Can I Whiten My Teeth While Pregnant?

Woman putting on teeth whitening strip

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc. / Getty Images

One aspect of being pregnant that you likely learned early on is that there is a litany of things that should be avoided. So many, in fact, that nearly everything you come across can easily become suspect. To add to the challenge of knowing what's safe and what should be a no-go, some food, drinks, and activities don’t fit easily into a “yes” or “no” box. Take teeth whitening, for instance.

You may have enjoyed bleaching your pearly whites at home or in-office before you discovered you had a new baby on the way. But there are some reasons you may want to hold off on teeth whitening while pregnant—and a certain period of time and methods to consider if you do choose to go for a more radiant smile.

To help you weigh the pros and cons, we tapped two experts in the field. Keep reading to find out what they had to say about teeth whitening while pregnant.

Whitening Teeth During Pregnancy

There are several ways to go about whitening your teeth—pregnant or not. These include in-office bleaching, whitening products supplied by your dentist, and over-the-counter applications.

“In-office bleaching offers bleach that is higher in concentration and also much quicker,” elaborates Grace Yum, DDS, a board-certified pediatric dentist and founder and owner of Yummy Dental & Orthodontics for Kids in Chicago. Results are immediate and may be accelerated with a light, though she notes that they can take up to an hour, depending on the system used.

At-home bleaching, on the other hand, can take around two weeks, since the formulas are less potent. “Your dentist will either make custom mouth trays for you to dispense bleach into or offer you strips to place directly onto teeth that already have bleach on them,” she says.

As with any treatment, there are potential risks—especially with higher potency teeth-whitening formulas—and being pregnant may make you more susceptible to certain ones.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about whitening teeth while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

There are instances when a trip to the dentist while pregnant is unavoidable, such as for emergency dental work like a tooth extraction or root canal. But since teeth whitening is a cosmetic concern, you may want to practice an abundance of caution.

“There is little research to provide enough information to readily say that whitening is safe during pregnancy,” explains Marielaina Perrone, DDS, a board-certified dentist at her eponymous practice in Las Vegas. “Therefore, it is recommended to wait until after birthing.” 

That said, it’s not necessarily off the table either. “Like any treatment, the second trimester is the safest for pregnant women to consider bleaching teeth if they are concerned,” Dr. Yum says.

There’s simply not enough research to provide any guarantee on whether or not it’s pregnancy-safe one way or the other. But keep in mind, depending on the size of your baby bump, Dr. Yum notes that it might be uncomfortable to lean back in a dentist’s chair for the duration of an in-office treatment.

Benefits of Teeth Whitening During Pregnancy

The benefits of teeth whitening while pregnant are pretty straightforward: brighter, whiter-looking teeth. This is achieved by removing stains left on your teeth from darkly colored food and drink. (Though we should mention that whitening formulas can usually only work their magic on your natural teeth—not so much on tooth-colored dental restorations such as bonding.)

Risks of Whitening Your Teeth While Pregnant

While we’re not here to tell you what to do when it comes to whitening your teeth while pregnant, we do believe in providing you with information to enable you to make an informed decision. As with most things pregnancy-related, it’s all about weighing the positives and negatives.

There are some risks you should be aware of that can come along with teeth whitening, whether or not you're pregnant, but which may be more pronounced if you are. The two most common are gum irritation and tooth sensitivity. And being pregnant can increase your risk of dental issues in general.

Gum Irritation

Dr. Perrone notes that pregnancy hormones can exacerbate gum issues. “Many pregnant women get pregnancy gingivitis or periodontitis,” she says. “The harsh peroxide will more readily burn the gum tissue and may cause permanent problems.” One such result is an infection, which has been linked in some studies to premature birth and is a known cause of oral cancer.

Tooth & Gum Sensitivity

Pregnancy hormones can also make your gums more sensitive, Dr. Yum shares. “Some patients complain of sensitivity to their teeth after bleaching,” she tells us. “Their teeth might feel an electrical shock type of sensation once in a while or may be sensitive to temperature.”

The stronger the whitening formula is, the higher the risk of sensitivity, but it tends to be relatively mild and resolve within a few days.

Enamel Damage

When it comes to teeth whitening, more is not always better. Dr. Yum cautions against using any at-home bleaching products on a daily basis, even whitening toothpaste, since they may cause damage to your tooth enamel. Instead, she urges consulting with your dentist about the type and frequency of whitening.

Other Dental Issues

In addition to the above risks, Dr. Perrone adds that teeth whitening can also cause mottling or spotting on your tooth enamel—which will have the opposite effect of brightening your smile—and, in severe cases, pain and tooth nerve damage. Of course, always speak to your dentist or other healthcare provider about any concerns you may have about teeth whitening while pregnant. 

Pregnancy-Safe Alternatives

If you decide that teeth whitening while pregnant isn’t for you, it doesn't mean you have nowhere to turn for a brighter-looking smile. Dr. Yum recommends using whitening toothpaste intermittently to help remove stains.

You can also get a little creative with a nifty DIY called strawberry whitening. Just mash a strawberry with one-quarter of a teaspoon of baking soda to make a paste, Dr. Perrone instructs. Then brush it on and let it sit for a few minutes, brush it off, and rinse. “The naturally-occurring malic acid in the berries reacts with soda to remove stains from the enamel and whiten teeth,” she explains. Now that’s a sweet alternative. 

A Word From Verywell

Nobody enjoys having their smile look dingy, but, due to a lack of science on the subject, there’s no clear-cut answer as to whether or not you should get teeth whitening while pregnant. The treatment comes with benefits—like brighter, whiter teeth—as well as risks that range from mildly bothersome to potentially serious. When in doubt, it’s always best to speak with your dentist or healthcare provider to see what they recommend for your unique situation.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Dental Association. Whitening.

  2. American Pregnancy Association. Pregnancy & Dental Work.

  3. March of Dimes. Dental Health During Pregnancy.

  4. American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists. August 2013. Committee Opinion. Number 569. Oral Health Care During Pregnancy & Through the Lifespan.

By Cat Matta
Cat is a linguistic alchemist and expert wordsmith who has written and edited for some of the world's biggest brands. However, she particularly enjoys the medical, aesthetic, pharma, mental health, and beauty realms. She works full-time as a senior content manager at a multinational digital agency.