Jeremy White, DDS & Darren Gardner, DDS
594 East 800 South Suite G
Orem, UT 84097
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801 765 1443

Teeth Whitening and Sensitivity

Aug 31, 2015

Teeth Whitening and Sensitivity

Have you ever noticed that your teeth are extra-sensitive after you've whitened them? If so, you are not alone! While it is an easy and inexpensive way to improve the appearance of our smiles, tooth whitening can sometimes lead to increased sensitivity to temperature changes, sweet or acidic foods, and even to touch (i.e. brushing your teeth). When this happens most people have three questions for us: First, will whitening my teeth damage them?  Second, what causes the sensitivity?  And third, how can I prevent sensitivity but still whiten my teeth?

First, you should know that whitening your teeth, if done properly and using quality products, is not harmful or dangerous. At-home tooth whitening is simply a method of removing surface stains from your teeth and is perfectly safe.

So why does whitening your teeth cause them to become more sensitivity? Well, your teeth are kind of like "M&M's" – they have a hard outer shell (enamel) and a softer inside (dentin). The dentin of each tooth contains thousands of tiny tubules, or pores. These tubules eventually meet up with the tooth's nerve endings, found in the tooth's innermost layer, the pulp. Typically the tubules are blocked with tiny little plugs, but sometimes whitening can temporarily remove these plugs. This can lead to movement of the tooth's inner fluids, which you recognize as heightened sensitivity.

There are a number of things you can do to prevent tooth sensitivity and to lessen sensitivity if it occurs. First, use a desensitizing toothpaste that contains at least 5% Potassium Nitrate. The Potassium Nitrate will help restore the tiny dentinal plugs in your teeth, thereby preventing (or reducing) sensitivity. If you are planning to whiten your teeth, start brushing with desensitizing toothpaste at least twice a day, two weeks before you begin your whitening regimen. You can also put the desensitizing toothpaste inside your whitening trays and wear it directly on your teeth for additional relief after you've whitened.

Small tweaks to your diet may help reduce tooth sensitivity associated with whitening. For example, sweets, acidic foods, or foods/beverages that are hot or extremely cold can irritate already-sensitive teeth. Cut back on these items during your whitening regimen and see if that helps.

Finally, consider taking an NSAID pain reliever before, during or after your whitening regimen. NSAIDs (like Ibuprofen, Advil, and Aleve) can help to reduce the discomfort of tooth sensitivity.

Hopefully you feel more comfortable now with the ins-and-outs of tooth whitening, but please let us know if you have additional questions. Here at White Smiles Family Dentistry we offer free lifetime whitening for all our loyal patients, and would love to help you achieve the whiter, brighter smile you've been dreaming of.


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