Side effects of teeth whitening – How to avoid teeth and gum irritation


Topics: blog

By: Kane Wilkin

For the last 20+ years, millions of people have been using teeth whitening products or seeing dentists to whiten their teeth. A majority do not encounter significant problems that would discourage them from continuing to make their teeth as white as possible; however, there can still be some side effects and downsides with chronic teeth whitening if not handled with care. These problems are considered minor, but can be avoided with the proper understanding of general teeth whitening.

PHOTO-Teeth-Side-EffectsWhat are the side effects and their causes from teeth whitening?
The primary side effect of teeth whitening is increased tooth sensitivity. The discomfort is similar to the feeling when your teeth are exposed to fluctuating temperatures; drinking a frozen smoothie or hot soup. The good news is this is temporary and goes away after you finish your teeth whitening treatment (e.g., remove the gel tray from your teeth), but the intermittent mild discomfort can last up to 1-3 days for some people.



Another side effect of teeth whitening is gum irritation; also known as soft tissue irritation. This is caused when the gel whitening solution comes into contact with your gum tissue. If you get your teeth whitened by dentist, they are usually very careful not to expose your gums to the highly concentrated gel solution that’s made up hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Whether at home or at the dentist office, if the teeth whitening solution comes in contact with your gums, the tissue will likely become inflamed and turn white, but this is only temporary and will typically go away  within 24 hours. Some people report no problems at all while others are more sensitive.



These tooth and gum sensitivity side effects are mainly caused by the exposure of the dentin layer during the whitening process. The whitening gels that use peroxide to bleach the enamel of your teeth often open up the pores of your teeth, which expose the inner dentin layer. Dentin consists of small tubes called dentinal tubules and the peroxide from the whitening gel causes a chemical reaction that opens up these tubes. These tubes are a gateway to the root nerves of your teeth. So when there are extreme cold and hot temperature changes from food or drink exposed to your teeth in this state, you feel the painful side effect. Again, the pain passes soon, but can be a little uncomfortable.



Bleaching gel trays that are used to whiten teeth can irritate gums if they do not fit well. The gel trays purchased for teeth whitening at home (over the counter products) are typically not individually fitted. Although, some products do offer custom-fit tray kits that mold nicely to match the contour of your teeth. The one-size-fits-all trays can sometimes rub against your gums and irritate them.



How can you avoid the side effects of teeth whitening?


Nearly all teeth whitening at home products can produce side effects depending on the frequency of use and the type of reaction from different people. However, the best way to avoid the potential downsides is to purchase one of the top rated teeth whitening products through These are the best teeth whitening products on the market at the best prices. Also, always follow the directions exactly as they are provided and do not over use the whitening gel. Using too much gel in the trays will not make your teeth whiter; it will only expose your gums to increased tissue irritation. Any excel gel that touches your gums should be wiped away. If you encounter gum irritation, you can consider using a lower concentration of peroxide gel and increase the potency as needed to get the shade of white teeth you desire. You can also limit the time you wear the bleaching gel tray or strips. However, while this will reduce the annoyance, it will also take additional treatments to increase the whiteness of your teeth.



Again, whether you whiten your teeth at home or at the dentist office, you may still experience uncomfortable side effects of teeth or gum sensitivity. This is just a consequence of the peroxide that is used by all conventional whitening methods to bleach your teeth.


Please add your comment below if you experienced any side effects when trying to whiten your teeth and how you dealt with them.

12 thoughts on “Side effects of teeth whitening – How to avoid teeth and gum irritation

  1. Maxine

    I have very sensitive teeth so I am very cautious with the tooth whitening bleaching products. I generally use an overnight product, and when I really want to brighten my smile, I will use it two nights in a row. Great results, but yes, my teeth are definitely more sensitive to cold for a day or two afterwards. Luckily, that sensitivity does go away.

    FYI, If you have sensitive teeth, you should let your dentist know so he can figure out why. In my case, it’s because my gums have receded a little in some places. There’s not much I can do about it and its not bad enough to require gum surgery, so my dentist applies a de-sensitizing gel to the problem areas every time I go in for a check-up. It’s not a cure, but it definitely helps. I also use a de-sensitizing toothpaste, but I’m not really sure it helps.

