Despite the dramatic tooth brightening results that professional in-office or at-home tooth whitening kits provide, many patients report experiencing temporary but bothersome tooth sensitivity during and for some period of time following their bleaching treatment.
This sensitivity can range from mild irritation to more severe tooth pain when consuming hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks. For some, this side effect is manageable and subsides within a few days as the teeth rehydrate and nerves calm down.
But for others, the sensitivity following whitening can linger for weeks and severely impact diet and dental comfort. This leaves many wondering if they should avoid teeth whitening altogether to prevent this troublesome side effect.
Thankfully, recent advances in dentistry have provided effective ways to both minimize the risk of and relieve tooth sensitivity following the whitening process. With proper preparation before the whitening treatment, careful product selection, and utilizing proven home remedies for sensitive teeth and gums after whitening, patients can experience dramatically brighter smiles without dental discomfort.
Anticipating and preventing tooth sensitivity from the start leads to better whitening experiences. Use desensitizing toothpaste before and after treatment. Quickly relieving any sensitivity discomfort with saltwater rinses, OTC pain relievers, bite guards and hydration limits duration of sensitivity.
This way, you can confidently achieve whiter teeth without sensitivity getting in the way of your sparkling new smile.
What Causes Post-Whitening Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity after whitening treatments results from a few factors:
- The whitening gel is highly acidic to remove deep stains. Acidity can provoke inflammation in the tooth pulp and dentin tubules.
- Whitening agents like hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide enhance light absorption. This leads to transient nerve irritation.
- Dehydration of the teeth sometimes occurs, exposing more of the inner dentin layer.
- Any microscopic defects in existing restorations allow penetration to inner structures.
The good news is these effects are temporary as the nerve endings calm down after the whitening metabolites dissipate in a few days.
Ways to Minimize Sensitivity Pre-Treatment
Use these tips before your whitening appointment to help prevent or reduce sensitivity:
- Get any dental work needed beforehand since whitening can exacerbate issues.
- Have your dentist custom-fit whitening trays to limit exposure of the gums.
- Undergo any gum grafting procedures first if you have recession.
- Be diligent with oral hygiene prior as heavily restored teeth are more prone to sensitivity.
- Discuss using anti-sensitivity toothpaste 1-2 weeks before to stabilize nerves.
- Ask your dentist about anti-sensitivity additives to use with at-home trays.
Relieving Post-Whitening Sensitivity
If you experience sensitivity following whitening treatments, you can try these remedies to soothe the pain and ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable experience:
1. Desensitizing Toothpaste
Using a desensitizing toothpaste containing ingredients like potassium nitrate or fluoride can significantly alleviate post-whitening sensitivity. These toothpaste formulations work by blocking the nerve pathways in the teeth, reducing sensitivity to external stimuli. By using desensitizing toothpaste daily, you can gradually minimize tooth sensitivity and enjoy a more comfortable experience.
2. Warm Salt Water Rinse
A warm salt water rinse can be an effective natural remedy for soothing nerves and reducing inflammation. Salt water helps in drawing out irritants and has mild antiseptic properties, providing relief to sensitive teeth. Rinsing with warm salt water a few times a day can help in calming the nerves and promoting healing.
3. Over-the-Counter Pain Medication
Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can provide temporary relief from post-whitening sensitivity. These medications help in reducing pain and inflammation, making it easier to cope with discomfort after whitening treatments. Always follow the recommended dosage instructions and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about medication use.
4. Bite Guard
Wearing a bite guard at night can prevent clenching and grinding, which are common causes of tooth sensitivity. The guard acts as a protective barrier, preventing excessive pressure on the teeth during sleep. By minimizing these habits, you reduce the stress on your teeth and decrease the likelihood of exacerbating sensitivity.
5. Mouthwash for Sensitive Teeth
Using mouthwash specifically formulated for sensitive teeth is essential, especially after whitening treatments. These mouth rinse varieties contain active ingredients designed to block pain signals and strengthen tooth enamel. Avoiding acidic or sugary foods temporarily can further assist in reducing sensitivity, allowing your teeth time to recover without additional irritation.
6. Hydration and Dietary Choices
Staying hydrated is crucial for overall dental health. Adequate saliva production helps in maintaining a healthy oral environment and can aid in reducing sensitivity. Additionally, limiting the intake of acidic beverages like coffee, tea, and wine can prevent further irritation to sensitive teeth. Opt for water or non-acidic alternatives to promote oral well-being.
When Sensitivity Requires Treatment
See your dentist promptly if sensitivity does not resolve after a few days or you experience intense sustained pain, as you may require treatment for pulpitis. Otherwise, post-whitening sensitivity is normal and manageable with proper home care.