Coping with Teeth Whitening Sensitivity

Woman Smiling with Health Teeth


Teeth whitening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to remove tooth surface stains and improve tooth discolouration. It’s no wonder that it’s become increasingly popular over the years, as more and more people learn that teeth whitening can help get them that much sought after bright and healthy smile.

However, whilst a qualified dentist can take precautions to reduce any side effects, many patients will still experience some levels of teeth sensitivity as a result of the teeth whitening treatment.

What is Teeth Whitening?

Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure that aims to reduce the appearance of discolouration and surface stains on the teeth. There are many different treatments available for teeth whitening and it can be performed both at home and at the dentist.

However, we would recommend that everyone speaks to their dentist before deciding on the appropriate teeth whitening treatment for them. Whilst the strength of whitening gels is now well regulated, you should still book a dentist appointment so that they can perform a sensitivity test, as well as discuss whether teeth whitening is appropriate for you. For example, if you have any crowns or fillings, these cannot be whitened.

At The Kensington Dentist we ask all our patients to come in for an initial consultation to go through the procedure and check if you are fit to start the whitening treatment. We will also take a shade sample of your teeth to determine the realistic results you can expect if you go ahead with the procedure.

Afterwards, our dental hygienists will thoroughly clean your teeth with a painless Airflow system to remove as much of the existing staining as possible and give us a clean slate in which to start the whitening process. In many cases, this is enough to give our patients the desired teeth whitening effect! 

The next step is to begin the teeth whitening treatment. There are many different options, but we usually like to recommend the Enlighten treatment. The Enlighten treatment is a 2 week treatment and guarantees a B1 shade for 98% of cases. Patients are given a treatment kit to take home and apply for 2 weeks every night, followed by a final visit to the dentist at the end of that period. In our professional experience, this course of treatment offers one of the quickest and most practical treatments.

What Causes Teeth Whitening Sensitivity?

It’s completely normal for patients to experience some levels of teeth sensitivity in the first 24 – 48 hours following the whitening treatment. This is to be expected as the hydrogen peroxide in the whitening treatment soaks through your tooth enamel, exposing the nerves in your dentine.

As a result of the hydrogen peroxide, it is expected that you will experience short, sharp bouts of pain when drinking hot or cold drinks, brushing your teeth and eating or drinking sweet or acidic food or drink. However, this should pass within 48 hours. If the pain persists, you should contact your dentist for advice or a consultation appointment.

How to Help Teeth Sensitivity After Whitening

Whilst teeth whitening sensitivity is normal, there are some actions you can take before and after your treatment to help alleviate any pain.

Before your treatment

  1. Book a consultation appointment with a trusted dentist to discuss the best treatment course for you.
  2. If possible, book your teeth whitening appointments with your dentist. Whilst you can purchase at home treatments yourself, these can be risky. Booking a teeth whitening appointment with anyone who isn’t a qualified dentist or hygienist is illegal. 
  3. Use a sensitive toothpaste for a week before your treatment to help prepare your teeth.

After your treatment

  1. Use a sensitive or prescribed toothpaste for the first 48 hours following your treatment when chances of sensitivity are at their highest.
  2. Be gentle, use a soft bristled toothbrush and warm water when brushing your teeth.
  3. Try to avoid drinking ice cold or hot drinks for the first few days. Drinking tea, coffee and red wine can also potentially stain your newly whitened teeth.
  4. Drink through a straw so that none of the liquid touches your teeth.
  5. Avoid overly acidic or sugary foods for the first few days also.
  6. Reach out to your dentist for pain relief medication such as ibuprofen if the pain is preventing you from eating or drinking.
  7. Speak to your dentist about reducing the amount of time spent wearing your mouthguard if the pain persists or is particularly bad.

Once again, if sensitivity persists, please contact your dentist. Particularly if you have been using an at home kit not prescribed by your dentist, as it may be that the dosage was too high for your teeth and gums or that the mouthguard doesn’t fit properly, meaning that some of the bleaching gel has leaked into your gums.

At The Kensington Dentist we have lots of experience in teeth whitening and are happy to give advice to anyone experiencing tooth sensitivity. Call us today on 020 7221 1680 for advice or to book your tooth whitening appointment.

Photo Credit: Isaiah McClean