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Should I Expect Tooth Sensitivity after Tooth Whitening?

By Steven Kail on September 13, 2016


A man undergoing teeth whitening treatmentIf you're self conscious about the appearance of yellowed, discolored teeth, you may be considering teeth whitening treatment. Teeth whitening is a safe and effective treatment that can remove years of dental discoloration. Although teeth whitening is safe, it's important to be aware of the potential side effects of treatment. One of the most common side effects is tooth sensitivity. Learn more about tooth sensitivity after tooth whitening in this overview from Jackson, TN dentists Steven Kail, Joseph Leonard, and Chris Arnold.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity after Teeth Whitening?

Some patients will experience tooth sensitivity after teeth whitening, especially those who already experience some degree of tooth sensitivity. In most cases, tooth sensitivity, or increased tooth sensitivity, is short lived and resolves within a day or two.

The teeth may become more sensitive after teeth whitening as a result of a loss of the protective mineral layer covering the teeth. The bleach solution used in whitening treatments often dissolves the outer layer of minerals from the teeth as it removes stains and discoloration. Although this does not cause long term harm, the loss of minerals can lead to the exposure of the dentinal tubules, which present a pathway to the tooth's nerves and pulp tissue, increasing tooth sensitivity.

The Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity

In most cases, tooth sensitivity after teeth whitening is only noticeable when the teeth are exposed to hot and cold foods and drinks or when breathing in cold air. Most tooth sensitivity is felt as a sudden, sharp pain when the teeth are subjected to drastic changes in temperature.

Alleviating Tooth Sensitivity

Most patients who experience tooth sensitivity after teeth whitening treatment will find symptoms naturally resolve after one to three days. In the meantime, there are steps you can take to help alleviate tooth sensitivity, including:

  • Keep foods and drinks lukewarm: Tooth sensitivity after teeth whitening is often triggered by hot and cold foods and drinks. Keep foods and drinks lukewarm or room temperature to prevent pain or tooth sensitivity.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush: Hard-bristled toothbrushes can be too harsh for the teeth, removing necessary minerals from the teeth and potentially damaging the enamel. Switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush to protect the teeth and allow the mineral layer to rebuild after whitening treatment.
  • Use a fluoride-based mouthwash and toothpaste: Fluoride-based mouthwashes and toothpastes can help restore the mineral layer of the teeth after tooth whitening, helping to alleviate tooth sensitivity.
  • Use sensitive formula toothpaste: Special toothpastes designed for sensitive teeth can help alleviate tooth sensitivity when used on a regular basis.

Is Teeth Whitening Right for You?

Teeth whitening treatment has minimal risks, making it well worth the benefits. Although tooth sensitivity is one of the most common risks, many patients experience no side effects at all. If you would like to enhance your smile and improve the appearance of yellowed, discolored teeth, we welcome you to schedule a consultation with our team at Premier Dental Center.

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