Does Teeth Whitening Hurt?

Teeth whitening is a popular procedure at Revitalise Dental Centre. Our partnership with Boutique whitening delivers a simple, personalised treatment plan which can be adapted to fit your lifestyle.

Teeth whitening is not a new treatment. In the 17th century, men would visit their barber for a trim and teeth whitening. The barber would file the teeth and prescribe a sulphuric acid mouthwash. If that’s not enough to make your teeth hurt, Roman emperors used urine to whiten their teeth to show wealth and prosperity.

Thankfully, we now have safe, effective methods for whitening teeth and the demand for teeth whitening is growing year on year. In this blog post we will discuss professional teeth whitening; what it is, how it works and why it doesn’t hurt.

What Is Teeth Whitening?

Teeth whitening is a cosmetic process to create a brighter, whiter smile. Many people assume that teeth whitening is simply the process of removing surface stains; whilst this is a part of the teeth whitening process, professional teeth whitening goes deeper, treating both extrinsic and intrinsic discolouring.

Intrinsic discolouring refers to the breakdown of bright teeth from inside the tooth, whilst extrinsic discolouring refers to stains on the surface of the tooth. It is important to treat intrinsic and extrinsic discolouring as this is the only way to create whiter teeth. Many products bought over the counter will not tackle intrinsic whitening, however, a professional product delivered by your dentist will have active ingredients to ensure that you are getting to the root cause of discolouration.

Causes of Intrinsic Discolouring:


Excessive fluoride intake at an early age can cause fluorosis. This manifests itself as white, chalky deposits on the enamel or brown staining. Teeth whitening could improve the mottled nature of the tooth’s enamel and improve the overall appearance of teeth.


The antibiotics tetracycline and minocycline, both commonly used to treat acne, can leave a blue grey banding on the teeth. The severity of staining will depend on the type and duration of the antibiotics used. Prolonged whitening is usually needed to whiten the affected teeth and in more severe cases this is best delivered in conjunction with veneers and composite bonding for a satisfactory result.


Where teeth are impacted by trauma, a breakdown may occur in the central core of the teeth. This may turn the tooth from a pinkish colour to a grey black colour. Teeth intrinsically discoloured by impact respond well to prolonged whitening treatment.


The imperfect formation of enamel or dentine caused by hereditary diseases can lead to discoloured teeth. The affected teeth are often a pinkish brown and respond to teeth whitening treatment.


As we age, the physical composition of our teeth changes; layers of enamel are lost, exposing the underlying dentine, which can often result in the secondary dentine taking on a darker hue. Teeth discoloured by age respond well to whitening, and treatment could remove years of discolouration from your smile.

Causes of Extrinsic Discolouring:


If plaque isn’t regularly removed through brushing and cleaning, it can create a buildup of a yellow substance called tartar. This stubborn substance can cause discolouring, which responds well to professional teeth whitening.

Food and beverages

Some of the food and drink that we consume can cause discolouring. Tannins in tea and coffee can leave stains on teeth and consuming red wine regularly can lead to discolouring but this also responds well to professional teeth whitening.


Chemicals found in smoking discolour teeth leaving them looking yellow. Smoking can also cause mouth cancer – if you want a healthier mouth, you should not smoke. Teeth discoloured by smoking respond well to whitening treatment, but you should be aware that results are affected by how heavily you smoke and can be reversed by continuing to smoke.

The Process

The whitening process at Revitalise tackles stains by using products by Boutique whitening that contain a combination of active ingredients formulated to tackle your specific issues. Whilst treatment will be guided by your dentist, you will take home your Boutique whitening kit with custom moulded whitening trays so that you can continue your daily treatment at home.

Session 1

In your first session, we will assess your gum health. If there is presence of cavity or gum disease, it may not be advisable to continue with teeth whitening treatment until these problems are treated. At this point, you should mention any teeth and gum sensitivity as this will affect how we approach treatment. You will then have impressions taken so that whitening trays can be made specifically to fit around your teeth.

Session 2

In your second session, you will be provided with a whitening kit, which will include custom whitening trays and whitening gel. We will also provide you with instructions and you may be offered a demonstration if needed.

After this session, you will wear your whitening trays for 2 – 6 weeks, depending on the length of treatment. Some people choose to wear them during the day and others during sleep. The Boutique whitening system makes teeth whitening a simple process which works around your life, although wearing during sleep is not advisable if you suffer from bruxism (grinding teeth) as it reduces the effectiveness of whitening.

Session 3

We will review treatment and ensure you are happy with the outcome. If your teeth are not as white as you hoped, we can discuss further treatment options to get the smile you want.

Teeth and Gum Sensitivity

When receiving teeth whitening treatment, many people worry that it will cause irritation to the lining of the mouth and gums. If you have gum or teeth sensitivity, you should mention this to your dentist before beginning treatment as your dentist can adjust your treatment to account for any sensitivity.

Your unique teeth whitening trays should mitigate any sensitivity of the gums, as these trays are made from moulds of your mouth. Any gum sensitivity that does occur during treatment can be mitigated by only filling the whitening tray with the recommended amount of whitening gel and using the dosing dots as a guide.

Having your teeth whitened by a registered dentist will reduce the risk of harm caused by whitening products and will ensure that you are using the correct amount of chemicals.

The Risks of DIY Whitening Products

The rise in demand for teeth whitening has led to the development of many products which claim to have an effect on discolouration but in some cases may actually cause harm to teeth. These teeth whitening solutions range from toothpastes to DIY methods, some of which should not be used without consulting your dentist.

Charcoal toothpastes

Charcoal is a fashionable product, many people are adding it to both beauty products and health foods, claiming that it has a positive effect on wellbeing. It has also gained popularity as a tooth whitening product, being sold by internet influencers and high street chains.