    Thanks for this site. Great info.

  2. J Jordan

    The only part of teeth whitening that I don’t like are those mouth trays. I don’t get sensitivity from the bleaching stuff, but I do feel like my teeth are a little out of place after using those stupid trays. I’m thinking of investing in one of these more expensive products with the custom trays that you have to send away for. I know it’s more expensive and it takes a little time to get them, but I think it will be worth it. I didn’t even know they existed until I found your website. Thanks!!

  3. Nancy B.

    Don’t go extreme and overdo it with trying to get your teeth whiter at home. It’s all about moderation and following instructions. Your teeth will gradually get whiter with the strips, gels or brush pens after one week when you do it daily. Be sure to take the before and after pics so you can see the difference.

  4. Ann

    If you have extremely sensitive gums, it’s best to lay off the tooth whitening until your gums are in good shape. My friend always complains of sore gums (even though he brushes his teeth a few times a day), but when he used that gel from a teeth whitening at home product, his gums were hating it for a couple days. When he made sure his gums were first in good condition, then the he had very minimal pain. Now his teeth are really white and he has a great smile.

  5. Louise B.

    If you have sensitive teeth or gums, it helps to use a a soft bristle toothbrush and medicated toothpaste before you use a teeth whitening product at home. This will greatly reduce the potential pain and irritation. I like the Power Swabs teeth whitening.

  6. Gwen Y.

    The Oral-B website posted the following about teeth whitening toothpaste allergies and I think it’s helpful to your blog article….
    Symptoms Of Toothpaste Allergy:
    From the nickel in the button on your jeans to the herbal products in your expensive moisturizer, virtually any product that you use has the potential to cause an allergic reaction, but toothpaste ingredients should be low on your list of potential allergens. While there have been some reports of allergic reactions that have been linked to toothpaste ingredients, these reports are rare. The low degree of sensitization in most toothpaste ingredients contributes to the rarity of toothpaste allergies. The ingredients in toothpaste have changed over time and continue to change as tooth whitening companies refine their formulas to make them safer and more effective. If you experience an allergic reaction, such as swelling, redness, dryness, or infection in your mouth, see your dentist immediately to rule out gum disease and to discuss your choice of toothpaste. You may find that you simply have sensitive teeth and gums, rather than a full-blown allergy, and that a mild flavored toothpaste and soft-bristle brush—such as Oral-B’s Sensitive Advantage—may solve the problem.

  7. Jamie

    Good article. I find I have more painful sensitivity in my teeth when I get a little too aggressive with the frequency of my bleaching. I tend to do it a few days in a row, overnight, because I am eager to see results, but it would be better to do teeth whitening just once a week or so. I have to keep reminding myself to take it slow.

  8. Rich S.

    This is a very good blog and set of comments. Some teeth whitening products can really cause some pain like a bad toothache, which can make it difficult to brush your teeth, chew on food or drink liquids. Plus, it can take hours or a couple days for the pain to subside. Do your research (check out these full reviews on this site) before you decide on what’s the right teeth whitening solution for you.

  9. Tyler E.

    I had major sensitivity with tooth whitening using the gel trays, so I told my dentist about it and he suggested using tooth mousse to spread on my teeth for a few days. Supposedly it protects the enamel of your teeth and can provide relief from the sensitivity and pain from certain teeth whitening products. I haven’t tried it yet, so if anyone has any experience with this, please add a comment.

  10. stevengoldy

    teeth whitening treatment is only for improving your smile. you have to apply this process once. after that you just want to care about your teeth to maintain its whitening.

  11. Ron Roberts

    I noticed the same effect when I tried using whitening gel before. My teeth became extra sensitive to whatever hot or cold I eat or drink. Even when I inhale cold air it feels a sting. I discontinued the use of whitening gel. Right now, I’m switching between a regular cavity protecting toothpaste during the day and a whitening toothpaste at night but sometimes when my teeth are feeling a bit of that sensation I switch to the whitening toothpaste thrice a week instead of daily usage.

  12. Michael Leoson

    Yes, its true that after teeth whitening, you may experience some irritation in your gum. I had this issue, and my dentist Dr. Ratna Indah taught me some exercises, and prescribe some medicines that controlled the irritation.


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