Does Whitening Damage My Teeth?

This is probably the most frequently asked question that we get about whitening. The short answer is simply, “No, whitening treatment won’t damage your teeth.” In fact, in-office and take-home whitening are both safe, ADA approved procedures (over the counter products are not.) But there’s more to it than just the short answer.

You may have heard from a friend or internet search that whitening can burn your gums or make your teeth hypersensitive. You might have even tried an over-the-counter product with poor results.  Not all whitening products are created equal. The box of white strips or whitening toothpaste you get at the grocery store are not in the same league as the treatment you can get if Dr. Agarwal were to whiten your teeth in our Raleigh practice.

Why Do Some People Experience Burning Gums?

Whitening gels, even over the counter ones, are made with concentrated hydrogen peroxide which can irritate the delicate tissue of your gums, lips or cheeks. When you have whitening performed in our practice, we’ll provide protection for your gums, applying the treatment in such a way that you won’t experience unneeded irritation.

What About Tooth Hypersensitivity?

There are a few theories about what causes the sensitivity during whitening. Mainly, the dentin of your teeth is porous like a sponge.  Whitening leeches the staining out, and leaves it dry around the tiny nerve endings. If you have generally sensitive teeth, we recommend brushing with toothpaste intended for sensitivity in the two weeks before your treatment. This can help to lessen any post whitening sensitivity. Additionally, taking a pain reliever like Ibuprofen immediately before or right after treatment can help you manage any sensitivity.  It should only last for a day or two at the longest.

Is it Better to Whiten My Teeth Before Having Them Cleaned?

Again, the short answer is no.  You need to have your regular cleaning and exam before whitening your teeth.  There are two reasons for this:

  • Preventive cleanings remove plaque and tartar that cause staining. They whitening gel will be more effective on clean tooth surfaces than on teeth that have only been cleaned by brushing them.
  • It’s important for Dr. Agarwal to identify any decay in your teeth and make sure your gums are healthy. These will need to be addressed before any cosmetic or whitening treatment. Otherwise, the bleaching agent has more direct access to your dental nerves, which could make the post whitening sensitivity worse!
  • Your results will be far easier to maintain when your teeth are regularly cleaned by one of Dr. Agarwal’s hygienists. In most cases, all you will need to do is touch up for the few days after your cleaning to see a brighter smile that lasts for years.


Enjoying a whiter smile can do a lot for your own self-confidence and personality. Teeth whitening is an affordable way to get a fast smile makeover before that big job interview, wedding, or even a night out on the town. At our Raleigh dental practice, Dr. Agarwal will discuss your concerns with you and recommend the professional whitening option that is most appropriate to your needs. You might just be surprised at how easy it can be!

Contact Raleigh Dental Arts today to book your whitening consultation.