With the increased appeal to pearly smiles and the continued growth of the cosmetic dentistry industry, teeth whitening has become one of the most popular requested treatments from patients. Because there are many over-the-counter (OTC) products available to consumers, it is important that you consult with your dentist first to get the most professional and safest care. A principal concern with whitening teeth has always been tooth sensitivity.
What are sensitive teeth and what causes them?
Teeth can become sensitive to hot, cold, sweet or acidic foods and drinks, as well as to extremes in temperature. The pain can range from mildly annoying to excruciating. It’s estimated that 20% of the population experiences some level of tooth sensitivity. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “tooth sensitivity occurs when dentin — the tissue that lies under the enamel and crown of your tooth — is exposed.”
There are many reasons why teeth might become more sensitive including:
- Brushing too hard
- Wearing away of tooth enamel due to acid erosion
- Gum recession that exposes the roots of your teeth
- Decay or cavities
- Cracks in your teeth
If you experience any of these symptoms call your dentist right away. They may recommend a customised toothpaste or gel, applying fluoride varnish to the affected teeth, in-office desensitising treatments or if necessary, dental restorations like crowns or dental bonding.
Tooth sensitivity can be a major annoyance, causing pain and discomfort when eating hot and cold foods as well as during extreme changes in temperature. Fortunately, there are several solutions for tooth sensitivity.
How can you identify if you have sensitive teeth?
Symptoms can include pain when eating or drinking, particularly when consuming hot or cold foods and beverages. You may also experience discomfort when brushing or flossing your teeth. You may notice that you develop a bright red or white spot on your tooth where the sensitivity is occurring.
If you begin to exhibit any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your dentist right away so they can recommend an appropriate course of treatment.
There are several solutions for sensitive teeth, including custom-made toothpastes and gels, fluoride varnish treatments, in-office desensitising procedures, and dental restorations like crowns and bonding.
By taking care of your teeth through regular brushing and flossing as well as visits to the dentist, you can help prevent tooth sensitivity from developing in the first place.
If you are already experiencing sensitive teeth, there are a number of things you can do at home to help ease your discomfort.
The risks associated with whitening sensitive teeth
Some teeth are more sensitive than others. However, given the need to whiten teeth despite the inherent sensitivity, it is important to know the risks associated with whitening sensitive teeth.
- Excessive bleaching can damage your teeth
- You may experience increased sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
- Your gums may become irritated
- You may experience nausea and vomiting
- You may experience difficulty breathing
- You may experience hives or rashes on your skin
If you experience any of these symptoms, discontinue use immediately and consult your dentist. To help reduce the risk of these side effects, it is important to follow the directions on the bleaching product carefully. Do not leave the bleach on for longer than directed, and do not use it more often than directed.
How Long Does Tooth Sensitivity Typically Last?
Tooth sensitivity is usually only temporary and should resolve itself within a few days. However, if your symptoms persist or become worse, be sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist so they can determine the underlying cause and provide you with relief.
The duration of tooth sensitivity usually depends on the underlying cause. For example, if your sensitivity is the result of an injury, it will likely go away once your gums have healed. However, if your tooth enamel has been worn down, the sensitivity may last for a longer period of time. Another possible cause of teeth sensitivity is gum recession. This condition can cause the roots of your teeth to become exposed, leading to increased sensitivity. The sensitivity resulting from this can last for a long time, and may require treatment from your dentist.
Sensitive Teeth After Whitening: Reducing Pain After Teeth Whitening Treatments
If you’re experiencing sensitive teeth, there are a few things you can do to help ease the pain. First, it’s important to see your dentist to rule out any serious underlying conditions of your tooth sensitivity. The most common causes include:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Teeth grinding (bruxism)
- Exposed tooth roots
If your dentist finds that you have one of these underlying conditions, they will likely recommend a specific treatment plan. Once any underlying conditions are treated, your sensitive teeth should improve.
In most cases, sensitive teeth can be easily treated and the pain relieved. However, if the sensitivity is severe or continues for a long time but they are not caused by an underlying condition, there are still a few things you can do to reduce the pain. These include:
Use a desensitising toothpaste
There are many different brands and varieties of desensitising toothpaste available over the counter. These toothpastes work by filling in the exposed pores on your teeth, which can help to reduce sensitivity.
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush
A soft-bristled toothbrush will be less likely to aggravate your gums and cause further sensitivity. A hard-bristled brush can actually wear away tooth enamel and make sensitivity worse.
Be gentle when brushing
Brushing too hard can also damage tooth enamel and lead to sensitivity. Use gentle circular motions when brushing.
Use fluoride toothpaste
Fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel and can reduce sensitivity.
