How to Treat Burned Gums From Teeth Whitening

Everyone experiences gum irritation from teeth whitening to some degree. If you’ve ever burned the inside of your mouth on hot food or drink, you know that irritating your oral cavity’s soft tissue can be seriously painful. Hot foods and drinks aren’t the only things that can burn or irritate your soft tissue, including your gum tissue – if you’re not careful, you can damage your gum tissue while whitening your teeth.

Whitening your teeth will not cause any permanent damage to your gums; however temporary gum irritation is among the risk factors of using professional teeth whitening. Soft tissue or gum irritation caused by teeth whitening gel is considered a chemical burn, very comparable to a sunburn. When a chemical burn occurs, the area becomes mildly sore, turns white, and will eventually flake off. The tissue will return to normalcy within twenty-four hours.

What Causes Burned Gums From Teeth Whitening?

Hydrogen peroxide is one of the main ingredients in teeth whitening products, and it can often cause irritation or a burning sensation around the gums. While the amount of hydrogen peroxide included in teeth whitening products is safe to use, exposing your gums to this agent may lead to sensitivity or pain.

Typically, whitening toothpaste contains little or no bleaching agents but helps brighten your teeth by scrubbing away stains. These kinds of toothpaste are less likely to irritate or burn the gums if they have no hydrogen peroxide. You might experience some irritation if you brush too hard, but the ingredients themselves are unlikely to cause a problem.

Besides feeling a chemical burn, you might recognise gum irritation during the whitening process if your gums develop white spots or parts of your gum turn white. Your gums might become inflamed, and you could experience tooth sensitivity as well.

How To Prevent and Protect Burned Gums From Teeth Whitening

So how do you protect your gums when whitening your teeth? There are many steps you can take to minimize the uncomfortable side effects of teeth whitening and prevent burned gums from teeth whitening. Here are a few strategies to try:

  • Visit your dentist before doing any at-home teeth whitening. If you’re prone to teeth or gum sensitivity, consult with your dentist before using teeth whitening products. They can give you tips or point you toward products that may lessen sensitivity-related symptoms.
  • Choose a Toothfairy custom-fit whitening tray. One of the best ways to avoid teeth whitening products from seeping out of your tray and toward your gums is to opt for a custom whitening tray that will fit your mouth perfectly.
  • Use a sensitive toothpaste. Another step you can take to minimise irritation and pain around your gums is to switch to a sensitivity toothpaste.
  • Reduce acidic food and drink in your diet. Acidic foods can amplify gum sensitivity and irritation. If you’re experiencing pain in the gum area after teeth whitening, stay away from acidic food and drinks like coffee, wine, and citrus fruits like lemons and grapefruits.
  • Read instructions carefully. Proper application of teeth whitening products — whether you’re using a tray, strips, or a whitening pen — will significantly decrease your risk of burned gums from teeth whitening. Oftentimes, a rush to apply the product to your teeth or leaving teeth whitening products on for too long is what leads to that burning sensation or sensitivity.
  • Remove any teeth whitening gel from gums. When applying your teeth whitening product, it’s important that you keep the product on your teeth and avoid the gums. You can take a tissue and wipe away anything that gets too close to that area.
  • Don’t whiten every day. While it may be tempting to whiten your teeth as quickly as possible, too much whitening can cause damage to your teeth. If you use whitening products too often, it can wear away at your tooth enamel on the microscopic level, increasing the chance of sensitivity and decay.

What You Can Do to Soothe Your Gums

Let’s say you’re in the middle of a whitening treatment at home, and you feel a slight burning in your gums. What can you do? First, stop the treatment: Remove the tray or the whitening product. Don’t wait until the burning gets worse! Then, rinse your mouth: Rinsing with warm saltwater swishes away any lingering bleaching product and soothes the irritation.

As long as you stop the bleaching treatment quickly, the good news is that gum irritation usually resolves on its own after a few days. Saltwater rinses will help relieve discomfort during recovery. If needed, over-the-counter pain relievers can dull the irritation or burning feeling.

If your burns seem severe, become inflamed, or cause you concern in any way, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist. By looking at the injury, your dental professional can tell you if home care will be enough to treat the injury or if there are other options needed to relieve your injured gums.

4 Tips for Soothing Irritated Gums

1. Warm and Cold Compresses
Applying compresses directly to your gums is a great way to relieve pain. You can choose to go with either a hot or cold compress, or you can switch from one to the other until your pain subsides.

To use a hot compress, run your water until it gets hot — but not scalding hot — and wet a clean cloth with the hot water. Wring out any excess water and place the cloth over your mouth where the pain is. For a cold compress, wrap an ice pack or ice cubes in a clean cloth and place it over the painful area of your mouth.

2. Salt Water Rinse
Salt water rinses are a great way to reduce inflammation in the mouth. The salt helps get rid of bacteria in your mouth and prevents further bacteria growth. We have a homemade salt water rinse recipe that you can make with just three ingredients.

3. Tea Bags
Using black or green tea (or any tea with astringent benefits), soak the tea bag in boiling water for at least five minutes. Then let the bag cool off so it’s not boiling hot and place on top of your gums where the pain is. You could also use tea with anti-inflammatory properties such as chamomile or ginger tea.

4. Herbal Paste
Try making your own herbal paste to spread along your irritated gums using mouth-safe ingredients like turmeric or cloves. Turmeric is a bright yellow-orange spice that contains curcumin, which can help reduce inflammation and protect the mouth against gum disease and gingivitis. Cloves contain an ingredient that helps numb the nerves in your mouth temporarily, which will help provide relief from toothache or pain related to inflammation.

First, start with a powdered form of turmeric or clove and mix with a small amount of warm water. Mix until it forms a paste, adding more powdered turmeric,clove, or water until the consistency is just right. Apply some of the paste directly to the site of your gum pain. Leave the paste on for a few minutes and then rinse it away, being careful not to swallow any of the paste.

Talk to Toothfairy

If you’re experiencing tooth or gum pain, or think you might have chemical burns from teeth whitening, contact Toothfairy by booking an emergency appointment with one of our dentists.

Last updated on February 29, 2024

Dr. Deepak Aulak

Dr. Deepak Aulak is a London-based dental practitioner with a special interest in cosmetic dentistry. Having graduated from King's College London in Dentistry, Dr. Aulak was decorated with over a dozen awards and scholarships along the way, which notably include the Jelf Medal, Malleson Prize for research and GKT Hospital's Full Shields.


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