Teeth whitening is one of the most common cosmetic treatments performed in dentistry today. Peroxide, the active ingredient in teeth whitening treatments, brightens smiles but can also cause short-term sensitivity.
Whitening doesn’t just remove stains from the tooth’s surface, it whitens the tooth’s surface itself. Peroxide used in whitening procedures works through the enamel to maximize whiteness. The peroxide may also erode the tooth enamel, exposing dentin and irritating nerves.
Because of that, some patients may report mild or moderate pain as a side effect of tooth whitening procedures. Thankfully, in most cases, the teeth remineralize and the symptoms subside. Pain after a teeth whitening procedure is not abnormal and is usually not a cause for alarm.
Reducing Pain Associated With Teeth Whitening
For most patients, sensitivity or pain with teeth whitening usually lasts only for 24-48 hours. After a couple of days, sensitivity levels return to pre-procedure levels and most of the pain subsides. Pain felt beyond this point can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication. Some dentists will even give such medication to patients in advance of a procedure to head off the discomfort.
Another method doctors employ to reduce pain is asking the patient to brush with toothpaste made specially for sensitive teeth. This helps reduce tooth sensitivity and can go a long way toward decreasing the overall pain levels experienced after a whitening session.
Other tips to reduce pain after teeth whitening include:
- Limit hot and cold drinks while whitening. Teeth are sensitive to extreme temperatures under normal circumstances. During teeth whitening, sensitivity is heightened. After in-office whitening treatment, avoid hot and cold drinks for at least 24 hours. If you are doing whitening treatments at home, limit these beverages as much as possible until you are finished with treatment.
- Use of a soft-bristled toothbrush. Soft bristles are gentler on teeth and gums and can help reduce sensitivity by not scraping the enamel. Patients should continue to use soft-bristled toothbrushes indefinitely.
- Don’t overdo it. Once sensitivity is felt, it may be a good idea to cut back on the number of teeth whitening sessions a patient undergoes. Sometimes a short break can help symptoms subside. Be sure to discuss your symptoms with your dentist.
- Follow instructions. As with any dental procedure, it is important to follow a dentist’s instructions when having teeth whitening performed. It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. A patient should never whiten teeth for longer than what is recommended or use more product than specified.
- Use a lower peroxide product. It’s natural to believe that the higher the peroxide level in a tooth whitening product the better result. But higher peroxide levels may increase sensitivity levels. Most users will find a peroxide level of between 5% and 10% to be effective and less abrasive.
- Talk to a dentist. Always notify a dental professional if sensitivity levels do not return to normal within a reasonable amount of time or if they worsen. There may be a deeper cause for the sensitivity such as cavities or gum recession.
- Ask the dentist about desensitizing products. Patients who are having teeth whitening procedures conducted in-office should ask their dental professional about desensitizing products that can be applied during the visit. Such products have been shown to effectively reduce sensitivity.
Teeth Whitening for Sensitive Teeth in Providence, RIx
The BioMed Center New England offers two whitening systems: Zoom! – which achieves dramatic whitening results in just one hour, and the KöR system which is better suited for patients with sensitive teeth. Call (401) 443-4007 or schedule a consultation online today to get started making your teeth as white as can be.