Does Tooth Whitening Affect Your Gums?

February 25, 2019

No matter how well you brush, some amount of tooth discoloration is unavoidable. If you like to drink tea, coffee or smoke your teeth will eventually become stained and yellowed. There are thousands of products available for home use to whiten your teeth without seeing the dentist. Despite being generally safe, there is still a risk of some painful side effects.

The chemicals used to whiten your teeth, whether at home or in the doctor’s office, can also cause damage to your gums. By understanding the particular risks to your gum tissue and how to avoid them, you can make the right decision about which type of whitening is better for you.

Choosing Professional Whitening

Getting your teeth professionally whitened by a dentist is generally safer for your gums than home whitening. The peroxides used by the dentist to remove stains are stronger than what’s in a home kit, the dentist has ways of keeping those chemicals off of the gums. Home whitening products tend to spread the whitening compounds on the gums due to the use of trays or strips.

If you develop gum irritation at the office during whitening, a dentist can start immediate treatment to prevent damage. When you whiten at home and notice a problem in the middle of treatment, you will always have a short delay before you can get to an emergency dentist for damage.

Using a Gingival Barrier

Dentists use a special gel to coat and protect the gums when they are doing a whitening session. The gel is brushed on carefully so every inch of the gum edges is covered but none of the teeth. The gel is comprised of acrylic resins that are safe for oral use.

These gels either harden on their own or under ultraviolet light. The layer of hard acrylic creates a customized barrier to keep the whitening chemicals from reaching gum tissue. After the professional whitening treatment, the acrylic resin is easily peeled off of the gums without any pain.

This kind of protection also prevents bleaching of the gum tissue. White gums look weird but usually aren’t a serious or permanent problem. But since many people are seeking tooth whitening right before a big event like a wedding, they also prefer to prevent gum bleaching that would distract from their newly sparkling smile.

Risking Damage from Home Kits

Most kits include a gentle whitening solution with low peroxide concentrations to prevent gum or tooth damage. Yet when you consider that you often must use these treatments daily for weeks or months before seeing results, there is still a chance of long-term gum irritation due to repeated exposure.

The trays themselves can also cause mechanical irritation by rubbing against the gums. Some peoples gums are more sensitive than others. If you find home whitening trays uncomfortable, you’ll likely prefer professional whitening since it’s all done in one or two treatments. Consider that the cost of treating gum damage and pain may cost more than you saved by choosing a home kit.

Treating Gum Irritation

If your gums do become irritated while you are whitening them, wash off the whitening chemicals immediately. Ask the dentist to rinse your teeth if you feel pain or burning during a professional procedure.

Gargling with salt water a few times a day will help protect the damaged gum tissue from infection and encourage healing. See a dentist if the gum tissue keeps hurting, starts bleeding, or stays white longer than a few days. Don’t use any whitening products or even toothpaste until the irritation is healed.

Whiten your teeth without risking gum irritation by making an appointment for professional treatment here at Stephen J Vanyo DMD PA.