Teeth Whitening: Two Side Effects of Whitening Your Teeth

Teeth Whitening: Two Side Effects of Whitening Your Teeth

Teeth Whitening Side Effects
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Did you know that more than half of all people who bleach their teeth end up with sensitive teeth as a result?  It seems like people are willing to go through a lot just to get whiter teeth.  In this article, I’m going to talk about the two main side effects of whitening your teeth: tooth sensitivity and sore gums.

Sensitive Teeth

Teeth Whitening Side EffectsTooth sensitivity is the most common side effect of teeth whitening.  It can range from very mild tooth sensitivity to a sharp, shooting type of pain.  Almost always, the sensitivity goes away within a few weeks and no permanent harm is done to the teeth.  But, in rare cases, irreversible tooth damage can occur according to this page on the American Dental Association’s website.

When I whitened my teeth last year, I ended up with really sensitive teeth and had to stop after a few nights to keep my teeth from driving me crazy!

This study from the American Dental Association found out the following during a study about tooth sensitivity after teeth whitening:

“Fifty-four percent of subjects in both test and controlgroups reported mild sensitivity; 10 percent of test subjectsand 2 percent of control subjects reported moderate sensitivity;4 percent of test subjects and no control subjects reportedsevere sensitivity. Sensitivity decreased with time; by thesecond week, no severe sensitivity was reported, and by thefourth week, no moderate sensitivity was reported.”

How to Stop Sensitive Teeth Caused by Teeth Whitening

There are desensitizing gels available that can be applied to your teeth either before or after whitening your teeth.  These gels contain similar ingredients to those found in toothpastes for those with sensitive teeth.

This study found that using a desensitizing gel before getting your teeth whitened at the dental office actually reduced the amount of tooth sensitivity that a patient experiences.  In the words of the researchers, “The use of a desensitizing gel (5 percent nitratepotassium/2 percent sodium fluoride) before in-office bleachingdid not affect the bleaching efficacy but did reduce tooth sensitivity.”

Your dentist can also give you desensitizing gel if your tooth sensitivity does not seem to be decreasing within a reasonable time after the procedure..

Sore Gums

The second main side effect of teeth whitening is sore gums.  There are a couple of theories as to why you get sore gums with teeth whitening.

Hydrogen peroxide is able to cause chemical burns (much like aspirin) on the inside of your mouth.  One theory suggests that since hydrogen peroxide is present when you whiten your teeth, it can irritate your gums.

Most teeth whitening gels contain carbamide peroxide which ends up breaking down into hydrogen peroxide to whiten the teeth.

Another theory as to why you get sore gums when you whiten your teeth doesn’t have to do with the whitening gel – it is caused by the tray that holds the whitening gel up against your teeth.  The ADA says that “Tissue irritation, in most cases, results from an ill-fitting tray rather than the tooth-bleaching agents.”

How to Stop Sore Gums Caused by Teeth Whitening

If you often have sore gums after you whiten your teeth, you can often solve the problem by getting a tray that fits better.  Dentists can make teeth whitening trays that are custom made to fit your teeth and that hold the gel on your teeth rather than on your gums.  If that doesn’t work, it may be best to take a break from whitening your teeth to keep your gums from hurting.

What to Do If You Develop These Teeth Whitening Side Effects

The dental textbook Sturdevant’s Art and Science of Operative Dentistry states “If either of the two primary side effects occurs (i.e., sensitive teeth or irritated gingiva), the patient should reduce or discontinue treatment immediately and contact the dentist so that the cause of the problem can be determined and the treatment approach modified.  The dentist may prescribe desensitizing agents to help alleviate sensitivity associated with bleaching.”


Although these are the two main side effects, there are other side effects that have been suggested such as:

  • Nausea
  • Sore Throat
  • TMJ disorder due to tray usage
  • Alteration of the normal bacteria leading to taste-bud enlargement
  • Oral infection

If you experience any of these side effects associated with teeth whitening, get in touch with your dentist to get more information on your individual situation.  Sometimes having pearly whites is not worth the discomfort and possible damage to your teeth!

Have you ever had any of these teeth whitening side effects?  What happened?  I’d love to hear your stories, comments, and questions in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!


  1. A couple other things to consider for the “sensitive teeth” side effect of whitening your teeth are; the stability of the bleach you are using and acid reaction. Many of the over-the-counter bleaches are made as a “one-fits-all” product and can frequently be too acidic causing more sensitivity. Also an acidic diet can weaken tooth enamel, creating more of an opportunity for acids to get inside the tooth and create sensitivity. Thanks!

  2. I am happy to learn the new idea about teeth written.Apples, celery, and carrots act like nature’s toothbrush great for teeth and remove bacteria from mouth.

  3. Since having my teeth whitened at my dentist’s office, I have experienced a shift in my ability to taste savory, salty, sour foods, such as lemon or vinegar). Though I have used whiting product at home with a professionally made set of trays, I did not experience this side affect until I went through the office treatment. It seems as though my sweet taste buds were not affected, though I do not have a sweet tooth and much prefer the foods that I cannot now taste. Is there anything that I can do to reverse this? The article says this is temporary, though it has been almost a month since the procedure. Please let me know your thoughts.

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