A Root Canal

Can You Receive Teeth Whitening Treatments Even If You Have Sensitive Teeth?

When you have sensitive teeth, over-the-counter teeth whitening products can leave you in agony. These products temporarily make your teeth more sensitive to pressure and temperature extremes, and they can leave people with naturally sensitive teeth in considerable pain. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do in order to limit the sensitizing effect that whitening products have on your teeth. If you have sensitive teeth and want a shining white smile, here's an explanation of why teeth whitening products increase sensitivity and some ways you can whiten your teeth without pain.

Why Does Teeth Whitening Increase Sensitivity?

Your teeth contain tiny channels called dentinal tubules that run from the root of the tooth to just underneath your enamel. These tubules are responsible for transmitting feelings of hot and cold to the nerves of your teeth. When you whiten your teeth using a bleaching gel, it causes your enamel to become slightly more porous. The porous enamel lets in small amounts of hot and cold liquids, which causes your sensitivity to temperature to increase. Additionally, some whitening toothpastes contain abrasive granules (like mica or charcoal) that can wear down your enamel, and worn enamel also increases sensitivity by removing some of the buffer that your dentinal tubules have against temperature extremes.

In fact, teeth whitening can cause temporary sensitivity in people who don't have previous issues with sensitivity. If you already have sensitive teeth and experience pain when eating or drinking, whitening your teeth using a bleaching gel will cause the issue to become much worse.

How Can You Whiten Sensitive Teeth Without Pain?

The increased sensitivity from teeth whitening is only temporary, and there are several things you can do in order to make the increased sensitivity bearable. The first is to begin brushing with toothpaste designed for people with sensitive teeth. These toothpastes contain potassium nitrate, which enters your dentinal tubules and block them. Blocking the tubules protects the nerves of your teeth from hot and cold temperatures, which reduces sensitivity. The effect of toothpaste meant for sensitive teeth persists even while you're whitening your teeth, so it can reduce the amount of pain you experience after teeth whitening sessions.

You can also schedule an appointment with a dentist and ask about using remineralization gel. Remineralization gel helps to restore your enamel and protect your dentinal tubules—it's especially useful when used right after whitening your teeth, when your enamel is slightly porous and your sensitivity is at its highest.

Finally, you can simply slow down the rate at which you're whitening your teeth. Bleaching gels with a high concentration of bleaching agent (such as hydrogen peroxide) will have a greater whitening effect, but they will also make your sensitivity much worse compared to using more gentle bleaching gels. The length of time that the bleaching gel is applied to your teeth makes a difference as well—try leaving in the whitening tray for only half the suggested amount of time in order to limit the effects on your enamel. Although the process will take longer, you'll still get the same whitening results.

On a final note, it's important to schedule an appointment with a dentist if you have sensitive teeth. While sensitivity is often genetic, it can also be caused by oral disease such as gingivitis. Scheduling a dental health checkup with a dentist can rule out more serious causes that may underlie your sensitivity. As an added bonus, your dentist can recommend teeth whitening treatments and products that you can use to whiten your teeth without experiencing severe pain.