Is Teeth Whitening Bad For Your Gums?

Everybody wants whiter teeth. In fact, teeth whitening is the most requested dental treatment out of all the cosmetic treatments.

From getting a tan to crazy home remedies, people will take about any measure to make their teeth appear whiter.

Some people even get addicted to whitening their teeth. Dentists have coined the term “bleachorexia” to describe patients with an unhealthy compulsion to whiten their teeth.

For the most part, teeth whitening is harmless. It can transform your smile from a yellow Austin Powers smirk to a charming Matthew McConaughey grin really quickly. However, too much teeth whitening can take a toll on your health – especially your gum health.

In honor of National Gum Care Month, we’re going to talk about some ways you can keep your gums healthier by avoiding these teeth whitening mistakes.

3 Ways to Whiten Your Teeth and Spare Your Gums

There are quite a few different ways to get whiter teeth. There are many ADA approved products on the market. You can even try changing your diet for whiter teeth. You can also go to the dentist for an in-office treatment. However, teeth whitening can become dangerous for your gum health when you use at-home kits or go to uncertified whitening parlors.

1. The Dangers of Whitening at Beauty Parlors

Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz about illegal teeth whitening. Essentially, beauticians are offering illegal teeth whitening kits to people without consent from dental associations.

For the most part, these cases are appearing in the UK, but there are also cases of non-dentists offering teeth whitening in the United States – especially down here in the south.

Some of these parlors use teeth whitening kits that are 300 times stronger than the legal limit of hydrogen peroxide, the equivalent of rinsing with Clorox. In 2005, legislation was pushed in the United States to ban these parlors, because a thorough dental exam needs to be performed before administering harsh whitening treatments. However, some of these salons are still doing business illegally.

These illegal whitening kits are causing blisters and burns on people’s gums, enamel erosion, and even gum recession.

Gum recession is one of the scariest factors of these treatments, because you can’t undo receding gums, unless you get gum grafts. When your gums recede far enough, it can expose your tooth’s root. This not only causes painful tooth sensitivity, but also makes you extremely susceptible to tooth loss.

2. Over the Counter Whitening and Your Gums

Over the counter teeth whitening treatments are safer than illegal parlors, because they use a weaker concentration of peroxide. At-home kits usually come in two forms: whitening strips with bleaching gel, or tray based kits that are worn over the teeth.

Problems with these at-home systems occur when you use them over their recommended time limit, which is usually 2-4 weeks. When you use these kits longer than their recommended time, or if you already have enamel erosion and gum issues, they can irritate your gums further and make your teeth even more sensitive. Unlike the illegal whitening parlors, over the counter solutions aren’t strong enough to cause any permanent damage on your gums.

Fortunately, gum irritation without recession is easily manageable. If you notice your gums are becoming inflamed from bleaching kits, you can stop using the product. In some cases, your gums might peel and blister, which can be alarming.

All you can do in these instances is take a pain reliever and wait for your gums to heal themselves. You can also try applying vitamin E cream to your gingival tissue. Whatever you do, don’t continue using the whitening product causing the irritation.

Interestingly enough, most of these bleaching solutions were discovered when gum specialists were trying to treat gum disease.

When it comes to over the counter whitening products, you should be more worried about harming your enamel than your gums. If you’re experiencing teeth sensitivities, get to the dentist and ask for a special fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride will help strengthen your enamel.

Avoiding Gum Irritation with Over the Counter Whitening

The main reasons your gums get irritated with over the counter whitening are because they’re too highly concentrated, or they don’t fit well. You’re more likely to experience irritation from stock trays that don’t fit well, because you’re exposing your gums to the bleaching solution.

To make stock trays fit better, you can try to cut them down with scissors, so they don’t extend too far over your teeth. If you’re using a highly concentrated whitening product, try switching to a less harsh product.

The easiest way to avoid gum irritation with at-home kits is by getting custom trays made by your dentist. This way, they perfectly fit onto your teeth, avoiding the gum area. You can also try wiping away any excess gel that might come out of the trays after they’re placed on your teeth.

3. Bleaching Your Teeth in a Dentist’s Office

The safest way to bleach your teeth is to come into the dentist’s office for a treatment. Not only do you get whiter results more quickly, but you’ll also experience less irritation.

It’s much easier for us to control the thickness of the gel and tailor the treatment to your condition. During the in-office whitening procedure, we’ll also prepare your teeth by cleaning away plaque and debri first, as well as make sure you don’t have tooth decay, chips, or gum disease.

We’ll also take special precautions, ensuring that the bleaching gel doesn’t irritate your gums. We can also use special trays, retractors, and rubber dams to protect your gums.

It’s important to remember that in-office bleaching isn’t permanent. You can help maintain your white teeth by avoiding foods that stain, as well as brushing and flossing regularly. Not to mention, flossing is the most effective way to keep your gums healthy for your next bleaching treatment.

Don’t forget to take it easy on the teeth whitening products and realize when enough is enough. A lot of time people feel like their teeth aren’t white enough, when they’ve already whitened them to a fluorescent level.

Talk to your dentist about tooth discoloration, so you can get an unbiased opinion about whether you should keep bleaching them or not.

Besides causing gum and tooth sensitivity, over bleaching can lead to permanently translucent or blue tinted teeth. If you’re not sure how white is too white, a good guide to go by is comparing the shade of your teeth to the whites of your eyes. You shouldn’t go whiter than your eyes.

You also shouldn’t bleach your teeth if you have crowns or veneers. Porcelain is already tinted to match your teeth. Whitening the teeth around your restoration will cause unevenly colored teeth.

Try the Sapphire Whitening System For Less Gum Irritation

At Dental Smiles at Johns Creek, we use the Sapphire Whitening system, which is perfect for patients with sensitive teeth and gums. The Sapphire Whitening System uses a 25% hydrogen peroxide solution and desensitizing enhancer.

We brush the solution onto your teeth, then use a light called a “whitening crystal” for 30 minutes to activate the peroxide. The treatment is quick, easy, and painless. Not to mention, you’ll leave our office with a beaming smile. To schedule an appointment for an in-office whitening treatment, call us today at 770-751-1500.

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