect is a result of how the peroxide begins to break down and alter the proteins making up tooth enamel. In response, patients develop a combination of the following symptoms.

Tooth Sensitivity

The sensitivity can increase when you’re having hot or cold foods and drinks, as well as anything sugary or acidic, because excessive exposure to peroxide starts to expose the layer underneath tooth enamel. You’re more likely to experience this side effect if:

  • You already have some tooth sensitivity prior to the procedure
  • One of your teeth is cracked or has a cavity
  • You have a loose filling or restoration
  • You continue using over-the-counter whitening products, including toothpaste and mouthwash, after an in-office procedure

To counteract this effect, you’ll be asked to abstain from over-the-counter whitening products or your dentist may recommend a pain reliever or desensitizing product to manage symptoms. If they persist, thinning enamel increases your risk for cavities and tooth decay.

Gum Irritation

In addition to your teeth, over-whitening can irritate your gums, as well as the inside of your mouth and throat, contributing to redness and swelling. Some people experience this side effect if they improperly position a whitening tray in their mouth, which can place your gums or other tissue in direct contact with the bleaching agent.

Effects may go away after a few days. In the meantime, manage the irritation by washing your mouth with saltwater or applying a numbing gel.

Changes In Appearance

Teeth may develop a translucent appearance after over-whitening due to the thinning enamel, which may expose the yellow-colored dentin underneath. Long term, your teeth not only become discolored again but may be more susceptible to staining.

In addition to a translucent appearance, your teeth may develop a rough, ridged texture.

Other Side Effects

Overusing a whitening agent can also lead to:

  • Burns or blisters on the gums
  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A swollen tongue, lips or face

How to Avoid Over-Whitening Your Teeth

To avoid over-whitening your teeth:

  • Stop using over-the-counter products or space out your in-office treatments if you start to notice tooth sensitivity.
  • Limit, if not avoid, over-the-counter whitening products after an in-office visit, unless directed by your dentist.
  • Maintain your dental health, including brushing twice per day, flossing at least once and limiting contact with acidic foods.

To learn more about teeth whitening or schedule an appointment, contact our Shelton office today.