Teeth Whitening Pain: What You Need to Know

If you’re familiar with teeth sensitivity, we’re guessing that you never want to experience it again. Tooth sensitivity can range from mild to chronic pain and is a nerve reaction to sweet, hot, cold, spicy or acidic foods. It can even occur from just breathing in air through your mouth! When it comes to teeth whitening, a lot of people experience pain and sensitivity, so we are breaking down why you experience sensitivity when whitening, and how to avoid it.

What is tooth sensitivity?

Sensitivity, otherwise known as dentin hypersensitivity, is described as sharp discomfort or pain in your teeth. The main cause of tooth sensitivity is due to a wearing down of the enamel which exposes the next layer of your tooth known as dentin.

Dentin lies just underneath the enamel and is a hard tissue that contains microscopic tubes. Without enamel, these tubes expose the nerve endings, leading to the familiar feeling of sensitivity.

It is estimated that around half the population have experienced tooth pain at some point in their life. Sensitivity is known to come and go but can last for hours at a time. The Oral Health Foundation states that it is most common in those between the ages of 20-40 and affects more women than men.

Top 10 causes of tooth sensitivity

  1. Over-brushing your teeth: If you’re brushing too frequently or too hard it can begin to wear down your enamel.
  2. Acidic foods: Foods such as tomatoes, fruit juice, pickles, cheese, lemon and alcohol can cause enamel damage.
  3. Grinding or clenching your teeth: Grinding teeth will quickly wear down your enamel and cause other dental issues, although it can be a subconscious habit for some.
  4. Receding gums: Gum recession can be genetic, or a symptom of over-brushing. It is an irreversible condition that exposes your nerves.
  5. Excessive plaque: A buildup of plaque will begin to erode the enamel and quickly lead to sensitivity.
  6. Gum disease: An indication of poor oral hygiene is gum disease, along with sensitivity, this can lead to a lot of other dental concerns.
  7. Dental procedures: Dental restorations, fillings, crowns and a scale and clean, may often result in sensitivity.
  8. Cracked teeth or cavities: Often, the first indication of a cavity will be the feeling of sensitivity as your nerves begin to be exposed.
  9. Over-using Mouthwash: Many over the counter mouthwashes include chemicals that can wear down your enamel if used excessively.
  10. Peroxide based teeth whitening: Peroxide based teeth whitening products, including mouthwashes, toothpastes and professional treatments are known to cause sensitivity.
womans lips biting ice
many people expreience sensitivite teeth from cold drinks and ice

Why pain after teeth whitening?

A study by the Clinical Oral investigation confirmed that pain is a very common side effect of teeth whitening and has direct correlation with the percentage of peroxide used. If you are considering using a peroxide-based whitening product it is important to check the percentage included. The ADA states that in-office whitening can include up to 35% peroxide while at-home products usually range between 3-6% peroxide. If you have a pre-existing dental concern you may be more susceptible to sensitivity, so it’s important to consult with your dentist prior to whitening.

How to avoid pain when whitening teeth

The good news is that there are other whitening options available that won’t cause you any pain. Whitening toothpastes, including those with activated charcoal or sodium bicarbonate, are common among those looking to whiten at home without sensitivity.

Items such as icecream can cause sensitivity in teeth caused by whitening

A study from the Journal of Dentistry found that at-home whitening kits result in less sensitivity than in-office bleaching. You can look for a Whitening Gel that includes Potassium Nitrate which is commonly used in toothpastes designed to help sensitive teeth. Formulas that include Potassium Nitrate build up soothing protection in your tooth to desensitise your nerve and stop sensitivity.

Most at-home teeth whitening products will typically contain peroxide, there are however alternatives such as PAP (Phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid). A 2017 study showed that the use of PAP has significant whitening effects immediately and 24 hours after a single-use treatment. PAP has been found to be as effective as traditional whitening ingredients whilst causing little to no sensitivity.

If you have ever experienced teeth sensitivity or are worried about using a teeth whitening kit that may cause pain or discomfort, a good option is one that contains PAP, Potassium Nitrate and Hydroxyapatite such as our Home Teeth Whitening Kit. It is specially formulated to be an effective whitening treatment without the rise of sensitivity or enamel damage.

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