Tooth sensitivity is very common during and after teeth whitening. Teeth whitening done at the dental surgery (chairside tooth whitening) will produce the most tooth sensitivity. The best technique to whiten your teeth is the professional home tooth whitening system where your dentist makes custom whitening trays for your top and lower jaw. Whitening gel is placed in these trays and patients have to wear them for a certain time every day until they are happy with the tooth colour.
Advice: If you experience tooth sensitivity and are using the home professional teeth whitening system then it would be best to stop the procedure until the tooth sensitivity fades away. If you experience tooth sensitivity in general we would recommend using some Soothe™(SDI) gel in your whitening trays for 1 hour for 4 days before starting the process of tooth whitening. You can even use this gel 1 hour before you whiten the teeth and after you whiten the teeth. This should reduce the tooth sensitivity.
Teeth Whitening FAQs
Can Teeth Whitening cause pain?
The actual process itself usually causes some tooth sensitivity. Teeth whitening works by using a bleaching agent that is applied directly onto the surfaces of the teeth. This agent not only removes the extrinsic (outer) stains on the tooth, but it also travels into the tooth via small channels called dentinal tubules, breaking down any intrinsic (inner) stain particles that may be present. As these channels are left open, the tooth becomes sensitive and a painful sensation can be felt. It can take a few days for these channels to close up with regular hygiene and tooth brushing with fluoride toothpastes.
It is important to see a dentist who can thoroughly assess you before any whitening treatment is carried out. Any worn enamel, exposed dentine, dental cavities or fractured teeth, will be more susceptible to the bleaching agent and could lead to tooth pain during and after the whitening treatment.
How long will the pain last after dental tooth whitening?
It can last anything from a few hours to a few days. In extreme cases where the teeth are already quite sensitive to start with, it may last a little longer and so it is very important to keep your teeth clean and see your dentist who may be able to provide strong desensitizing agents to help bring some relief.
Some people may not experience any sensitivity during tooth whitening. This may be because the dentinal tubules are predominantly closed or the plugs needed to seal the tubules after the whitening procedure can form relatively quickly.
If the pain during the whitening procedure is particularly uncomfortable, then it is important to stop the process and let the teeth recover. This will limit the chance of post-operative sensitivity and any discomfort you may have.
What are the best ways of providing tooth whitening relief?
Direct desensitizing gels and varnishes can be supplied by the dentist for use straight after whitening treatment to help limit sensitivity and provide relief. Sensitive toothpastes can also be applied directly onto the teeth to help bring relief. Fluoride containing toothpastes and mouthwashes are very good for helping to deal with the effects of sensitivity after whitening procedures.
Is dental whitening safe then?
Dental Whitening is completely safe as long as you have it done via a trained dental professional. There are different types of whitening procedures such as laser whitening and home whitening, each with different and varied effects. Your dentist will be able to tell you the merits of each and which would best suit you depending on your case and how sensitive your teeth are to start with.
Good oral hygiene is very important to help maintain the health of your teeth and look after them once the whitening procedure has been completed.
What are the main side effects of home teeth whitening?
- Tooth sensitivity will be experienced in around 70% of cases.
- The whitening gel may cause inflammation or whitening of the gums. Ensure you are removing all excess gel. Stop for a day then resume.
What are the risks of teeth whitening?
- Not all teeth may whiten. They do in 99% of cases.
- Existing restorations (fillings/crowns/veneers) will not change colour and may need replacing for proper colour-matching after treatment.
- Silver fillings will release mercury so consider replacing these prior to whitening.
- Grey teeth tend to whiten less than darkly stained yellow or yellow-brown teeth.
Does tooth whitening last forever?
Tooth whitening does not last forever but studies show that 80% of patients are happy with the colour for up to two years after using professional home tooth whitening. You may wish to boost the colour after it fades in which case you can buy some more tooth whitening gel from your dentist (they will have to prescribe it to you).