Charcoal toothpaste isn’t necessarily harmful and won’t cause pain, but, without any active teeth whitening ingredients it is unlikely to have any effect on discolouration. Some people report that their teeth look whiter after using charcoal toothpaste, this is likely an optical illusion owing to the black colour of the toothpaste, which, once rinsed makes the teeth appear much whiter.

Baking Powder

The abrasive nature of baking powder makes it perfect for lifting stains from furniture and cleaning jewellery. Some toothpaste brands have capitalised on this and added small amounts of baking powder to their formulas to help whiten teeth.

Although baking powder may remove some extrinsic discolouring, there are no active ingredients in baking powder to chemically whiten teeth. Furthermore, the overuse of baking powder, including the creation of DIY formulas, could leave your teeth with irreversible damage, weakened enamel and exposure to decay.

Unregulated Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is one of the active ingredients used by dentists during teeth whitening treatment. When used as part of a controlled formula by dental professionals, hydrogen peroxide is an effective treatment for removing extrinsic stains.

Worryingly, recent trends on a number of social media platforms have led to hydrogen peroxide being bought over the internet. Unfortunately, it is impossible to regulate this and many people are buying Hydrogen peroxide formulas which are unlicensed for sale to the general public.

TikTok, a social media platform popular with those aged between 16 and 24, has seen an uptick in videos being shared by teens, in which pure hydrogen peroxide fluid is being swilled around the mouth in an attempt to whiten teeth. Not only will this cause uneven whitening, but it is also incredibly dangerous. In higher concentrations, hydrogen peroxide can cause serious gastrointestinal problems if swallowed, but could also be dangerous to skin and mucous, with the potential to cause burns in the mouth and along the respiratory tract if inhaled.

When administered by a registered dentist as part of a teeth whitening programme, using uniquely moulded dental trays, hydrogen peroxide is completely safe and should not hurt.

Excessive Teeth Whitening

Whether you are brushing with abrasives or using other DIY treatments, excessive teeth whitening could damage your teeth and hurt your mouth. Many home whitening treatments will only remove extrinsic discolouring. Some treatments have no active whitening ingredients, this can cause overuse of home products in an attempt to try and whiten teeth.

Before beginning teeth whitening treatment with your dentist, you should disclose any other treatments you might have tried in the past. Your dentist will advise you on how to continue to look after your teeth and if your teeth have been damaged by at home treatments, your dentist will advise whether professional teeth whitening treatment is suitable. It is important that you disclose this information in order to maintain the health of your mouth and for your dentist to provide the appropriate care.

Teeth Whitening: Veneers, Crowns and Implants

Teeth whitening treatments have little to no effect on the appearance of crowns, veneers and implants. If you find that your cosmetic dentistry has become stained, visit your dentist who can provide cleaning and advise on how to keep your cosmetic fittings clean and stain free.

If you have veneers or crowns fitted, you can still receive teeth whitening for your natural teeth. You may want to consider that your cosmetic fittings have been designed to match your natural teeth and whitening may lead to your fittings looking slightly darker than your whitened teeth. If this occurs, you can speak to your dentist about replacing your cosmetic fittings to match your new whitened teeth. To maintain the new whitened shade, you will have to continue with periodic whitening treatment.

Consider Professional Teeth Whitening

When performed by a registered dentist with reputable products, teeth whitening should not hurt. You should always inform your dentist of any sensitivities and previous whitening products that you might have used at home, or with another dentist.

At Revitalise, we are proud of our partnership with Boutique whitening, a system which provides excellent, pain free cosmetic dentistry for mouths of all ages. If you would like to learn more about teeth whitening at Revitalise, call 01872 555 911 or email [email protected] to speak to a member of the team and start your teeth whitening journey today.

About the author


Jason Smithson is an internationally renowned cosmetic and reconstructive dentist formerly of London’s Harley Street Medical District, he is now based in St Agnes, Cornwall where he offers dentistry, dental-education and medico-legal expert witness services. World-class crowns, veneers and direct composite resin artistry are delivered with uncompromising standards bespoke to the patient’s individual requirements. He is considered to be the ‘Dentist’s Dentist’ and regularly treats other dentists; many of whom travel from throughout the UK to see him. Dr Smithson is an ‘In Demand’ presenter and is perhaps the most prolific in the UK. He is considered by his peers to be an authority on aesthetic dentistry and has presented to audiences on every continent over the past 10 years. He is a true innovator and pioneered the use of Dental Operating Microscope in teaching Direct Resin Artistry to other dentists in the UK; he is the author of numerous articles and a book on crowns in aesthetic dentistry. Visit Jason's Website

Connect with Jason Smithson on LinkedIn.

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What our Clients say

Marion visited Revitalise to reclaim her smile with a complete implant treatment. In this video, she explains how the staff at the practice put her at ease and why she recommends Revitalise to everyone she meets.

Client: Marion
Treatment: Complete mouth secured with implants

“The minute I met Martin, I just knew he was so calm and relaxing. So then we had a discussion and Martin said what he could do and it had to be what our pocket could afford as well and we went ahead with it. The experience I had at this dentist was unbelievable, it was a journey I loved every minute of.”

Client: Dee
Treatment: Dental Implants

“There’s always smiling, handshakes, hugs and plenty of tea and coffee. They looked after my husband who was there for the day. They do the sedation and Hayley looked after me. Obviously I was unaware of exactly what they were doing, but they always make you feel so comfortable. Although you’re nervous, I don’t think I could’ve gone and got the same treatment anywhere else.”

Client: Carolyn
Treatment: Dental Implants

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