The Truth About Teeth Whitening and Sensitive Teeth

Posted on: 14 June 2016

Are you putting off whitening your teeth because you're worried it might make your teeth sensitive? While it's true that teeth whitening sometimes triggers short-term sensitivity, there are things you can do to combat the discomfort and enjoy white teeth. Educate yourself about the risks of various types of teeth whitening so you can decide which one is right for you.

Why Does Whitening Cause Sensitivity?

Whitening opens up tiny openings in the teeth called dentinal tubules. This allows fluid to flow through these tubes and come into contact with the sensitive pulp in the centre of the tooth, which can be painful, particularly when you eat very hot or cold foods.

Solutions for Whitening Sensitivity

The good news is that it's possible to plug the dentinal tubules again after whitening to reduce tooth sensitivity. Cosmetic dentists can choose to use whitening products that contain a desensitizing agent called ACP, which blocks dentinal tubules. Alternatively, you can use a toothpaste that contains potassium nitrate to reduce sensitivity after your whitening treatment.

What About Whitening Toothpaste?

If you are willing to wait a few weeks for your whiter smile, whitening toothpaste could be a good solution for you. Whitening toothpastes gradually remove stains from the surfaces of teeth to make them appear brighter. Some whitening toothpastes can cause sensitivity if you use them for a long time, but you can combat this effect by choosing a whitening toothpaste that is suitable for sensitive teeth. 

Are Natural Teeth Whitening Solutions Safer?

Don't make the mistake of thinking that "natural" teeth whitening solutions are safer for sensitive teeth than commercial products or professional whitening treatments. Many natural teeth whitening remedies contain baking soda and lemon juice. Unfortunately, these ingredients won't make much difference to the colour of your teeth and they could cause damage. According to dentist Dr. Rita Medwid, applying lemon juice to your teeth could make them very sensitive.

How to Safely Whiten Sensitive Teeth

If you crave a whiter smile but worry about the effect on your sensitive teeth, talk to your dentist. A good cosmetic dentist can recommend a teeth whitening treatment that is gentle on your sensitive teeth and give you advice about tackling sensitivity. Sometimes, sensitivity can be a sign of enamel erosion or tooth decay, which are conditions that your dentist may be able to treat. The first step is to book an appointment with a dentist so you can find out what is causing your sensitivity and find out what your options are for brightening your smile.