Sensitive teeth and tooth whitening
Tooth sensitivity is an annoying syndrome commonly characterized by mild
to severe discomfort when eating very cold or hot foods or beverages.
While many things
can cause your teeth to become sensitive, a few people
experience some degree of temporary tooth sensitivity while doing a home
teeth whitening program or for a few days following professional whitening
treatments. This is a temporary condition which will go away soon after
the whitening treatments are finished, and is more common in people whose
teeth are sensitive to begin with.
What causes sensitive teeth?
In general, tooth sensitivity occurs when the dentin and small nerve
endings in the root your tooth become exposed. A couple of common causes
of tooth sensitivity are:
- Brushing too firmly or with too hard a toothbrush -
brushing too vigorously can push your gums back to expose the delicate
root of your tooth. It is estimated that at least one out of every two
people brushes their teeth with too much pressure!
- Receding gums caused by poor oral hygeine - causing
gingivitis and peridontal disease.
- Eating a lot of acidic foods and beverages - like
lemons, soda, citrus fruits or tomatoes.
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Tooth whitening (temporary sensitivity) - a small
percentage of people who undergo professional or over-the-counter teeth
whitening will experience temporary tooth sensitivity due to irritation
What can I do about it?
As with any medical condition, we recommend you first consult with your
dentist or doctor. However:
- If tooth sensitivity is due to daily teeth whitening, take a break
for a couple days. If you are experiencing a lot of discomfort, discontinue
use and talk to your dentist.
- Rinsing with slightly warm water after eating is
a home remedy for tooth sensitivity which may help reduce pain.
- Avoid highly acidic foods and beverages
- Flouride mouthwashes - provide relief in some people.
- Be gentle on your teeth - use a softer bristled toothbrush and brush
your teeth horizontally (side-to-side) instead of vertically (up and
down). Brushing up and down can eventually push your gums back from the
base of your teeth, exposing sensitive areas.
- Try a toothpaste with ingredients which reduce
tooth sensitivity, like
The active ingredient to look for is potassium nitrate. Strontium
chloride is another active ingredient in some toothpastes
- it bonds with saliva to help protect the tooth root. (For more information,
see our page on tooth whitening
- If you are experiencing discomfort after professional
most people find relief from over-the-counter painkillers, but definitely
give your dentist a call and ask about it.
- If you suffer from chronic sensitive tooth discomfort your
dentist may prescribe special mouth rinses or substances to
rub on your teeth. They can also apply a bonding agent to protect
the tooth roots. In severe cases, a periodontist may opt to do a tissue
graft on your gums to cover the exposed root.
"But I still want to whiten my teeth !"
If you have sensitive teeth, or have experienced moderate
to severe discomfort during whitening treatments, we strongly advise you
speak to your dentist. However, if you just experienced mild, temporary
sensitivity from using a particular product, you may want to try one of
- Use a desensitizing toothpaste for about two weeks before you
- Try a product with a
lower amounts of peroxide. Peroxide is what causes sensitivity
during whitening. Pay attention to the type of
peroxide - hydrogen peroxide is stronger than carbamide
peroxide (a solution which contains hydrogen peroxide), 3%
hydrogen peroxide is about equal to 10% carbamide peroxide. Lower concentrations
of peroxide will just take a little longer to work.
Whitening Z is
a gel whitener especially forumlated for sensitive teeth. It contains
potassium nitrate and flouride to help prevent and combat tooth sensitivity
and is available in two strengths - 6% or 4% hydrogen peroxide (both
very low amounts, compared to other products). It is not sold
with trays, but can be used with any reusable, custom trays you may already
- Instead of using whitening strips daily or twice
a day, use them less frequently for a longer period of time.
- Avoid getting whitening gels, strips or paint-on products in contact
with your gums.
- Stick to very gentle whitening products such as mouth rinses
The results won't be as dramatic but some whitening will occur.
Tooth Whitening Active Ingredients
Teeth whitening information
Disclaimer - this information is provided
for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for
or provide medical care or advice. If you have a medical condition or
question, you should consult with your dentist, doctor or other licensed