Teeth whitening is usually the answer for those looking for a whiter smile. However, you’ve probably experienced temporary sensitivity if you've tried over-the-counter-whitening products. While this is common and expected, there are ways to manage sensitivity after a teeth whitening treatment.
Our experienced dentists explain what causes sensitivity and how to help sensitive teeth after whitening here.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth After Whitening?
Tooth sensitivity is due to most whitening products' bleaching agents: carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide. These ingredients create a chemical reaction with the chromogens (bacteria that cause staining) on the teeth, resulting in a lighter tooth shade. However, peroxides can sometimes cause inflammation of the nerves inside the tooth.
Because of this, after teeth whitening, you might experience tooth pain or sensitivity with the following:
Brushing your teeth
Cold foods or drinks
Sweet, sour, or acidic foods
5 Tips to Help Sensitivity After Whitening
Use a Lower Concentration of Whitening Product
Higher concentrations of bleaching agents tend to cause greater sensitivity.
If you typically opt for in-office whitening treatments, ask your dentist to use a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide. You might need your teeth whitened more frequently, but you’ll likely experience less sensitivity.
Brush with Sensitive Toothpaste
Be gentle when brushing your teeth after a whitening treatment, and always reach for sensitive toothpaste. Desensitizing toothpaste can block pain signals caused by hot or cold sensations because they contain ingredients like potassium nitrate or fluoride — which help minimize discomfort! One of the best sensitive toothpaste brands on the market is Sensodyne, though others work great too!
Our dentists also recommend using a soft bristle toothbrush and lukewarm water to eliminate activity sensitivity following your whitening treatment.
Avoid Hot or Cold Foods and Drinks
After whitening, your teeth may be more sensitive to temperature changes. Avoid foods and drinks that are especially hot or cold until your sensitivity subsides, as they could worsen it. On the plus side, steering clear of dark-colored beverages like coffee and tea will help your teeth-whitening results last longer.
You may also want to limit acidic foods and drinks like citrus fruits, vinegar, and soda. These items can wear away tooth enamel and make your teeth more sensitive.
Take Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers
Before applying a whitening treatment, you can reduce or prevent symptoms by taking pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). If you’re susceptible to tooth sensitivity, topical pain relievers like Orajel can also help.
Space Out Your Treatments
Give your teeth a break after whitening — overdoing it can lead to sensitivity or make it worse. Our dentists recommend avoiding additional whitening treatments for at least a few weeks to give your teeth time to recover.
If you opt for in-office whitening, your dentist will evaluate your teeth and create a treatment schedule that reduces the risk of sensitivity.
How Long Does Sensitivity Last After Teeth Whitening?
Unless your dental office uses Philips Zoom®, it’s common to experience sensitivity for 24-48 hours following teeth whitening. If your sensitivity persists or worsens, contact your dentist. Sensitivity could be a symptom of a serious problem like cavities or receding gums.
Will My Teeth Be Sensitive After Whitening?
Expect mild sensitivity and gum irritation with most at-home whitening products. Follow the instructions word-for-word, and don’t use the treatment more often than directed — this could permanently damage your tooth enamel, causing lasting sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks.
Some professional whitening treatments, such as those using a bleaching agent, cause more sensitivity than others. The Philips Zoom Whitening method, which our dentists use at Eagle Run West Dental Group, uses a two-layer technology to protect your teeth and reduce sensitivity. Plus, it’s much faster and more effective than at-home whitening treatments.
Teeth Whitening Services in Omaha, NE
By following these tips, you can help relieve the sensitivity caused by teeth whitening and get back to enjoying your newly whitened smile.
About the Author: Drs. Sharlene and Robert Wilson offer various general and cosmetic dentistry services in Omaha, NE. They earned their doctorate from the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry. With over 30 years of combined experience, both are committed to helping patients achieve beautiful, healthy, and long-lasting smiles. Call 402-498-8804 to schedule an appointment.