Tooth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dentistry procedures in America today. About 15 percent of Americans have tried some form of tooth whitening procedure. When performed properly, tooth whitening (also called teeth bleaching) is an effective way to whiten your teeth and improve the aesthetics of your smile. It is relatively inexpensive, non-invasive, and the results are immediate. For the vast majority of patients, tooth whitening is safe and effective with few, if any, side effects.
However, there are a few risks and disadvantages of tooth whitening that you should be aware of before you begin. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your dentist before you start the treatment.
One of the most common side effects is that your teeth may become more sensitive to hot and cold. Patients with receding gums or who normally experience tooth sensitivity are at the greatest risk of increased sensitivity. The condition is usually temporary and using a special desensitizing toothpaste will usually provide relief.
Some patients experience irritation of the gums and/or lips. In some cases, sores may develop and the patient’s lip may swell. These symptoms usually resolve on their own after a few days. If you experience persistent irritation, swelling, or sores on you gums, lips, or inside your mouth following a tooth whitening procedure, see your dentist or primary care physician.
Uneven effectiveness can be a problem if you have tooth colored caps or crowns, or if you have had tooth colored fillings or bonding material. The bleaching agent will not have any effect on these materials and they may look yellowed compared to your newly whitened teeth. Your dentist can replace these yellower materials, but it will drive up the cost of the tooth whitening procedure.
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