The ADA believes most Australians are not aware of the risks associated with teeth whitening treatments from hairdressers, beauticians and other untrained individuals who do not have the professional training or experience to properly determine a personâ€™s suitability for teeth whitening. Having your teeth whitened by anyone other than a dentist is risky and it increases the likelihood that you may suffer permanent damage to your teeth and mouth.
How does teeth whitening work?
The process of teeth whitening involves oxidising agents such as hydrogen peroxide, that when used repeatedly and in inappropriate dosages for long periods of time, may cause irreparable damage to teeth.
Teeth whitening or bleaching is an irreversible procedure on teeth and any products containing more than 6% concentration of the active whitening/bleaching agent should only be used by a registered dental practitioner.
What will I feel during and after the procedure?
Some people notice a ‘bubbly’ sensation on the surface of their teeth, or periods of sharp pain inside a tooth while the bleaching agent is in contact with their teeth. Others notice an achy feeling in their teeth for a few days following the treatment and temporarily heightened sensitivity when biting into certain foods and consuming cold beverages. You should report any painful sensations to your dentist.
What can go wrong?
There are a number of potential side effects from teeth whitening. Some will be temporary but some can be permanent so, if your teeth react badly to the treatment they may never be able to go back to the way they were. Some of the effects of teeth whitening can include:
- Heightened tooth sensitivity
- Alteration of the enamel surface (the effect of hydrogen peroxide on tooth enamel is irreversible)
- Reduced strength of resin-based filling materials, damaged and inflamed gums
- Chemical burns
- Blistering of mouth and gum tissues
- Uneven coloured teeth
- Existing fillings, crowns and veneers will not change colour
- Whitening results can be disappointing if your teeth have not been properly assessed for suitability. Your dentist can give you a much better idea of likely results
- Direct exposure to the skin and eyes of the bleaching agent can cause severe irritation or burns
- Swallowing some of the bleaching agent can cause irritation to the oesophagus and stomach, resulting in bleeding
NOTE: Worksafe Australia lists hydrogen peroxide (a common bleaching agent) at concentrations above 5% as a hazardous substance and one that should be administered by a trained dental professional.