No matter what kind of teeth whitening product you use, you’re at risk of encountering some type of dental sensitivity afterward. This is true even for people who have healthy, strong teeth and get them whitened at a dentist’s office. Unfortunately, tooth sensitivity is just a part of whitening and can lead to discomfort for anyone who undergoes the procedure.
Don’t worry, though: there’s good news.
If you do suffer from tooth sensitivity after dental whitening, there’s hope. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When you take steps to reduce sensitivity before you undergo your whitening procedure, you’ll set yourself up for a more comfortable and streamlined experience in the dentist’s office or with your at-home whitening.
Let’s explore why sensitivity occurs and what you can do to cut down on it.
What Causes Dental Sensitivity?
Dental sensitivity is an uncomfortable situation with many causes. Depending on who you are and where your dental habits land, there are dozens of reasons you could be suffering some ongoing sensitivity. Here are a few of the most common culprits when it comes to dental sensitivity.
- Brushing too hard. If you brush your teeth with too much gusto, you can wear down the protective layers of your teeth and expose the canals and tubes that lead down to your dental nerves. Over time, this causes discomfort when your teeth are exposed to extreme temperatures or sticky foods. Fortunately, switching to a brush with softer bristles can go a long way toward helping resolve the issue.
- You’re eating acidic foods. Do you have a thing for very acidic foods? If so, they could be wearing down your enamel and causing discomfort when you consume them. This is likely the case if you notice discomfort when eating lemon, grapefruit, kiwi, and pickles.
- You grind your teeth. If you grind your teeth while you sleep, you could be wearing down your tooth enamel and exposing the hollow tubes that eventually lead to dental nerves. This, in turn, creates dental discomfort. Wearing a dental mouthguard can help stop you from grinding, and get rid of some of the sensitivity that may act up during whitening or similar procedures.
- You whiten too much. Sometimes, ongoing dental sensitivity can come from over-whitening your teeth. This is common if you whiten weekly and use a tooth-whitening toothpaste. If your teeth are more sensitive than standard teeth, you might want to cut down on your whitening, meaning switching to toothpaste without whitening chemicals in it.
How to Decrease Sensitivity During Whitening
Now that you understand what causes dental sensitivity, you can take proactive steps to address them. Here are a few smart ways to navigate around your sensitivity issues:
1. Use Sensitivity Solutions
Did you know that there are many desensitizing toothpastes and prescription solutions available on the market today? If you find that whitening your teeth causes undue sensitivity, you may consider trying one of these options.
Desensitizing toothpaste, for example, commonly has twice as much fluoride in it than standard toothpaste, which can help reduce sensitivity after whitening. For best results, start using this toothpaste up to two weeks before your scheduled whitening appointment.
2. Take an OTC NSAID
Some things are truly as simple as taking a bit of Motrin before you whiten your teeth. If you get headaches from whitening, this solution could work wonders for you.
600 mg of Motrin should be enough to stave off many of the unpleasant side effects of whitening. You can also take Advil or Tylenol, if that works better for you.
3. Avoid Cold Foods
After you whiten your teeth, they may feel additionally sensitive. Cut down on the sensation by avoiding cold or hot foods for a few days after whitening. You may also want to reduce exposure to sticky foods, like caramels or candies.
4. Whiten Less Frequently
Before you jump to any conclusions about the reason for your dental sensitivity, start by reducing the frequency and duration of your whitening treatments. If you know you have sensitive teeth, there are a few options you can explore. One of these options is simply whitening your teeth less often.
This may also involve changing the type of whitening solution you use. For example, if you typically use an at-home strip system, you may consider changing your approach to include dental whitening visits. While these will be more expensive, they’re also more effective and will mean you can whiten less frequently without sacrificing results.
Alternately, you can cut down on the duration of your whitening. Instead of whitening for two hours in your whitening tray, for example, cut it down to 90 minutes.
5. Talk to Your Dentist
If whitening is very important to you, but you’re suffering from dental sensitivity, talk to your dentist about your options. He or she may be able to make a recommendation that will help you get the white teeth you want without the sensitivity.
As you can see in this post, there are dozens of options for people with sensitive teeth. In most cases, there are dozens of ways to resolve dental sensitivity without taking excessive steps.
Additional Tips to Keep Teeth Strong
Strong teeth hold up to sensitivity issues better than weaker teeth. With this in mind, take these smart steps to keep your teeth healthy and happy for years to come:
- Brush twice daily. Be sure to brush teeth after meals, whenever possible, and use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. This is easier on teeth and allows you to reach the back of your mouth more effectively.
- Use fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride is critical to good dental health. Designed to strengthen enamel and reduce your risk of dental decay, fluoride helps you avoid cavities and other dental problems.
- Brush thoroughly. As a general rule, tooth brushing should take 2-3 minutes. Any shorter and you’re selling yourself short on your dental hygiene.
- Floss daily. Use a slow, gentle sawing motion to floss between and around your teeth.
- Limit exposure to acidic foods. Food acids can soften dental material over time and may dissolve the minerals in your tooth enamel, making teeth more vulnerable to cavities. With this in mind, limit your exposure to these foods and focus on keeping teeth clean between meals.
Stronger Teeth Start Here
If you’re looking for ways to reduce dental sensitivity and keep your teeth strong and healthy, starting with these smart tips is a great option.
While everyone’s dental care should be individualized, the building blocks to excellent dental health are predictable: brush daily, brush thoroughly, floss, and avoid lifestyle choices, foods, and beverages that are damaging to your mouth and dental health.
When you follow these tips, along with seeing your dentist regularly, it’s easier than ever before to enjoy outstanding dental health for years to come.
Need to schedule a checkup or cleaning? Contact our office today. We’re happy to help.
Dr. Felicity is a National Board Certified Dentist and a Longtime resident of Charleston.