Is Laser Teeth Whitening Safe? Exploring the Safety of Brighter Smiles

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Laser teeth whitening is the preferred choice for people seeking a quick, reliable treatment to enhance the shine of their permanent teeth and address deep-set, intrinsic tooth stains. Let’s look into the procedure in more depth.

We understand that the prospect of being exposed to a diode laser focused directly on your teeth might be cause for concern; therefore, in this blog, we have compiled some compelling facts, with the aid of scientific evidence, that should alleviate any safety concerns that might pertain to this treatment.

Is Laser Teeth Whitening Safe?

Let’s first understand the process of laser teeth whitening in depth. In an ‘in-office’ procedure, specific concentrations of bleaching chemicals like carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide-based gels are applied to the teeth. Then a diode laser is focused on a point to activate the gel, which fast forwards the chemical reaction to break down intrinsic stains (old stains on the teeth) and discoloration. Previously, argon laser and CO2 were used, but now, diode laser and potassium titanyl phosphate (KTP) are the norm.

Protective barriers shield the gums from the bleaching agent and laser, minimizing the risk of irritation. This cosmetic dentistry procedure offers quick results, with professional supervision ensuring safety. However, some concerns about safety are more than understandable. 

Safety Factors of Laser Teeth Whitening

Below, we have compiled some safety factors concerning laser teeth whitening.

Patients Reported Satisfaction: A study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine assessed whether laser use was viable or not; they demonstrated that a 450 nm blue diode laser proved to be quite safe and effective when used in-office.  They also noticed a highly significant tooth color improvement along with reports of reduced pain and discomfort, hypersensitivity, and gingival inflammation over an 8-month follow-up period. This means that we can use lasers in these treatments for safety as well as reliability.

Reduced Post-Whitening Tooth Sensitivity: Patients have reported tooth sensitivity as being one of the most common side effects of non-laser, in-office teeth whitening.  This can happen because the bleaching chemical can penetrate the enamel and reach the dentin, leading to dematerialization and sensitivity.

Another study was published in the Dentistry Journal which demonstrated that low-level laser therapy (LLLT) with a diode laser before in-office bleaching significantly reduced post-whitening tooth sensitivity. The study involved a clinical double-blind, randomized trial where participants who received preliminary LLLT reported lower sensitivity than those who did not.

Reduced Need For High Bleaching Chemical Concentrations: Another upside of using diode lasers is that they activate the bleaching agents more coherently, reducing the need for higher concentrations of HP (hydrogen peroxide). This can lead to a minimization of the potential toxicity and adverse effects associated with higher HP levels. A systematic review in Applied Sciences found that laser-activated bleaching required 24% less HP concentration to achieve similar whitening results compared to conventional methods.​

Potential Risks

In this section, we examine some of the risks of laser teeth whitening, which—although increasingly rare—do bear mentioning. 

Tooth sensitivity: Earlier, we mentioned a study from the Dentistry Journal that said laser whitening can decrease tooth sensitivity. However, if inexperienced hands conduct the procedure, the opposite situation could occur. 

Bleaching agents used in combination with diode lasers can cause a temporary demineralization of the enamel (which can happen due to softening and dehydration caused by the agent); this can lead to increased tooth sensitivity due to issues like incorrect use of diode lasers (with incorrect settings or excessive exposure). Therefore, inexperienced handling might exacerbate sensitivity issues.

Gum Irritation: The bleaching chemicals are slightly toxic, and if the protective measures fail or are not applied in the right manner, they can adversely impact the surrounding sensitive tissue area, leading to gum irritation; it is pretty rare, however, as long as procedures are followed safely by dental professionals, the rates of gum irritation decrease exponentially. 

Thermal and Enamel Damage: Improper use of the laser, such as excessive exposure or incorrect settings, can cause thermal damage to the tooth pulp or surrounding tissues; similarly, overuse or incorrect application of the laser can potentially damage the enamel, especially if combined with high concentrations of bleaching agents. In contrast, cosmetic solutions such as porcelain veneers don’t carry these risks but are also less convenient.

Safety Measures 

The laser whitening process is generally considered safe, given that it is conducted by experienced professionals. In this section, we have compiled some details that influence the outcome of the procedure while ensuring utmost safety. 

Professional Supervision: The patient should make sure that the procedure is supervised and performed by a licensed dentist or a trained dental hygienist so that proper application and handling of the laser equipment is secured. A proper consultation should be carried out before the procedure. The American Dental Association (ADA) emphasizes the importance of professional supervision for all teeth whitening treatments so that any sort of potential harm can be prevented.

Protective Measures: The gum, if somehow exposed to the bleaching gel, can suffer from thermal damage, which is why gum protection is highly prioritized. The dentist will apply a protective barrier (a specialized gel or a rubber dam) to the gums so that exposure to the hydrogen peroxide and the diode laser can be greatly minimized. Also, both the dentist and the patient will be wearing protective eyewear to shield them from the rays of the laser. 

Controlled Laser Use: The laser will be properly calibrated to ensure the suitable wavelength and energy levels are used to activate the bleaching agent without causing any thermal damage. The exposure time and intensity of the laser will also be carefully controlled to avoid overheating the tooth pulp or causing discomfort to the patient.

Patient Evaluation: Before the procedure, the patient will be thoroughly evaluated and assessed for any lingering oral issues that could interfere, like cavities or gum disease. The dentist might even advise patients to practice consistent healthy oral practices for two weeks prior (such as brushing, flossing, and the like).

Conclusion

In this blog, we thoroughly discussed all the safety considerations of laser teeth whitening and offered scientific evidence for our claims. We also expanded upon some safety measures that will be part of a properly conducted laser whitening procedure.

If you are looking for further information about laser teeth whitening or want to discuss your unique case with a professional staff equipped to offer experienced and individualized support, feel free to visit or call the 3D Smile Clinic, a premium dental practice located in Austin, Texas. Schedule a free consultation with us now!

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