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Sensitivity after Teeth Whitening: Management Tips

Many people think of their smile as their calling card — it should be wide and happy and display rows of perfect white teeth. Unfortunately, though, both age and the environment conspire to rob our pearly whites of their whiteness. That’s where teeth whitening procedures come in. Whether you opt for a kit picked up at a pharmacy or an in-office procedure, there are many different options available to you. But what if you have sensitive teeth? Whitening procedures can cause dental pain for patients prone to sensitivity.

The team at Fresh Dental Care, with three locations around the Houston, Texas area, offers easy, cost-efficient Philips Zoom® professional teeth whitening, with trays specifically molded to your teeth and able to get your teeth up to eight shades whiter. They understand, though, that patients can be sensitive to the materials used, and so they’ve put together these tips for what you can do if you’re sensitive but still want to go ahead with the whitening.

What causes tooth discoloration?

Inside the protective enamel covering on your teeth, the core tissue, known as dentin, tends to turn yellowish as you get older. Because the enamel, at the same time, becomes thinner, the yellow color shows through. It’s a double whammy.

There are also a number of other causes of discoloration, including:

What is teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening is a dental treatment that bleaches the yellow color and ugly stains from your tooth enamel, making your teeth whiter and brighter. It doesn’t change the color of any crowns or fillings, just the topmost layer of your natural teeth. The process works best for those with yellowing teeth; it’s less effective for people whose teeth are brown. And if your teeth are stained either gray or purple, tooth bleaching probably won't help at all.

Teeth whitening is not a permanent treatment. You’ll need to repeat the process every couple of years, or more often if you drink a lot of coffee, tea, or wine, and if you smoke or chew tobacco.

What are my teeth whitening options?

All whitening options use some form of a peroxide-based bleaching agent. At-home treatments contain from 3% to 20% peroxide (either carbamide or hydrogen peroxide). In-office procedures contain from 15% to 43% peroxide. The gel is placed in trays that fit over your teeth.

People think the longer you keep a stronger bleaching solution on your teeth, the whiter your teeth will become. In actuality, though, the higher the peroxide concentration, the shorter the amount of time it should be applied to the teeth. That’s because keeping the gel on for longer times dehydrates the tooth and increases tooth sensitivity.

What are some whitening tips for sensitive teeth?

If your teeth and gums are sensitive to tooth whitening products, there are a number of things you can do to help.

Follow instructions

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on an OTC kit, or those of your dentist when using a professional-grade, at-home kit, especially as it relates to time. You should never use a product longer than recommended, as it can burn your gums and oversensitize your teeth.

Cut back

If you’re having sensitivity problems, try cutting back treatment to once every other day, and/or applying the solution for a shorter time. The break between sessions can help clear up symptoms.

Take something for the pain

Take an OTC pain reliever, such as Advil or Aleve, before you use the whitener. That may help the sensitivity symptoms from surfacing.

Use a lower-peroxide solution

A lower peroxide level — generally 6-10% — may stop the irritation. It can take a bit longer to get your teeth their whitest, but you’ll feel a lot better about it.

Stay away from cold

Lay off the cold food and drinks during the time you’re whitening your teeth. Whitening can exacerbate sensitivity issues.

Use fluoride

Fluoride rinses and/or sensitivity toothpaste can help desensitize your teeth. You may also want to ask your dentist about fluoride treatments before or during your teeth whitening endeavors — they can stave off the pain.

Keep in mind that while tooth sensitivity during whitening is very common, it’s temporary — it usually lasts only 24 to 48 hours.

Are you ready to get the dazzling white smile you want? Give Fresh Care Dental a call at any one of our three locations, or book an appointment online today.

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