Whitening your teeth is one surefire way to boost your self-confidence and improve the look of your smile. It is also a rather simple procedure that can be accomplished either at the dental office or at your own home. The only downside to whitening your teeth is the sensitivity that sometimes develops. There are ways to combat this issue and still allow yourself to whiten your teeth and achieve that beautiful smile.
Although the exact cause of sensitivity from whitening is largely unknown, we do know that the properties of peroxide (one of the main ingredients in most tooth whitening products) has been shown to irritate the tooth nerve. This irritation or inflammation causes symptoms such as cold sensitivity and a tingling sensation.
Try the following techniques when whitening your teeth at home if sensitivity occurs. If you have the procedure done in a dental office and start having issues with sensitivity, feel free to try some of these techniques, but be sure to follow any instructions given to you by your dentist.
- It is very important to follow the instructions of your dentist when using a professional product or the manufacturer’s instructions for the over the counter products. (Never whiten your teeth for longer than recommended.)
- Try cutting back to every other day once the sensitivity starts along with shorter application times. Sometimes just giving your teeth a short break between treatments can help to alleviate the symptoms.
- Taking Advil or Aleve can help reduce the symptoms if taken before applying the whitening product. Taking it ahead of time may prevent the symptoms from surfacing.
- Check to see if you are using a product with a lower peroxide level (6 to 10% is a relatively low peroxide level for most people). While you may think that the higher the level of peroxide, the better the result, it is not worth it if you and your teeth are miserable.
- Limit the cold drinks and foods while you are whitening. Teeth may be temperature sensitive under normal conditions, but whitening can really exasperate sensitivity issues.
- Overuse of whitening products can also cause sensitivity. When used to excess, they have the potential to make your teeth very sensitive or even damage them.
- Using fluoride rinses and/or sensitivity toothpaste can help alleviate the symptoms. Fluoride treatments are also sometimes recommended either before, during or after you whiten your teeth.
- Be sure you are using a soft bristled brush when brushing your teeth. The softer bristles are gentler on your teeth and gums and can help cut back on your symptoms.
- Always inform your dentist if your sensitivity issues persist or worsen. There may be another cause such as gum recession or cavities.
- Ask your dentist about desensitizing products that can be applied at the office. When used correctly, they have been known to be effective at reducing sensitivity due to many different causes.
Although tooth sensitivity with whitening is very common, it is usually of short duration, lasting typically 24-48 hours. Years ago, most teeth whitening products contained very harsh ingredients that were found to actually damage teeth and cause extreme sensitivity. Products have improved greatly since then and now use high quality ingredients that are gentler on your teeth.