Reduction in Teeth Whitening Treatment Frequency
If tooth sensitivity is known to be an issue, it is generally recommended to limit teeth whitening treatments to no more than once every few weeks. This will help to minimize any potential discomfort and allow the sensitive areas of the teeth to recover between treatments.
Opting for Alternative Teeth Whitening Treatment
If the tooth sensitivity is associated with a particular whitening treatment regimen, it may be necessary to switch to a different method or product. For example, some people find that in-office teeth whitening treatments are more likely to cause sensitivity than at-home treatments. In this case, switching to an at-home treatment may help to reduce the sensitivity.
Caution With Food and Drinks
Sometimes teeth sensitivity is associated with certain foods and drinks. Hot or cold beverages may trigger the pain, as can acidic foods. It may be necessary to avoid these triggers or to take extra care when consuming them. For example, drinking hot coffee through a straw can help to minimise contact with the sensitive teeth. Acidic foods and drinks can contribute to sensitive teeth by eroding the enamel on your teeth. If you do consume them, make sure to brush your teeth soon afterwards.
Use A Lower Strength Whitening
A very common cause of tooth sensitivity is the concentration of bleaching agents in whitening products. If over-the-counter whitening gels or strips are causing sensitivity, switching to a lower concentration product may help. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product to avoid this problem. For example, some persons may not be able to use the professional-level crest whitening strips but may be more accommodating to the Crest Gentle Routine strips.
In addition to the above, there are other treatment options that may help alleviate this discomfort. These can include:
Customised teeth whitening products: toothpastes and gels
Your dentist can recommend specialised toothpastes or gels that work to desensitise your teeth by blocking the pathways through which pain signals travel. These products typically contain active ingredients like potassium nitrate or strontium chloride, which help reduce the transmission of painful sensations from the root of your teeth to their surface level.
Fluoride varnish treatments
Applying a thin coat of fluoride varnish onto sensitive teeth can also help to reduce pain and discomfort. Fluoride treatments are available from your dentist or hygienist, and usually only take a few minutes to apply.
Crest Whitening Emulsions For Sensitive Teeth
Crest Whitening Emulsions are the new innovative solution from Crest for sensitive teeth. The emulsions work by temporarily filling in the microscopic pores on the tooth surface, which can become exposed and lead to sensitivity. This achieves two things: first, it soothes the tooth nerve so you can enjoy your favourite foods and drinks again without discomfort; second, it protects the tooth against future sensitivity.
Crest Whitening Emulsions are available in two formulas: Crest Whitening Emulsion for Sensitive Teeth and Gum and Crest Whitening Emulsion Plus Toothpaste. Both are safe to use daily and are gentle enough for people with sensitive teeth.
If you have sensitive teeth, you know how difficult it can be to find a teeth whitening solution that doesn’t cause pain. Crest Whitening Emulsions for Sensitive Teeth may be just what you’ve been looking for.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can sensitive teeth be whitened?
Yes, sensitive teeth can be whitened. There are several options to manage whitening sensitive teeth. There are special products like Crest Whitening Emulsions or Crest Gentle Touch Whitening Strips specially designed for sensitive teeth. There are also strategies (discussed in this article) that minimise the discomfort from teeth sensitivity.
How do you stop sensitive teeth from hurting after whitening?
A few of the key strategies are:
- Use a sensitive teeth whitening product like Crest Whitening Emulsions for Sensitive Teeth
- Start with lower concentration whitening agents and increase as tolerated
- Reduce the frequency of treatments gradually
- Leave the whitening agent on your teeth for a shorter duration of time
Why are my teeth so sensitive when whitening?
There are a number of reasons why your teeth may be sensitive when whitening. The main reason is that the peroxide in the whitening agent penetrates the enamel and irritates the nerves in the dentin. Other causes include using a whitening agent that is too strong for your teeth, not using enough fluoride, and not following the directions on the whitening product.
Are Crest White Strips OK for sensitive teeth?
Crest White Strips are a popular at-home teeth whitening option, but not be Crest products are ideal for people with sensitive teeth. The peroxide in the strips can cause irritation and pain for people with sensitive teeth. If you have sensitive teeth, it’s best to talk to your dentist for the best recommendations. Crest Whitening Emulsions, Crest Gentle Routine Whitestrips are some of the several special products for sensitive teeth.
How long do sensitive teeth last after whitening?
Sensitivity from teeth whitening typically lasts no more than a couple of days, but in some cases can last up to a week. If your sensitivity is severe or persists for more than a week, you should consult your dentist.
Will ibuprofen help tooth sensitivity?
Given the pain from teeth sensitivity, you may be wondering if medication will help. Ibuprofen can help with pain relief, but it is always best to check with your dentist before taking any medication. It is also important to be sure of the underlying cause of the tooth sensitivity and address the issues from the root for the best solution.