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Disadvantages of Tooth Whitening

By Denise Minger ; Updated August 14, 2017

For men and women alike, a gleaming smile is a hallmark of health and beauty. Few cosmetic dental treatments are as coveted as tooth whitening, and despite the aesthetic perks of polishing your smile, whitening procedures carry several disadvantages. Discuss potential risks with your dentist before choosing a tooth-whitening treatment.

Teeth Whitening Costs

According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, whitening treatments can be relatively expensive, with costs ranging from $600 to $1000 when performed in a dental office, and a pricetag of $300 to $600 for at-home bleaching kits. Because dental insurance rarely covers the cost of tooth-whitening procedures, you will most likely have to pay for the full cost of your treatment.

Are You a Tooth Whitening Candidate?

Not all smiles respond equally well to bleaching treatments, making tooth-whitening procedures unsuccessful in some cases. As the American Dental Association explains, yellow-hued teeth typically bleach well, but whitening products may not improve the appearance of teeth tinged with brown or gray tones. In addition, whitening chemicals cannot change the color of crowns, bonding materials or tooth-colored fillings; if these materials appear on visible sections of your smile, tooth-whitening procedures may cause them to stand out against your natural teeth, creating a displeasing appearance. Tooth stains resulting from certain drugs—such tetracyclines—may also be unresponsive to bleaching treatments.

Does it Last?

Tooth-whitening procedures are not permanent, and you may require multiple treatments over the years to maintain a bright smile. Whitening treatments typically last between one and three years before teeth regain a darker, stained appearance. If you smoke, chew tobacco, drink coffee or consume other staining foods and beverages, the whiteness of your teeth may start declining in as little as one month after treatment.

Treatment Dos and Dont's

Although tooth-whitening treatments are generally safe, the procedure can result in several uncomfortable side effects. Bleaching may increase the sensitivity of your teeth for several days after treatment, leading to pain while eating or drinking. You may be at particular risk for sensitivity if you have gum recession, faulty dental restorations or cracked teeth. In some cases, people also feel sharp, spontaneous pains in their front teeth shortly after a tooth-whitening session, and many people using peroxide-based whiteners experience gum irritation. Although uncomfortable symptoms typically subside within two days after a tooth-whitening session, issues like sensitivity can linger for a month, the Consumer Guide to Dentistry states.

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