How to whiten sensitive teeth

How to Whiten Sensitive Teeth

Tooth sensitivity is a problem that affects nearly 1 in 8 people.

Those who suffer from temporary tooth sensitivity may find that the traditional methods of teeth whitening cause them even more pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are several options available for those with sensitive teeth that can help minimize irritation while still giving them the beautiful smile they desire. 

By understanding the causes of your sensitive teeth, you can take the proper steps to whiten them safely.

Why are my teeth so sensitive?

Before starting a whitening treatment, it is important to understand why your teeth may be sensitive in the first place. Sensitive teeth can be caused by a variety of factors, some of which include: 

  • Tooth erosion from acidic foods and drinks 
  • Eating excessive amounts of sugar or other sweets
  • Teeth grinding during sleep or when stressed 
  • Receding gums which leave the tooth roots exposed 
  • Excessive brushing with hard bristles that wear away the enamel 
  • Using old, worn toothbrushes that don’t effectively remove plaque
  • Chipped or cracked teeth 
  • Tooth decay 
  • Excessive use of mouthwashes containing alcohol  
  • Sinusitis or allergy problems

Before beginning any type of whitening treatment, the first step is to speak with your dentist. They can help identify the cause of your sensitivity, rule out any serious dental problems, and recommend whitening methods that won’t hurt your teeth.

Can very sensitive teeth be whitened?

Yes, they can! 

The best way to whiten sensitive teeth is to use products that are specifically designed for sensitive teeth. 

These products oftentimes contain low-abrasive formulas and use milder doses of the main ingredient (generally hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide) than a traditional whitening product and can help minimize discomfort while still achieving the desired result.

Can sensitive teeth be whitened?

Best teeth whitening options for sensitive teeth and gums 

If your teeth are healthy but sensitive, there are special whitening options you can consider.

Professional in-office treatment

The advantage of professional whitening treatments is that they can be done quickly and safely while providing the longest-lasting results. A professional whitening kit uses higher concentrations of peroxide that are not available in over-the-counter products. 

At Kootenai Dental Group, we make custom-fitted trays that are made to fit perfectly over the surface of your teeth so that the whitening agent doesn’t come into contact with your gums. 

Natural at-home treatments 

It is also possible to lighten your teeth without using harsh chemicals, however, the results may take longer to show and may not last as long as professional whitening methods. 

If your heart is set on taking the natural route, there are a couple of options for you.

  • Brush your teeth with a paste made of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and water. This natural bleaching solution can help remove surface stains from your teeth without the risk of damaging sensitive enamel. Using too much hydrogen peroxide, one of the active bleaching agents used in whitening products, can cause side effects like gum irritation and mild sensitivity so it’s always recommended to talk to your dentist beforehand to ensure you’re using the appropriate measurements.
  • Eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products that are known for reducing surface stains and maintaining whiter teeth. Some options include watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, papaya, apples, carrots, raw cauliflower and broccoli, celery, hard cheeses, milk, and yogurt.

Over-the-counter options

There are many at-home kits, pens, toothpaste, and mouthwashes on the market, however, it’s very important that you find one that is designed specifically for sensitive teeth. 

A couple of options include:

  • Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening Toothpaste 
  • Crest 3D White Whitestrips Gentle Routine Teeth Whitening Kit

When considering how to whiten sensitive teeth, it is important to remember that professional treatments obtained at a dentist’s office are always the safest and most effective option. 

Professional dental services such as in-office bleaching, at-home whitening kits and custom trays from your dentist are designed to give you better results without causing damage to your teeth or gums.

Relief for sensitive teeth after whitening

Tooth sensitivity can occur as a result of any kind of dental procedure. Here are some tips to help alleviate sensitivity after whitening: 

  • Follow your dentist’s instructions. After undergoing any kind of tooth whitening treatment, it is important that you follow the aftercare instructions provided by your dentist in order to minimize any discomfort and unpleasant symptoms. It’s normal for some level of sensitivity to linger for a few hours, but if it doesn’t go away after a day or two, schedule a follow-up visit with your dentist.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication. Ibuprofen can be taken before and after the treatment to relieve sensitivity.
  • Use a desensitizing toothpaste. Desensitizing toothpastes contain ingredients like potassium nitrate that help reduce pain by blocking the pathways for sensation in the teeth. 
  • Use a desensitizing gel. Desensitizing gels contain active ingredients like potassium nitrate or strontium chloride that much like desensitizing toothpaste, can help reduce sensitivity. It can be applied directly to your teeth and it is best used at night before you go to sleep. 
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brushing your teeth with a hard bristled brush can actually cause more damage than good. Opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush instead so that you don’t provoke irritation along the gums or teeth. 
  • Rinse with fluoride mouthwash. A fluoride rinse helps strengthen the tooth enamel, and can thereby help reduce sensitivity.
  • Limit acidic foods and drinks in your diet. Acidic foods and beverages can wear away tooth enamel and cause superficial stains. Avoid citrus fruits, lemon juice, sports drinks, red wine, tomato-based products, dark sodas, and other acidic foods and beverages. In this article, we provide a list of the recommended foods to eat (and avoid) after a whitening treatment.
  • Avoid hot and cold beverages and foods. Wait at least 48 hours after a whitening procedure before eating or drinking anything hot or cold. 

Frequently asked questions:

What type of teeth cannot be whitened? 

Tooth discoloration can be a result of the buildup of plaque over time, drinking dark beverages, and smoking cigarettes. While whitening treatments can lighten teeth by several shades, there are some types of teeth that cannot be whitened. These include: 

  • Teeth with existing restorations like crowns, veneers, and metal fillings.
  • Teeth that have had a root canal. Due to the materials used during treatment, the enamel of a root canal treated tooth can become discolored and stained over time. You may need to consider having porcelain veneers placed over that tooth in order to give them a look that closely resembles your other teeth.
  • Teeth that have intrinsic stains. Intrinsic stains are those that exist within the inner layer of the dentin. Whitening treatments can lighten extrinsic stains that occur on the enamel, for example, those that are caused by tobacco products, coffee, and other substances.

Is teeth whitening permanent? 

Although teeth whitening is not a permanent procedure, professional methods can give you the longest-lasting results. In these articles, we discuss how many shades you can expect your teeth to be lightened and how long you can expect the treatment to last.

Our team of specialists at Kootenai Dental Group in Coeur d’Alene, ID are proud to provide you with a customized whitening plan tailored to meet your specific needs. 

Dr. Delwyn Dick, DDS and Dr. Lamont Murdoch, DDS have over 25 years of experience with cosmetic dental procedures including implants, porcelain veneers, gum and bone grafting, dental inlays, and whitening. We are passionate about your oral health and giving you a whiter and brighter smile.

Call 208-762-8750 to make your appointment today! 

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