Dentin hypersensitivity is common among teeth whitening patients. The condition causes heightened teeth sensitivity in response to stimuli such as hot and cold drinks, certain sweet foods, and contact with the teeth (especially during teeth brushing). Mild discomfort from this temporary increased sensitivity is expected to last for no longer than around 48 hours.
What causes teeth whitening sensitivity?
There are many types of teeth whitening treatments available, ranging from natural remedies and store-bought whitening toothpaste, to much more professional treatments that should only be carried out by dentists.
In the case of these highly effective teeth whitening techniques available from the dentist, the sensitivity reported by some patients in the 1-2 days following treatment is likely linked to the gentle dental-grade bleaching agent responsible for the long-lasting whitening results. This whitening agent penetrates the enamel, exposing some nerve endings close to the surface.
Before treatment – how to prevent teeth whitening sensitivity?
Patients who are about to undergo a professional teeth whitening treatment are advised to build up a resistance to sensitivity by changing to a sensitive toothpaste or gel at least one week before the start of the treatment.
Although switching to a sensitive toothpaste may not entirely prevent the sensation of temporary heightened sensitivity in the teeth following teeth whitening treatment, patients will nevertheless benefit from a reduced sensitivity.
During teeth whitening treatment
A tooth whitening home kit is the safest way to reduce sensitivity. This is because the dosage and treatment time can be adjusted by the patient in response to the onset of heightened sensitivity, minimizing any discomfort while achieving the best result possible.
Record the duration of each teeth whitening session. Note when the teeth start to become sensitive and alter the treatment accordingly. For example, some patients may prefer 7-10 shorter sessions as opposed to 5-7 fewer but longer sessions. 90 minutes is the ideal treatment time.
Never attempt to sleep while using a teeth whitening home kit – warning signs may be missed, leading to painful sensitivity. Also, only use a small amount of gel for each tooth. More gel doesn’t equal whiter teeth but may mean more sensitivity. Use enough gel to coat the body of the tooth in a thin film. More than this will displace the gel onto the sensitive parts of the teeth and gums.
After treatment – what helps to reduce teeth whitening sensitivity?
Tips for dealing with sensitivity after teeth whitening include:
- After your treatment (when sensitivity is at its highest), use a prescribed toothpaste and/or gel specifically designed to cope with sensitivity. In most cases, this sensitivity will only last around 48 hours at most – you can switch back to your regular toothpaste after this period.
- When brushing your teeth, be gentle. Use a soft-bristled brush and lukewarm water instead of cold to take some of the stings out of your sensitive teeth. We would also advise that you leave the toothpaste in your mouth for a few minutes after you’ve finished brushing and before rinsing to give it some extra time to work.
- When using home whitening kits, place a toothpaste for sensitive teeth into the trays and apply it to the teeth for 20 minutes after whitening. This can drastically reduce the amount of sensitivity.
- For a couple of days after your treatment, try to steer clear of hot and cold drinks – we would recommend trying to avoid hot drinks like tea and coffee anyway as these can stain your newly whitened teeth.
- You might find it easier to drink through a straw as this allows the liquid to bypass your teeth, for the most part, providing some relief from the temporary pain.
What can I use for pain relief after receiving teeth whitening treatment?
Patients suffering from Teeth Whitening Sensitivity (or patients who feel that the discomfort is extending beyond the expected 48 hours after treatment) are advised to enquire about pain relief medication. On a case-by-case basis, dentists may choose to prescribe a course of pain relief, which could include painkillers that contain anti-inflammatories (e.g. Ibuprofen).