Sensitive teeth are a chore to have. But even more of a task to discover you have them. You could be enjoying a lovely ice cream cone when suddenly your teeth begin to seize up. Pain starts to shoot up each area that’s come into contact with the deceptively delicious cold treat. And it can throw you off a lot of the things you’d want to do, like eating or getting a teeth whitening procedure. Because teeth whitening already gives you tooth sensitivity post-procedure, how do you whiten sensitive teeth?
It might be best to ask why teeth get sensitive in the first place. In that case, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is tooth sensitivity is something you develop. The good news? It isn’t a permanent condition. Treat it early enough, and you might still be able to reverse the effects. Then, after knowing this, we can look at how to whiten sensitive teeth.
Most tooth sensitivity comes from dentin exposure
First things first, why do teeth get sensitive, anyway? Well, there are several reasons. You might have some hidden cavities in individual teeth, which can grow painful over time. You could have a chip in your tooth near the pulp cavity. Or you might have a filling that’s coming off.
What seems to be shared among these experiences is an exposure of your teeth’s inner layers. Aside from cavities and chips, this is also caused by thinning enamel and root exposure. Why? Because beneath the enamel, there’s a layer of the tooth that’s particularly receptive to sensations. Called the dentin, it’s what tells your teeth if they’re near something hot, cold, or if they’re under a lot of pressure. When they are exposed, this heightens the responses you get to these things, which can be uncomfortable.
Before you get a tooth whitening session, then, you might want to fix up what causes your teeth sensitivity. If it’s due to a chipped tooth or tooth decay, more so. As for thinner enamel or exposed roots, you might want to ask your dentist for what treatments you can undertake. Typically, you might be prescribed a desensitizing toothpaste or a bonding resin treatment.
How to whiten sensitive teeth
All this considered, how do you whiten sensitive teeth? Simple: use a desensitizing gel.
But before we get into it, let’s first look into why our teeth get sensitive after a whitening treatment. As we’ve discussed before, your teeth get discolored thanks to a build-up of particles in your enamel’s pores. Whether it’s because you smoke or because you indulge yourself in tannin-rich drinks, over time, small molecules from these habits pour into the pores bit-by-bit until they become visible.
Treatments then apply specific bleaching agents onto the teeth to break down that build-up. This means they need to enter the pores to fulfill that objective. What usually happens, then, is that the pores are left open post-treatment. This leaves the teeth dehydrated, which in turn shrinks the dentin layer of the tooth. Not even your favorite ice cream cone can save it.
Typically, your saliva remineralizes and rehydrates the tooth. Still, it usually takes time before the sensitivity goes away. To make the process less agonizing, then, a desensitizing gel with minerals is put on your teeth to alleviate the discomfort—especially for people with sensitive teeth. In the meantime, you might want to avoid the ice cream for now.