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Tooth Whitening and Sensitivity

Many of us crave a whiter, brighter smile. Hours on social media drive the idea that we need to have a perfect smile. That’s one of the many hats that dentists wear! They can provide their patients with the smiles of their dreams. Dentists can also help keep your teeth healthy. So if you desire a whiter smile, look no further than your dentist. However, a common complaint from patients is the sensitivity that comes with teeth whitening

Whether you go to the dentist or use whitening treatment from the store, you may experience sensitivity in your teeth. You may feel this when you eat a hot soup or enjoy some cold ice cream. Even when drinking cold water or hot coffee, you may feel some discomfort. Tooth sensitivity accompanies teeth whitening treatments. 

woman smiling with bright white teeth tooth whitening dentist in Doylestown Pennsylvania

Why Does It Cause Sensitivity?

Most whitening products contain similar ingredients: hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. These ingredients react with the organic matter on your teeth, causing stains. In fact, these compounds break down the bonds between the stains and the surface of your teeth. This can remove many surface-level stains without the use of abrasives. 

The outer layer of your teeth protects the sensitive inner portions. We refer to the outer layer as enamel. The enamel is made of different minerals, especially calcium. One theory of why teeth get sensitive after whitening treatments is the enamel. 

Bleaching agents (peroxides) do not only affect tooth stains. How bleaching agents break down stains is similar to their effects on the enamel. This is a process dentists call demineralization. Simply put, the agents remove some of the minerals that make up the enamel. While this makes your teeth whiter, it does affect the enamel. As a result, your teeth become more porous. This exposes the tubules in the dentin. This connects the enamel to the pulp. The pulp houses the nerves and connective tissue. Unfortunately, this is what causes the pain. 

How to Reduce Sensitivity

If your teeth are sensitive after a whitening treatment, you should consider using toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. These kinds of toothpaste can help to remineralize your teeth and reduce sensitivity. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush can also be beneficial for sensitive teeth. However, anything too abrasive may cause pain or discomfort. 

If you are using an at-home treatment, such as toothpaste, trays, or strips, you can alternate with sensitivity toothpaste. Meaning, you could swap for a different toothpaste if your teeth are feeling sensitive. Also, you could build a tolerance to the pain by not using the whitening treatments every day. Instead, you could swap the days you use them.

Another way that you can help reduce discomfort is by avoiding hot or cold temperatures. It is not ideal, but you can drink your coffee at a cooler temperature. You may consider changing your diet to be more comfortable until the pain leaves. 

If the pain lingers, you should talk to your dentist. It could indicate another dental problem, such as enamel loss or cavities.