When you look in the mirror and smile, you think your teeth could be a little whiter. Yet you know there are potential side effects of teeth whitening treatments, including increased sensitivity. Do you have limited options? It depends on the cause of your tooth sensitivity.
You could have an underlying issue that needs to be addressed before whitening treatment. Learn more about whitening if you have heightened sensitivity.
Are You a Candidate for Teeth Whitening?
Sensitivity involves at least one tooth and is often triggered by certain actions, such as hot, cold or sweet foods, flossing or using an alcohol-based mouthwash. In relation to whitening, you want to look for products or treatments that won’t cause additional pain.
Yet causes of sensitivity are not the same for everyone and these factors can affect if you’re a good candidate for teeth whitening. You may be experiencing sensitivity due to:
- Thinning enamel
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Brushing your teeth too aggressively
- Consuming acidic foods and drinks
- Receding gums exposing the dentin
- Periodontal diseases
- Cracked, broken or damaged teeth
In the case of periodontal disease or cracked teeth, a patient must first undergo other dental treatments before trying a whitening product.
How Does Whitening Increase Tooth Sensitivity?
Whitening products help decrease staining through hydrogen or carbamide peroxide. This substance passes through the enamel to the dentin, where the tooth’s nerve is located. At this stage, treatment opens the tooth’s pores but can also irritate the nerve. This sensation usually passes once the tooth is rehydrated but can potentially cause long-term sensitivity.
Reducing this effect comes down to two factors: The amount of peroxide applied and how frequently you have whitening treatments. For people with sensitive teeth, treatments begin with less peroxide and are spaced out over weeks or months. Learn more about teeth whitening for sensitive teeth.
At-Home Whitening for Sensitive Teeth
Your dentist will recommend starting with a gentler treatment:
- Look for a solution with a 10 percent or lower concentration of peroxide
- Keep application time to just five minutes per day and space out sessions
- Make sure the bleaching agent stays away from your gums, as this can also irritate or burn the tissue and aggravate sensitivity
Consider one of the following products:
- Whitening Strips: By default, these have a lower concentration of peroxide and are designed to be less irritating to teeth and gums.
- Whitening Pens: These pens provide a more simplified application for what strips promise. All you need to do is brush on the solution and wait. To reduce irritation, abstain from eating and drinking for 30 minutes after you remove the product.
- Toothpaste: Whitening toothpaste can have a gradual effect. Look for products with desensitizing agents and, if you notice irritation after a few days of use, alternate with a non-whitening toothpaste.
In the meantime, be sure to steer clear of habits that increase staining.
In-Office Whitening for Sensitive Teeth
If you’re not getting the results you want, talk to your dentist about in-office whitening treatments. For patients with sensitive teeth, these treatments will start with a desensitizing agent, be less intense and likely involve follow-up visits.
In-office teeth whitening treatments can reduce the appearance of deeper stains and deliver longer-lasting results. In certain cases, especially if you continue to experience tooth sensitivity, your dentist may recommend porcelain veneers to camouflage staining and discoloration.
If you’re looking to improve the appearance of your teeth, contact our Shelton office for whitening options.