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Teeth Whitening and Tooth Sensitivity: Preventing Pain after Whitening

Danny O'Keefe D.D.S. Dec 26, 2016

Tooth SensitivityTeeth whitening has become a popular cosmetic treatment to remove stains and brighten the smile. There are many over-the-counter (OTC) products, including trays and toothpastes. The safest way to whiten your teeth, however, is in your dentist’s office, or with a dentist-provided take-home kit. Before beginning treatment, Dr. Danny O’Keefe will explain the risks of teeth whitening and tooth sensitivity at our Jackson, MS office. While sensitivity after whitening is much more common with OTC methods, it is still possible with professional treatment.

Teeth Whitening for Patients with Sensitive Teeth

For some time, teeth whitening in any form was not recommended for patients already suffering from sensitive teeth. This is because the whitening treatment would increase sensitivity, resulting in greater pain. Most teeth whitening products now have special formulas for sensitive teeth.

In our dental office, we use the Rembrandt® whitening system, which includes medications in the formula to reduce sensitivity. These are available for both our in-office and take-home whitening kits. If you do suffer from sensitive teeth, you should talk with Dr. O’Keefe about this prior to whitening your teeth. He can help determine the cause of your sensitive teeth and recommend treatment. This can make you more comfortable before, during, and after your whitening treatment.

Sensitivity after Whitening

The outer layer of your teeth, known as the enamel, protects the underlying layer, known as the dentin. Bleaching gels actually make your enamel more porous, which allows temporary exposure of the dentin. This leads to the sensitivity you typically experience during and after teeth whitening. The bleaching gels can also cause chemical burns if they come into contact with the gums, which can also lead to sensitivity.

The best way to prevent this sensitivity is to seek out professional teeth whitening treatments. Over-the-counter products are easy to overuse, which can lead to heightened sensitivity. Because the trays are not customized to snugly fit over your teeth, you are also at a greater risk of gum irritation.

To reduce sensitivity for in-office treatments, we may recommend using desensitizing toothpaste before treatment. You may also take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen. These measures, combined with the medication in the whitening formula should make your treatment more comfortable.

For our take-home kits, we supply you with custom-made whitening trays. Custom trays will not place excess pressure on the teeth. They will also prevent the bleaching gel from coming into contact with the gums and causing irritation. To ensure maximum whitening benefits with the least risk for sensitivity, we will provide instructions on how often to whiten and for how long. As with in-office treatments, we may recommend using desensitizing toothpaste and taking an NSAID.

Learn More about Teeth Whitening and Tooth Sensitivity

It is important to remember that sensitivity caused by teeth whitening is temporary and reversible. When you undergo professional whitening treatment, this sensitivity is also completely preventable. To learn more about how to prevent and treat tooth sensitivity, contact our dental office today.

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