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Is Teeth Whitening Safe?

Nothing instils confidence like a million-dollar smile. When your pearly whites shine, you're ready to brighten any room. Yet, everything from your morning coffee to your evening glass of wine threatens to stain your beloved teeth. As you begin to research your teeth whitening options, you may wonder: Is whitening your teeth bad?

Can Teeth Whitening Hurt Your Teeth?

Teeth whitening methods have been implemented and evaluated for decades. Millions of people use teeth whitening products.

The Oral Hygiene Association of South Africa (OHASA) states that in-office tooth bleaching has been a part of dental practice for many years, while at-home bleaching has also become an accepted procedure in dentistry.

However, several minor side effects are sometimes associated with teeth whitening. These include gum irritation, tooth sensitivity, and impact on dental restorations.

Gum Irritation

Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the most common active ingredients in teeth whitening products. Treatments prescribed by your dentist — whether an in-office procedure or take-home whitening trays — generally contain higher levels of these bleaching agents. If the bleach were to touch your gums, it could cause irritation. However, dentists typically take extra precautions to protect your gum tissue. During in-office procedures, a protective gel can be used to shield your gums from the bleaching agent. Similarly, at-home trays are customised to fit your teeth, so as little whitening gel touches your gums as possible. If you still experience any issues, the irritation should heal on its own.

Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is another common side effect of all forms of teeth bleaching.

According to OHASA, sensitivity is possibly an indication of the pulp's response to the chemicals in the treatment.

Many factors may influence the severity of the sensitivity, including the peroxide concentration, the presence of restorations, and even the intensity of light use. The sensitivity may resolve on its own, but if not, you can try the following:

  • Brushing with a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth
  • Wearing the strips or trays for a shorter time
  • Asking your dentist for a fluoride product to help remineralise teeth
  • Pausing the whitening process for several days to allow teeth to adapt
Effects on Dental Restorations

Some research suggests that whitening treatments may have adverse effects on dental restorations. However, these effects depend on the type of material used. Peroxide may accelerate the amount of mercury leached from dental amalgam (fillings), depending on the concentration of peroxide used, the time of application, and the age of the dental amalgam. However, the concentration of mercury leached is believed to be below a level associated with possible health concerns. Plus, other materials — like the ones used for crowns and implants — show the best resistance to peroxide. If you're concerned about the effects of whitening treatments on your dental restorations, talk to your dentist about the best option for you.

How to Safely Whiten Teeth

If you are interested in going ahead with a whitening treatment, follow these steps to safely use teeth whitening products.

Step One: Talk to your dentist. Your dentist can evaluate your tooth health and address any issues — like cavities or gum problems — before you start a whitening protocol. They can also advise on the best whitening treatment and answer any of your questions.

Step Two: Check that the product is safe. If you are concerned about the safety of a product, discuss it with your dentist.

They will be able to reassure you that the whitening treatment is both safe and effective.

Step Three: Follow product instructions. Each product comes with a unique set of instructions for the duration and frequency of use. Overuse or incorrect use of the product may put you at higher risk for side effects like gum irritation or tooth sensitivity.

Is teeth whitening safe? Yes, it can be. Simply handle your whitening protocol like any medical treatment — listen to your dentist, follow instructions, and watch for unwanted side effects.

Then, you can safely and effectively whiten your teeth and brighten your smile.


The above information is provided for informational purposes only. Colgate does not accept any liability should the above recommendations have an outcome contrary to the intended result. Always seek the advice of a qualified doctor or dental professional. Do not disregard professional advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

Not all Colgate products contain hydrogen peroxide. Optic White Expert is the only product in our toothpaste range that contains hydrogen peroxide.

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