Teeth Whitening – What Are the Risks?

Dazzling white teeth, as seen on our popular stars on the screens, have now become a symbol of health, charm and success. As evidence, more and more people are looking to wear their favorite TV star’s glittering smile.

heartland-Amber-Marshall-horse-Spartan-dental-bleach-aylmer-chelseaOver the years, 16% of Canadians have purchased teeth bleaching over-the-counter products. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the demand to get teeth whitened has soared 300% in the last 15 years with our Southern neighbors.

Teeth whitening has become big business

Simply put, people’s enthusiasm for teeth whitening caused the market to explode. Bleaching has entered its golden era. It is not surprising to find a large array of products for whitening: gel, toothpaste, gum, strips, bleaching trays or treatment by a dentist, you are spoiled for choice.

There are so many ways to make teeth whiter: at the dentist, at home with a dentist supervision, in an aesthetic clinic, a spa, a hair salon, or by purchasing store products to do it yourself. Treatments can cost between $150 and $1000.

How does it work?

Whether they are commercially available products or those used by a dental practitioner, whitening bleaches work the same way: peroxide applied to the teeth break up dark molecules found in the enamel, making them appear lighter.


The concentration of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxidewill vary depending on its use: low-dose products for home use, and higher concentration products for the dental office.

Many walk through the dentist doors in hope of getting back their early age pristine whiteness. To prevent disappointments, keep in mind that these methods get your teeth enamel lighter rather than a true “bleaching”.

What your dentist say

Before starting a teeth whitening treatment, it is strongly recommended to consult your dentist who can advise you based on your dental records.

To establish a true diagnosis and propose the right treatment, the dentist will look firstly at the origin of the coloration of your teeth and its intensity: coffee, red wine, dark chocolate,smoking, taking medication, aging, others.



Next he could recommend a thorough oral cleaning before bleaching, or even additional treatments. Indeed, treatments can be painful to diseased gums that will have to heal before treatment. The peroxide used to whiten teeth can cause this sensitivity.





Better to consult a pro

The main advantage of bleaching at a dentist is in the process control and the security of selected dosages. Surely, the active oxidative substance has to be correctly adapted to the patient.


Either the dentist will give you a personalized kit for treating yourself at home, or he will be proceed with the application of hydrogen peroxide which will be activated by heat or by light.

In practice, the application is made by brush, except that the lips are separated by a mouth guard, so that the product remains on the teeth and your gums are protected. The treatment will be spread on 2 or 3 sessions one hour each.

david-coté-Family-Dental-Safe-TeethWhitening-gatineau-aylmerThe treatment prepared for the home use resembles trays sold in drugstores, with the difference that this tray will be perfectly suited to your teeth, as made from impressions taken beforehand. Using the product syringes given, you can do the treatment on your own time, day or night, over a 3 week period. The typical improvement is about four or five shades.


Risks of teeth whitening

The Canadian Dental Association recommend avoiding practicing teeth bleaching in whatever form too often.

As seen in many dissatisfied users, this practice can:

  • Cause tooth hypersensitivity
  • With hot, but mostly with cold
  • Alter enamel permanently
  • Cause premature teeth wear
  • And brittleness of teeth
  • And irritate mucous membranes.


With long or more frequent bleaching product use, teeth are likely to recolor faster, due to the alteration of the enamel surface.

Teeth bleaching at home or in a facility should be practiced with great precautions and with products that meet hydrogen peroxide regulations.

Dr. Annie St-Georges, professor at the University of Montreal Faculty of Dentistry says: “Avoid aesthetic clinics, spas and salons that charge low prices. These people are neither dentists nor hygienists. Often, the peroxide is misapplied and causes a significant sensitivity of the teeth and gums. Should there be a problem, a hairdresser or a beautician can’t do much because they ignore what happens their client’s mouth and why something went wrong.”

Additionally, if the peroxide is applied in large quantity or too often, the outer layer of the teeth ends up being impaired, making the enamel more porous and more subject to staining.

Contraindications to whitening

  • Is only performed on permanent healthy teeth enamel, not on veneers and crowns
  • Not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding, as well as with health problems


  • Smoking is not indicated during treatment, peroxide increases the carcinogenic potential of tobacco
  • Alcohol abuse and genetic predispositions increase the risk of mouth cancer
  • Do not use whitening products with children under 12 years.


Mixed results

Basic bleaching products in stores, such as toothpastes, chewing gums and mouthwashes contain abrasives and will only attack surface stains on teeth.


Nonetheless, they are quite affordable and can be used to clean teeth after a meal or to perpetuate the chemical bleaching effects. Note that baking soda can also give fair to good results with regular use. But don’t imagine that your teeth will regain your baby teeth gleaming whiteness!

As for duration of treatment, remember that results are usually temporary (a few months to a year) and vary a lot according to the treatments employed.


Take-home teeth whitening treatment


For over-the-counter products, opt for self-adhesive strips, applicator brushes and trays. But beware, the one-size-only trays do not adapt perfectly on the teeth, and potentially irritating bleach can dribble onto the gums and soft tissues of the mouth, and brush application offers no way to hold the product on the teeth.

Protégez-vous-Consumer Report-whitening-recommendation-dental-gatineau

Considered more effective, self-adhesive strips adhere better to the teeth and protect your mouth from the product. They are more expensive, but both Consumers Report and Quebec’s Protégez-vous magazines recommend Crest Whitestrips.



We welcome your inquiries

In our articles on dental care, we do not address topics in full details.











If you have specific questions about the information in the articles, do not hesitate to ask Dr. David Côté, who will take the time to respond.

For carefree teeth whitening, set up an appointment with Venessa at (819) 770-3636.

Approuvé par Dr Côté
Le Dr Côté possède une vaste expérience pour tous les types de traitements dentaires généraux. Il offre depuis près de 15 ans, un service complet d'orthodontie pour corriger les malpositions dentaires à tout âge.
Dr David Côté

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