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What are the Side Effects of Carbamide Peroxide Whitening?

By M.R. Anglin
Updated May 21, 2024
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Over time, a person’s teeth can become yellow or discolored for a variety of reasons. In order to return them to a white color, many people use teeth whitening products. Many of these products are carbamide peroxide whitening gels. Unfortunately, the product can cause certain side-effects, such as teeth sensitivity, gum irritation, sore throat, and uneven whitening. Many of these side effects are mild or moderate in nature and many will disappear once the whitening process is stopped.

Gum irritation can be the result of an ill-fitting whitening tray, or because of the carbamide peroxide whitening product itself. If the product is exposed to gums, it can cause irritation. Custom fitting dental trays preempt this problem because they stop just below the gum line and this helps to prevent the product from contacting the gum. Over-the-counter whitening products normally use trays that may overlap the gum, allowing the product to come in contact with it. Ill-fitting trays may also rub against the gum and cause irritation.

Another one of the side effects of carbamide peroxide whitening gel is tooth sensitivity. This effect can include sensitivity to air, thermal sensitivity, and tooth pain. Air sensitivity can be felt when a person breathes through his mouth, and thermal sensitivity can occur when a person eats something hot or cold. A person may experience tooth pain when the whitener seeps into his teeth and causes inflammation of the living tissue within the tooth. People who have had some sort of teeth sensitivity before using a whitening product may be more likely to develop more sensitivity while using the product.

Some people may swallow the carbamide peroxide whitening product, especially if they use it overnight. Contact with the throat can cause throat irritation. Since the product is in contact with the throat for only a short time, this side effect usually passes. Another side effect that a person may experience is uneven whitening. This effect is more common with solutions containing a higher amount of peroxide and usually passes after a few days of use.

Side effects using carbamide peroxide whitening products are fairly common. In fact, one in every three people may experience some sort of side effect when using the product. For most, the effects aren’t obtrusive enough to cause them to stop using it. Some easy methods for reducing sensitivity include using anti-sensitivity toothpaste or taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the inflammation. A person may also reduce or discontinue use of the product to control unwanted side-effects.

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Discussion Comments
By anon937001 — On Mar 03, 2014

H2O2 is Peroxide. As it breaks down on the surface of the tooth due to body temperature it changes to H2O (water) and releases the remaining molecules of oxygen. These lonely molecules multiplied by probably millions or billions are so small they penetrate through the substrate of the enamel into the tooth, oxidizing and whitening any dark protein chains located within the tooth structure. This process is gentler to the enamel on your teeth than a can of soda pop.

The enamel does not become more porous, but the porosity is cleaned out due to the action of the peroxide. Any staining from dark foods or drinks are extrinsic (surface) stains only and can be cleaned off with a cleaning from the dental office. Patients can whiten once and sometimes go for years before they whiten again. And the only reason they are whitening again is because the teeth are relapsing back to a darker shade due to age, disease or medications.

Whitening one's teeth is not dangerous and lends itself to increased or better oral hygiene because the patient no longer feels self conscious about the condition or shade of their teeth.

By anon236541 — On Dec 23, 2011

The side effects of teeth whitening can be more dangerous than is stated in your article. As someone that have been involved in Dental Cosmetic technology, the word whitening is not in or vocabulary when we refer to colors of teeth. I don't think patients are told that once you start using teeth whitening you cannot stop, because one of the main substance in teeth whitening is peroxide, which etches the glazed surfaces of the teeth, leaving it porous and vulnerable to more stains and darker in color than when you started.

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