Burke, Fairfax and Fairfax Station, VA

From over-the-counter whitening strips to whitening toothpaste and professional services at the dentist’s office, more and more people are turning to teeth whitening to give dingy smiles a celebrity status. And why wouldn’t they? A white, bright smile can completely transform a person’s confidence in themselves and their overall outlook on life. At the same time, a common concern among our patients is whether these whitening treatments are safe for their gums and teeth. Today, our cosmetic dentist in Burke, Dr. Pam Marzban, is addressing that question and helping us understand more about teeth whitening and whether the treatment should be done at home or under dentist’s supervision. Let’s dive in!

Does teeth whitening carry risks or side effects?

Teeth whitening uses bleaching agents to remove stains and discoloration from the tooth enamel, which is the white, outermost, protective layer of the tooth. These bleaching agents penetrate the enamel and break down the molecules that cause discoloration. The result: a whiter, more aesthetically pleasing smile.

Let’s look at some of the potential risks or side effects of using a bleaching agent:

Tooth sensitivity

The most common complaint we hear in our Fairfax cosmetic dentist’s office is that whitening causes tooth sensitivity. Bleaching agents can cause a temporary increase in sensitivity of the teeth because peroxide can penetrate the tooth’s enamel and reach the dentin layer underneath, irritating the nerve endings in the tooth. Tooth sensitivity usually subsides within a few days after the whitening treatment. Using toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth and avoiding extremely hot or cold foods and beverages can help alleviate discomfort.

Gum irritation

Another common complaint following teeth whitening treatments — especially those that are purchased over-the-counter — is irritated or burning gums. Sometimes this can be caused by ill-fitting whitening trays or incorrect application of the whitening gel. Gum irritation, like tooth sensitivity, is temporary. Rinse with lukewarm water, and be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush to prevent further irritation.

Uneven whitening

Teeth with fillings, crowns, or veneers do not respond to whitening agents like natural teeth do. This can lead to uneven whitening. Be sure to discuss your dental history with our Fairfax Station cosmetic dentist so that we can determine the best approach to achieve a seamlessly white and bright smile for you.

Professional vs. At-home whitening: which is better?

Many people have tried at-home whitening products and kits before finally turning to a dentist for a better, more consistent and less-risk outcome. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of each:

At-home whitening pros Whitening your teeth at home is cost-effective, and the lower concentration of bleaching agents may not cause as much tooth sensitivity after treatment.

Cons — At-home whitening kits carry a greater risk of improper application, leading to inconsistent results and more irritated gums. The results will also be far slower than at the dentist.

Professional whitening pros — Whitening your teeth at the dentist means the process is supervised. Dr. Marzban formulates a customized treatment plan just for you and uses higher concentrations of bleaching agents than what is offered in at-home kits, resulting in quicker and better results.

Cons — Dental visits and professional whitening are more expensive than over-the-counter kits. While most of our patients report feeling less tooth sensitivity when treated in our office, in some cases, the higher concentration of bleaching agents we use can lead to minor sensitivity.

Can tooth whitening damage my enamel?

Many people mistakenly believe that teeth whitening damages enamel. Studies show that when used properly, whitening agents do not significantly harm tooth enamel. However, overuse of unsupervised, over-the-counter whitening products can weaken enamel so be sure to follow all recommended guidelines. 

Teeth whitening in Burke, Fairfax, and Fairfax Station, Virginia

When done correctly and under Dr. Marzban’s professional guidance, teeth whitening is a comfortable, effective and rewarding experience. Any side effects, such as tooth sensitivity or gum irritation, should be temporary and manageable. To evenly whiten and brighten your smile without compromising your comfort or dental health, reach our office in the Northern Virginia area near Burke, Fairfax and Fairfax Station online or by calling 703-323-8200. Dr. Marzban is happy to consult with you and discuss the best whitening approach for your specific needs. We want to make sure you have the safest, most comfortable and most effective whitening experience possible.

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