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Ten Tips for Handling Tooth Sensitivity After Whitening

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Tooth sensitivity is a very common yet incredibly uncomfortable side effect following teeth whitening treatments. The payoff is a bright and beautiful smile, but unfortunately, you may experience tenderness, aching and other unpleasant sensations after the procedure.

Women suffering from tooth sensitivity after whitening

Tooth sensitivity after whitening can impede your daily life and cause unpleasant changes in your routine. It’s difficult to make changes when your lifestyle has remained a certain way for any substantial length of time. Luckily, there are a number of straightforward methods for reducing tooth sensitivity after whitening:

  1. At least one to two weeks prior to your whitening treatment, get in the habit of brushing using a toothpaste specially formulated for sensitive teeth (like Sensodyne) three times per day.

  2. Remember to apply a gentle level of pressure when brushing your teeth to avoid damage.

  3. Home dental care is very important. Select a toothbrush with soft bristles.

  4. A prescription-grade sensitivity toothpaste can be provided by your dentist for use immediately following a whitening treatment when sensitivity is at its most severe. This period of ultra sensitivity typically lasts two days following treatment, after which you can resume use of your over-the-counter sensitivity toothpaste.

  5. Rather than brushing your teeth with cold water, which can cause discomfort, use room temperature or warm water.

  6. For both the prescription-grade and the over-the-counter sensitivity toothpastes, the effects are greater when you let the toothpaste remain in place for a few minutes prior to rinsing, allowing it extra time to set in.

  7. Following each use of a home whitening kit, replace the whitening gel in the trays with a sensitivity toothpaste and apply to your teeth for twenty minutes.

  8. Stick to room temperature beverages for a few days after a whitening treatment. Hot and cold beverages should be avoided. Be aware that certain drinks like tea and coffee can stain your freshly whitened teeth.

  9. Using a straw to drink allows the beverage to flow between and past your teeth to the back of your mouth, avoiding the sensitive area.

  10. It may be advisable to reduce the duration of the treatment sessions or their frequency.

Reasons for Everyday Tooth Sensitivity and How to Manage It

Too Much Mouthwash
Similar to whitening toothpaste, some over-the-counter brands of mouthwash and rinses contain alcohol and other chemicals that cause tooth sensitivity, particularly if your dentin is exposed. Replace these mouthwashes with a neutral fluoride rinse.

Brushing Too Hard
Tooth sensitivity can also be caused by brushing with too much force or using a hard-bristled toothbrush. The protective layers of your teeth can become worn and expose microscopic canals that lead to the dental nerve. Once the canals come into contact with hot or cold temperatures, tooth sensitivity occurs. The best solution is using a toothbrush with softer bristles and brushing with gentle pressure.

A Dental Procedure
It’s not unusual to suffer from sensitivity following an extraction, a root canal or the placement of a crown. If the symptom persists beyond a few days, you should consult your dentist because it could be a sign of infection.

Extreme Case of Plaque
With careful flossing and brushing, the plaque that forms after you eat is effectively removed. If plaque is not removed, an excessive buildup of plaque can make tooth enamel wear away over time. The teeth become sensitive once the protection provided by the enamel is lost. The remedy is proper daily dental care and receiving a professional cleaning twice per year, or three times per year if necessary.

Acidic or Sticky Foods
Acidic foods such as hot sauce, lime, grapefruit and pickles can cause pain when the exposed dental nerve is reached. Avoiding these foods will help prevent tooth tenderness and discomfort.

Weakening Fillings
Around the edges of fillings, decay can form. As fillings age, they can weaken and fracture or leak around the edges. These tiny crevices encourage the growth of bacteria, which causes acid build up and breakdown in enamel. Fillings are easily replaced, so speak to your dentist if you notice sensitivity around your fillings.

Grinding Away At It
Tooth enamel is actually the strongest substance in your whole body. However, grinding your teeth wears down the enamel over time. Teeth grinding exposes the dentin, which is the middle layer of the tooth that contains the hollow tubes that lead to the nerves. Speak to your dentist for advice on selecting a type of mouth guard that prevents teeth grinding, such as a custom-made option for the best fit.

Using the Wrong Toothpaste
Teeth whitening treatments such as the tray method are effective, but toothpastes that contain whitening chemicals are often the cause of sensitivity and are not as effective as a professional treatment.

Gum Disease
Tooth sensitivity can be caused by receding gums, also known as gum disease. Gum disease is increasingly common as we age, particularly if daily dental health habits such as flossing are lacking. If gum disease or gingivitis is the issue, your dentist will design a treatment plan to combat the underlying disease, and a procedure to seal the affected teeth may be necessary.

Chipped or Cracked Teeth
A chipped or cracked tooth can cause incredible pain that goes beyond tooth sensitivity. An evaluation of your tooth must be performed by a dentist to determine the best course of treatment, such as an extraction or cap.

Remember: Tooth Sensitivity Is Treatable

Often, using a sensitivity toothpaste on a daily basis and as a leave-on treatment following whitening is an effective solution for tooth sensitivity caused by whitening. However, if your sensitivity is reaching the point of pain, if its duration is excessive or if it persists no matter what steps you take, do not delay in visiting your dentist for an evaluation. We can diagnose the root cause of your tooth sensitivity and the best solution for your individual case.

For more information, please call Centenary Dental at 1-888-768-6955 or contact us here.


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Dr. Tali Waksman
A graduate from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto, Dr. Tali Waksman went on to work as the only dentist on a Native reserve, serving 2000 people after completing a residency at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. With a warm and friendly personality and close attention to detail, she treats every patient like family.