While numerous studies have proven that teeth whitening will not have severe or long-term effects on your teeth, some people do experience tooth sensitivity immediately after the procedure.
Tooth sensitivity is a temporary side effect that may occur when the bleaching molecules penetrate the outer layer (enamel) of the tooth. While necessary to get rid of deeply embedded tooth stains, applying the bleaching agent can also open up pores in the structure of your teeth thereby exposing the root nerves in your tooth to external temperature influences.
Not every patient will experience post-whitening sensitivity. For those who do, there are several things you can do to manage and minimize the discomfort – which typically lasts for about two days.
To reduce the likelihood or intensity of post-whitening sensitivity, give your teeth and gums a thorough clean with a fluoride-infused toothpaste or floss. The fluoride ingredient will greatly strengthen your teeth enamel while providing overall resistance to sensitivity.
Some dentists recommend taking anti-inflammatory drugs (eg. Ibuprofen) before and after the procedure to take the edge off post-treatment discomforts.
In the first 24 hours after teeth whitening, using prescribed toothpaste that contains potassium nitrate can help to soothe the nerve endings of your teeth. Using a soft bristled tooth protects the enamel from further sensitivity. It also helps to leave the toothpaste on your teeth for longer, allowing it more time to do its work.
Avoid exposing your sensitive teeth to hot/cold stimuli for at least a couple of days after treatment. Regular coffee or tea drinkers may find consuming their beverage through a straw a good way to avoid the wincing.
If you’re using at-home whitening kits, always test the sensitivity of your teeth by applying a small amount first. If you’re using an Over-The-Counter (OTC) product, apply the whitening agent with extra care. Avoid letting the gel or paste come into direct contact with soft tissue areas, especially in areas where your gums are receding.
Since not all patients react the same way to a given concentration of active bleaching ingredients, it is better to consult a dentist prior to administering OTC products. For safer whitening, we recommend chair-side whitening or dentist-prescribed home care products.
For the first week after treatment, gentle brushing with lukewarm water offers relief from the temporary pain.
An important step to ensuring a safe and comfortable teeth whitening treatment is to get your teeth and gums properly evaluated by a dentist. This has two significant benefits: (1) Ascertain whether you would make a good teeth-whitening candidate; and (2) Achieve proper levels of active bleaching ingredient for your teeth.
The dentist is in the best position to judge what type of discoloration you have and recommend a suitable course of action. If teeth whitening is recommended, the dentist will also be able to determine the correct amount of bleaching gel to use, based on the extent of your discoloration – and of course, how sensitive your teeth are.