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What are the risk factors that affect teeth whitening?

February 11, 2021
Dentist check

Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dental treatment that’s been gaining popularity over the last few years. With patients demanding procedures that are non-invasive and quick, it’s only a matter of time before in-clinic teeth whitening becomes a mainstream treatment. 

Contrary to what most people think, teeth whitening doesn’t produce the same results for everyone, and getting Hollywood-like pearly whites isn’t that realistic all the time. If you’re considering getting teeth whitening for the first time, here are some factors to keep in mind.

1. Not everyone is a suitable candidate for teeth whitening

Certain medical or dental conditions may prevent you from getting teeth whitening, especially if your dentist uses UV light with the bleaching gel. Generally, these groups of people are not advised to do teeth whitening: 

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women 
  • People with light sensitivity 
  • Individuals with medical conditions like diabetes, melanoma or heart problems 
  • Individuals currently on chemotherapy or radiation treatment 
  • Those with receding gums, gum problems or very sensitive teeth 

A consultation with your dentist is best to assess if you’re a suitable candidate. Do let your dentist know if you are currently on any medication as well.

2. You may experience teeth sensitivity during or afterteeth whitening treatment 

Although teeth whitening is generally a painless procedure with minimal discomfort, some patients may experience some teeth sensitivity during or after treatment. However, this is normal and will go away on its own. If you opt for a take-home kit, your dentist will usually provide a desensitising gel as a preventive measure or to manage any sensitivity along the way. 

There are also some people who may be prone to sensitivity and some discomfort during teeth whitening treatment. They include: 

  • Those with open cavities, existing sensitivity, cracked teeth, leaking fillings and receding gums 
  • Those with other dental conditions that allow bleaching gel to penetrate into the teeth

As such, it is best if you have relatively healthy gums and teeth to have a pleasant teeth whitening experience.

Dentist is checking on girl teeth

3. The results of teeth whitening will vary depending on your condition

As mentioned earlier, getting perfect pearly whites might not be possible for everyone. One reason is that there are many factors that cause discolouration of the teeth. Teeth that are stained due to extrinsic factors i.e. smoking, consuming food with staining agents like coffee, red wine and tea generally respond better to teeth whitening. Teeth that are stained due to intrinsic factors i.e. certain medication or antibiotics, fluorosis do not respond as well to teeth whitening. In addition, teeth that are stained very badly regardless of the type of stain may not whiten as effectively as well. In such situations, opting for veneers or crowns to cover stained teeth might be a better option. 

The second reason why teeth whitening varies across individuals is because of genetics. The colour of our first teeth represents our natural teeth colour — what teeth whitening does is to bring your teeth back to that colour as much as possible. So if you’re blessed with naturally whiter teeth, great! If not, it would be best to manage your expectations. 

Other things to note include the effect of teeth whitening on dental restorations. Crowns, veneers, bridges, composite bonding and artificial teeth will not respond to teeth whitening at all. So perhaps that’s something to keep in mind in case your whitened teeth and restorations do not match up in colour. 

4. Be realistic with your expectations

The success of teeth whitening treatment hinges on not only the skills of the dentist but also the expectations and dental condition of the patient like I’ve mentioned above. It is possible to lighten teeth by several shades — but bear in mind that means going through several cycles of teeth whitening, including exposing your teeth to the special UV light. The more treatment your teeth is exposed to, the higher the chance of teeth sensitivity. 

Also, do consider if extremely white teeth look realistic on you. What appears flattering on paper, in your head and on others might not be the same for you. The key here is to find out what works best for you, even if it means choosing natural-looking teeth over brighter-than-life gleaming teeth.

5. The effects of teeth whitening are not forever

After teeth whitening treatment is completed, its effects will fade over time as bleaching is not a permanent solution. To maintain the longevity of your whitened teeth, I suggest getting a take-home whitening kit from the dentist. This way, you can touch up your teeth anytime. 

Your eating habits and lifestyle will also largely determine how long the effects of teeth whitening lasts. If you regularly smoke, consume coffee, red wine or other staining food and drinks, the process to get back to your teeth colour pre-treatment will definitely be accelerated compared to someone who doesn’t. Daily brushing and flossing and regular dental visits will help a ton as well. 

There you have it — the things to keep in mind when considering teeth whitening. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line.


  1. Joiner, A., & Luo, W. (2017). Tooth colour and whiteness: A review. Journal of dentistry, 67S, S3–S10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdent.2017.09.006
  2. Luo, W., Westland, S., Brunton, P., Ellwood, R., Pretty, I. A., & Mohan, N. (2007). Comparison of the ability of different colour indices to assess changes in tooth whiteness. Journal of dentistry, 35(2), 109–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdent.2006.06.006 
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