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Managing Sensitive Teeth After Whitening

If you're thinking of whitening your teeth or experiencing some side-effects after the treatment, you might be considering your options. It turns out tooth sensitivity is sometimes related to whitening treatment. Why does that happen, and will that happen to you? We're here to help you understand why it occurs and what you can do about it.

Whitening Options

When it comes to brightening the appearance of your teeth, there are a few popular options:

  • Whitening toothpaste helps remove stains and can include mild abrasives, hydrogen peroxide, or carbamide peroxide. Generally speaking, it contains the fewest number of ingredients when compared to other whitening products.
  • Home-use whitening kits are sold in some pharmacies or at your dental office. These treatments generally contain peroxide, which gets below the tooth's surface to lighten its appearance. They typically include trays, strips, rinses, or brushes.
  • In-office whitening treatments are applied by your dental professional at their practice. These whitening treatments contain more peroxide than home-use whiteners or whitening toothpaste and tend to work faster than other options.

Your Sensitive Side

Sensitivity in your teeth can occur for various reasons and present in a few different ways. Your sensitivity could be the result of whitening treatment or from recent dental treatment, thin enamel, or an underlying dental condition.

When it comes to whitening, teeth sensitivity may occur in some patients during and after select treatments that contain peroxide-based whitening agents. This will vary based on the product used, formulation, dosage, concentration, and your individual health history. If you're worried about possible sensitivity, speak with your dental professional or choose whitening products that advertise no sensitivity.

How will you know if you’re having a sensitivity issue? Well, the following may cause temporary pain:

  • Air
  • Cold foods or beverages
  • Consuming sweet, sour, or acidic items
  • Brushing your teeth.

Sensitivity caused by whitening treatment typically results from the removal of microscopic amounts of mineral from your enamel. This exposes the dentinal tubules in the second layer of your teeth, also known as dentin. This temporary dentin hypersensitivity will decrease as the minerals in your enamel are restored.

Variations in Sensitivity

Teeth sensitivity depends on how much whitening (peroxide) is used, for how long, and your individual health history. Here are some other important facts to consider:

  • Professional-grade whiteners have a higher concentration of bleach than whiteners you may purchase from the pharmacy.
  • Bleach may cause gum irritation. This is often due to bleaching agent trays that don’t fit correctly.
  • Other potential side effects may include damage to tooth restorations or enamel.

Finding Relief

If you’re wondering how to help sensitive teeth after whitening, teeth and gum sensitivity are usually temporary and stop after completing your treatment. However, the issue may persist in the event of over-treatment, in which case you should consult your dental professional.

In the meantime, here are some options that may help provide some relief:

  • Use a lower concentration of whitening treatment
  • Reduce the amount of whitening treatment in the tray
  • Increase the time between treatments
  • Take a break from your whitening treatments until sensitivity reduces
  • Use a desensitising treatment or varnish applied chair-side in your dental office
  • Brush with a gel or toothpaste that helps reduce tooth sensitivity.

Dental Visit

If you’re ready to whiten your teeth, you should consult your dental office so your dental professional can conduct a “touch and air” test to evaluate your sensitivity level. They'll be able to tell you which teeth whitening treatment will work best for your individual needs.

For immediate tooth sensitivity relief, they can recommend desensitising agents. Additional ways to reduce the feeling of sensitive teeth after whitening may include over-the-counter medications or topical treatments, based on your dental professional's recommendation.

Getting your teeth whitened can be great for your look and confidence. Unfortunately, some products may cause a little discomfort and sensitivity. Be sure to keep your dental professional in the loop and practise options to relieve your pain in the meantime.

You've made an excellent choice to inform yourself on whitening products, sensitivity, and what you can do about it.


The above information is provided for informational purposes only. Colgate does not accept any liability should the above recommendations have an outcome contrary to the intended result. Always seek the advice of a qualified doctor or dental professional. Do not disregard professional advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

Not all Colgate products contain hydrogen peroxide. Optic White Expert is the only product in our toothpaste range that contains hydrogen peroxide.

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