What to Know About At-Home Whitening Products When You Have Sensitive Teeth

What to Know About At-Home Whitening Products When You Have Sensitive Teeth


Whitening your teeth at home is easier than ever with the array of products available in drug stores and online.

I personally rely on store-bought whitening strips to get my smile looking extra sparkly before special occasions. But, though my teeth look great afterwards, I always experience some uncomfortable sensitivity for a couple of days after using them.

According to Dr. David C. Gordon, DDS, of Gordon Center for General and Advanced Dentistry in Gaithersburg, MD, this sensitivity is caused by the carbamide or hydrogen peroxide present in most whitening products, though it is usually temporary and goes away after a few days. When your teeth are bleached, he explained, it removes stain from the protective enamel, so the enamel may become weaker and more porous for a short period of time.

“When the enamel is weakened, the nerve of the tooth can become irritated and the body perceives this as sensitivity,” Dr. Gordon said. “Usually, I recommend a high-fluoride toothpaste for people to help strengthen the enamel during and after whitening treatments.”

You may also experience pain if you leave your white strips on longer than recommended (this won’t make your teeth whiter), or if the whitening material gets on your gums. If you whiten in-office, your dentist may paint something onto your gums to prevent the bleach from touching them, but with at-home products, it’s up to you to be careful about placement.

Don’t be intimidated, though. The at-home whitening products sold in stores typically contain weaker concentrations of peroxide than those that require professional application by a dentist, meaning you may feel less pain. A few popular toothpaste brands sell whitening products that have versions specifically designed for people with sensitive teeth, Dr. Gordon explained. These are products with lower concentrations of peroxide that you will typically have to wear for a longer time per day or use several days in a row.

That said, if you’re worried about sensitivity but would still rather go with a professional, Dr. Gordon noted that you can talk to your dentist about using a less intense version of the bleach for an in-office treatment.

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