I want to get my teeth whitened but I’m scared of hurting my gums. I’ve heard the bleaching can cause permanent damage. What’s the best choice to take for whiter teeth that doesn’t require weeks of treatments at home?
Can Teeth Whitening Damage Gums?
Doctor Answers 11
Gums and Teeth Whitening
Accurately fitting trays are crucial to ensure that the gums are not affected with the teeth whitening gel when home whitening is being carried out. During Power laser whitening your dentist will ensure that the gums are not affected by using a protective barrier.
Gum damage from tooth whitening
The material used in take home tooth whitening can actually be beneficial to the gums. If the tray that the material is placed in is not made properly, then it can irritate the gums, but this is generally a temporary situation.
In-office whitening uses a stronger version of the same material. The gums should get a protective barrier before the whitening material is applied because it will cause a chemical burn if it sits on the gum tissue during the entire procedure. If this occurs, the gum tissue will appear white. This can be uncomfortable, but it will generally heal in about a day.
The best results will be attained by a combination of in-office whitening followed by take home whitening with a custom made tray. I tell my patients that 90% will get a really good result, 5% will get an unbelievable result, and 5% will get a slight result.
Whitening and gum damage
To help you find the right trays that do not damage you gums simply visit a reputable cosmetic dentist.
Once the trays are made, try them in with no whitening gel and if this experience is without any discomfort or abrasion/soreness then the trays fit well enough.
They may still not be tight enough. The way to work this out is to use them with whitening gel. In the morning when you wash them out, the gel should still be sticky and not washed out. Further your gums should look normal, or in some instances, better than normal.
Thomas Dey, BDS, MSc
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Does Teeth Whitening (Bleaching) Damage the Gums?
I have never seen a situation where teeth whitening using properly fitting trays caused any damage to the gums. Sometimes the trays are overextended, going beyond the teeth and onto the gums. This, improperly fitting bleaching trays, will much more likely cause problems with the gums than properly fitting trays. The over extended trays can cause mechanical irritation to the gum tissue, and it can also deliver bleaching gel directly onto the gums, causing some minor and temporary irritation. Before your dentist gives you the bleaching trays and bleaching get, he/she should check the fit of the bleaching trays to insure that you don't develop a problem during bleaching. The dentist should also give you instructions on how to remove any excess bleaching gel that may get onto your gums.
Bleaching Can Cause Temporary Gum Irritation
Custom bleaching trays should be properly made and patients should be properly trained as to how to use the whitening gel in order to avoid gum irritation. If the bleaching gel touches the gum tissue during the whitening treatment, this can cause temporary burning and irritation to the gums. However, this is not permanent and will go away after couple of days.
A well fitting tray and caution not to let bleaching gel touch the gums will prevent gum burning and irritation.
Gums and teeth whitening
Your gums can be damaged with using whitening products in an incorrect manner. The best way to whiten your teeth is to have it done professionally. Over the counter products are not customized for each individual, sothere is a higher risk of problems.
Fit of the tray is very important.
A custom fit tray is a very important factor to prevent irritation of the gums from whitening gel. If gums are irritated during whitening, they will heal. Prevention is always best. Have your dentist check the fit of your trays before starting any whitening. A well fitting tray with a strong whitening gel, should take the average person about 7-10 days to see desired results. A 35% gel is worn for 30 minutes per day.
Moderate your usage
Using all things moderation! Over the counter products which are not PH neutral, whitening toothpaste (which is very abrasive) or bleaching trays for an excessive amount of time (more than 1-2 hours per day) can cause gingival irritation. Continued abuse can permanently damage gums. Zoom whitening, a two hour in office visit, is the shortest most effective treatment plan. Using take home trays to touch up occasionally is always helpful.
Whitening material can damage the gum temporarily
Home kit whitening or office whitening both are based on gum protection. It is better protect the gum at whitening however any damage to the gum in not permanent, but it can hurt the patient and make some pain.
Proper use of teeth whitening material
If you decide you want to use a take home whitening gel you should always have custom made bleaching trays. You want a tray that contours to your teeth and gums, do not use a generic one size fits all tray. Remember that when dispensing the gel into the tray that you only want to use enough to cover the surface of each tooth. When you place the tray in your mouth and you have excess that over flows onto your gums, simply use a q-tip or your toothbrush and remove any excess.
If you decide to have laser whitening, such as ZOOM, it is done as an in office procedure. The doctor will use a block-out resin to protect the gums from any of the whitening gel coming in contact with them. Whatever whitening option you choose there is always the possibility of some temporary discomfort after or during your whitening. You should ask your doctor to prescribe you a toothpaste such as Fluoridex for pre and post whitening treatment to reduce sensitivity. Good luck!
These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.