Can teeth whitening cause sensitivity?

Teeth whitening refers to the process of making teeth appear whiter than their original colour, helping to get rid of stains from food and drink, such as coffee, and imperfections in the tooth. Below we explain the process of whitening, why some people experience sensitivity after the procedure and what can be done to reduce sensitivity.

What is the procedure for teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening, or professional bleaching, is carried out by your dentist or other trained oral healthcare provider. In preparation for your teeth whitening treatment, the dentist will take an impression of your teeth, so as to make a mould. Once the mould has been made in a dental lab, you will then receive an appointment for the procedure. Treatment begins with the dentist protecting your gums with a gel or rubber shield. The mould is then inserted into your mouth with the active bleaching agent. This will feel very much like wearing a mouth guard. Most people usually need 3 to 4 visits with the treatment lasting for 30 minutes per visit. This will achieve maximum results.

Why a patient may suffer from sensitivity?

Some people may complain that their teeth feel more sensitive to hot and cold, both during and after treatment. This is usually short lived and the symptoms tend to go after a few days. The reason that sensitivity can occur is because the tooth whitening process temporarily makes the enamel (the outer and harder surface of the tooth) slightly more permeable, meaning that the dentin (the inner softer layer) is exposed. This is where the tooth’s nerves are located, hence the increase in sensitivity. The pressure that is applied onto the teeth may also cause increased tooth sensitivity.

How to alleviate the symptoms of sensitivity

There are many things that you can do to alleviate the symptoms of sensitivity. You can ask your dentist to apply a desensitising gel after treatment that should help to make your teeth less sensitive. Brushing with toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth can also help. Avoiding hot and cold drinks are also good choices during treatments. If your teeth are very sensitive, then it may be a wise choice to take Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs during your treatments. Medication such as ibuprofen can help reduce gum sensitivity. Another option is to have more appointments so that you can wear your teeth whitening mould for a shorter period of time.