Is Teeth Whitening an Option for People with Sensitive Teeth?

If you’ve ever bitten into an ice cream sandwich or taken a spoonful of steaming hot soup and felt a sudden jolt of pain throughout your mouth, you’ve experienced the unpleasant phenomenon of sensitive teeth.

Other than limiting what you can eat, sensitive teeth can put a major damper on your teeth whitening efforts, which can further contribute to the degradation of your teeth and, therefore, sensitivity pains that you feel.

Fortunately, all is not lost for people with sensitive teeth — you can still whiten your teeth and regain your beautiful smile. You’re just going to have to be pickier about the specific teeth whitening treatments that you use if you want to avoid making things worse.

To be able to choose a safe whitening treatment for your sensitive teeth, you’re going to first need to understand more about teeth sensitivity in the first place.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth in the First Place?

That unpleasant feeling you get when you consume anything that’s especially cold or hot is most often the result of degraded tooth enamel or exposed tooth roots. Enamel acts as a buffer between the sensitive part of your teeth, called dentin, and the outside world. Once your enamel is compromised and your dentin exposed, you’re much more likely to experience what people call “sensitivity” when you eat cold or hot foods, or even brush too hard.

Exposed tooth roots, on the other hand, happen when both your gums and the material protecting your tooth along the gumline, called cementum, wear away. This then allows things like bacteria, plaque, acids, and extreme cold or hot temperatures to reach the root of the tooth itself, resulting in sensitivity and potentially other, more serious dental health problems.

For many of the same reasons described above, tooth sensitivity can also be caused by other factors like having a cavity, cracked or chipped tooth, a worn filling, or gum disease.

How Can Teeth Whitening Contribute to Tooth Sensitivity?

You can think of teeth whitener as working in the same way as clothes whitening. In both scenarios, a bleaching agent is applied to a concentrated area of stain and discoloration, which then works to break down the concentration into much smaller, less obvious pockets of stain and discoloration. The result with teeth is a whiter smile and the result with clothing is a whiter t-shirt.

Therefore, what is causing people discomfort or tooth sensitivity when they whiten their teeth is the bleaching agent used, which is most typically carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide (which is also coincidentally also used to brighten hair).

If you think back to the section above explaining what causes tooth sensitivity, mainly worn down enamel or exposed tooth roots, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand why applying a product that further breaks down the surface of your teeth or gums (i.e. bleach) can cause sensitivity.

Even in cases where bleach isn’t used to whiten your teeth, such as when it’s substituted for heavier brushing or professional cleaning, the abrasive quality of these other types of treatments can further lead to worn down enamel or exposed tooth roots if done improperly.

Are There Teeth Whitening Options for People with Sensitive Teeth?

If you have sensitive teeth but are still intent on whitening them, you’re most likely going to have to try your hand at a whitening treatment containing a lower-concentration bleaching product.

Fortunately, this isn’t a problem, as even many at-home teeth whitening treatments that you can buy online buffer the bleach content of their ingredients enough so as to allow you to use their whitening products on a daily basis with minimal-to-no sensitivity.

Some companies even offer teeth whitening treatments specifically for people with sensitive teeth. These companies will also often provide extra assurance in the form of a money-back guarantee with their products, guaranteeing sensitive-free whitening within your free 30 days or your money back.

For those who want even more assurance and don’t mind paying a little more, consulting with your dentist can make sure that you receive a whitening treatment that’s not only safe but also optimized to produce the best results for your specific teeth. While in-office whitening is the most common form of these types of treatments, many dentists can also send you away with recommended whitening products and procedures to use at home, as well.

Finally, depending on the severity of the stains on your teeth, you may be able to whiten them simply through improved oral hygiene habits, such as daily brushing, ideally with whitening toothpaste, and flossing. Even if you have sensitive teeth, many electric toothbrushes now have a feature that automatically reduces brushing power when applied to your teeth with too much force, which helps to significantly reduce the abrasiveness on your enamel.