Over-the-Counter Bleaching Tray Pain: Why Your Gums Hurt and How to Soothe the Pain

When it comes to giving you the kind of teeth that make for a radiant and pleasing smile, there are very few cosmetic options better than teeth whitening. Many people, due to the higher cost, avoid professional teeth whitening such as in-office whitening or the take-home-trays, custom made by dentists to fit specifically to the shape of a patient's bite. Instead, they opt for over-the-counter options such as whitening strips or bleaching trays. 

However, one problem that you may encounter while using over-the-counter bleaching trays is gum irritation. This occurs mainly for two reasons, each of which will be explained in this article, along with some advice on how you can avoid this problem in future. 

Over-the-counter Trays Fit Poorly

Because over-the-counter bleaching trays are not designed specifically for your teeth, they will likely fit poorly. This leads to problems like:

  • Overextended Edges: When this is a factor, the whitening gel may come into contact with your gums, causing irritation and leading to white, peeling gums.
  • Slackness: A poorly fitting tray that is slack will need adjusting on occasion, and these adjustments can cause gel to leak onto your gums.
  • Shortness in Some Areas: Some trays are also too short in areas, leading to uneven distribution of whiteness on your teeth. 

The Bleaching Gel May be Too Strong

Many of the over-the-counter whitening trays contain peroxide. It is this compound that turns your gums white. If the solution is too strong for your gums, the surface layer of skin may peel away and you may experience a slight but unpleasant burning sensation for up to a day. 

How to Soothe Irritated Gums

Although it might be alarming to witness your gums turn white, along with the pain experienced after using a bleaching tray, you really needn't worry. Any irritation or whiteness should fade in 1-2 days. In the meantime, you can soothe and protect your gums by: 

  • Applying Aloe Vera: Studies show that aloe vera can heal gums, so try swishing aloe vera juice around your gums several times a day, or apply aloe vera gel directly to the irritated area throughout the day to promote swift healing. 
  • Applying Vitamin E Gel: Much like aloe vera, vitamin E, which is also found in aloe vera, promotes healing and improves periondontal (gum) health, so apply vitamin E gel on the irritated area throughout the day. 
  • Monitoring Your Diet: Avoid spicy foods and anything extreme, such as hot drinks or citrus fruit, as these things will worsen the condition and slow healing time. 

Use Bleaching Trays Provided by Your Dentist

Although your insurance likely will not cover the cost, bleaching trays provided by a dentist are not only custom-made for your particular teeth, meaning no gel leakage onto your gums, but the gel provided by a dentist is stronger than anything you can buy in a pharmacy or supermarket. If you would prefer a bleaching system that is safer and more effective, talk to your dentist about take-home trays.