Pain After Whitening Teeth: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

You can relieve pain after whitening teeth by gently brushing using desensitizing toothpaste, avoiding extremely cold or hot foods and drinks, etc.

If you have stained teeth and you intend to remove the surface stain and discoloration, you may consider teeth whitening. There are many products available for teeth whitening and the procedure can be done at home or at a dentist’s office. However, many people experience teeth sensitivity and pain following the procedure. But what causes the pain and how is it managed?

What Causes Teeth Whitening Pain?

Teeth sensitivity occurs after bleaching due to the following reasons:

  • The bleaching product molecules penetrate into the teeth. This increases flow of blood and the pressure within the tooth pulp which causes irritation of the pulp (pulpitis). While diffusion of the bleach into teeth helps in whitening as your tooth dentin is broken up by the hydrogen peroxide bleach, the resultant pressure is irritating to the teeth nerves, which elevates teeth sensitivity. And while people respond differently, the mild pulpitis will usually last for no more than 2 weeks following the whitening procedure.
  • Increased porosity of the teeth resulting from the removal of the protective protein layer on teeth surface. Note that the protein pellicle protective layer keeps the pores within the exposed dentin sealed off from elements in the oral environment. Unfortunately, whitening products strip off this layer as they dissolve the surface stains and discoloration. This causes the pores to open up, exposing the dentin and causing sensitivity.

What to Do for Very Sensitive Teeth After Whitening?

While whitening teeth will usually cause teeth sensitivity, many people are willing to take the risk to improve the appearance of their teeth. But, what should you do to deal with very sensitive teeth after whitening?

  • Avoid brushing your teeth after the procedure. Note that brushingsoon after whitening increases exposure of your dentin and may cause more damage to teeth enamel which increases sensitivity.
  • Apply desensitizing gel 30 minutes before applying the bleaching agent and rinse it off after the procedure. Desensitizing gel will normally contain potassium nitrate and fluoride.
  • Avoid too cold or too hot foods because these can lead to pain in case of very sensitive teeth and soon after teeth whitening. You should also avoid highly acidic food or drinks.
  • Rinse your mouth with lukewarm water after your meals. This can help reduce teeth whitening pain or sensitivity.
  • Gently brushing your teeth using sensitivity-relieving toothpaste is recommended in the management of sensitivity. Make sure that you use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush horizontally instead of vertically, and rinse your mouth with lukewarm water.
  • You may take a painkiller or anti-inflammatory to relieve sensitivity. These medications can calm the sore nerves and reduce any swelling caused by the bleaching agents.
  • Use desensitizing gels, toothpastes or mouth washes to reduce sensitivity. Desensitizing products have mild anesthetic properties that help dull the sensitivity by plugging the outer ends of the tubules.

In case you still have teeth whitening pain beyond 48 hours following the procedure, you should consider visiting a dentist for assessment of your condition and determination if you might have an underlying issue. When visiting a dentist, it makes sense to carry with you, the packaging of your bleaching product or the actual product that you use for whitening. Ask if your dentist can recommend an alternative product.

How to Avoid Teeth Sensitivity After Whitening

  • For two weeks leading to the whitening procedure, brush your teeth using desensitizing toothpaste.
  • Opt for teeth whitening procedure by a dentist instead of doing it yourself at home or having it done by a non-professional.
  • In case you plan to do teeth whitening at home, choose a whitening products or kit with low hydrogen peroxides level.
  • Carefully read the instructions and follow them strictly. Ensure that you don’t leave teeth bleaching product for longer than the stipulated time.
  • Avoid using whitening products too frequently.
  • Be careful about what you eat following the whitening procedure. Some foods and drinks are too acidic which can increase erosions of your teeth.
  • Taking some anti-inflammatory medication an hour before the procedure can reduce the occurrence of teeth whitening pain. Make sure you inform your dentist about any drugs that you have taken.
  • You can opt to use whitening strips.

When You May Not Want to Whiten Your Teeth

In case you have any of the following conditions, it is recommended that you discuss with your dentist about it because teeth whitening might not be a good idea for you:

  • You have very sensitive teeth.
  • You suffer from GERD or have acid erosion of your teeth.
  • You have receding gums.
  • You have sensitive gums.
  • You are sensitive to hydrogen peroxide.
  • You have teeth cavities.
  • Your teeth have white spots which signify decalcification or early cavities.
  • You are expectant or are breastfeeding.
  • You are below the age 18 years.
  • You have teeth with visible plastic crowns or fillings.

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