You’ve been waiting for that perfect shade of pearly whites. But when you wake up the next day, your mouth feels like it’s on fire — even though you used a whitener! What gives?
If you’re one of those who enjoys taking pictures with their teeth showing, you know how vital having white, healthy-looking teeth can be. It doesn’t matter if you want to take professional photos or use them as social media avatars and memes.
There will always be something wrong with them if they aren’t whiter than snow in these pics. So many people turn to over-the-counter products like toothpaste, gels, strips, and other kits that promise brighter smiles by removing stains from surfaces such as coffee cups and wine bottles.
One product that has gained popularity is peroxide-based whiteners. These are sold at most drugstores, grocery stores, and online retailers, including Amazon.com.
Whitening products come in different concentrations, but most contain hydrogen peroxide. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using only a 35 percent concentration of hydrogen peroxide for sensitive skin because higher concentrations may irritate it. Some manufacturers also offer lower concentrations of 10 to 25 percent.
The active ingredient in all types of bleaching agents is hydrogen peroxide. When this chemical breaks down into oxygen molecules, it releases free radicals that remove surface pigmentation. This process removes coloration caused by melanin, making darker complexions look blacker.
Hydrogen peroxide works best on teeth containing more than 50 percent stained enamel. However, some manufacturers claim their formula works better than others on certain areas of the oral cavity where staining occurs, such as between the gum line and under the tongue.
Some people experience temporary sensitivity after applying hydrogen peroxide-based whitening products. Others suffer longer-lasting reactions ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain accompanied by redness, swelling, and inflammation.
In addition, some users have reported permanent damage to the tissue around their mouths, including burning sensations and sores.
Many dentists have begun offering laser treatment options instead of traditional methods. Laser therapy uses light sources specifically designed to treat stained teeth without damaging surrounding tissues.
For example, diode lasers emit infrared energy pulses targeted directly onto dark spots on a patient’s teeth. Lasers may provide faster results while minimizing side effects.
But before rushing out to buy any whitening kit, consumers should first learn about possible symptoms of whitening solutions. Read on to determine whether you need to watch out for sore teeth afterward.
Sensitive Teeth After Whitening
One common complaint among people trying to achieve whiter teeth with bleach formulas is post-bleach sensitivity. You might think this would happen immediately following the application, but it takes time.
Bleachers usually recommend waiting two hours before eating anything spicy or acidic. They also suggest avoiding foods high in sugars, starches, and fats, since they cause acid production and stickiness on teeth. Chewing sugarless gum helps neutralize acids produced during digestion.
Bleach sensitivity isn’t usually painful, but sometimes it becomes uncomfortable enough to make brushing less effective. Other times, it turns into full-fledged dental issues requiring medical attention.
About 1 percent of people will develop an infection called apical periodontitis within three months of getting a whitening gel applied. Fortunately, this happens rarely. Still, it illustrates how sensitive our teeth can become after whitening treatments.
Many factors contribute to sensitivity, but keeping good oral hygiene habits can help prevent problems. Brushing regularly and flossing daily can reduce plaque buildup and keep bacteria away from the area. Also, don’t forget to pay close attention to the location of fillings and crowns, which are prone to staining and discoloration.
Finally, if you notice any changes in the texture or shape of your teeth, see a dentist right away. Hardened cement filling materials can crack or break off, which causes bleeding in cavities and exposes nerve endings underneath.
However, with proper care, there shouldn’t be much reason to worry about long-term sensitivity.
What Causes Sensitivity Associated With Teeth Whitening?
While sensitivity varies for everyone, several things can trigger bad feelings. One problem occurs when teeth grind together due to loose fillings or metal braces. Tooth grinding can also be triggered by dry mouth conditions brought on by medications and illnesses. A dry mouth can lead to chipped or cracked teeth.
A damaged tooth is susceptible to bacterial infections, making the condition worse. Another issue occurs when nerves near the roots of teeth get pinched off or inflamed by hard particles inside the body. Aspirin, alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco can aggravate these situations.
Inflamed pulp chambers and exposed nerves are both signs of pulpal irritation. Pulp exposure occurs when gums recede or shrink. This leaves spaces between the teeth and gums, leading to decay. Left untreated, the irritated pulp can die and form abscesses.
Symptoms include sharp pains in the upper or bottom front teeth; persistent throbbing; toothaches; swollen or tender gums; fever; pus discharge; halitosis; and loose teeth.
Unfortunately, pulp exposure generally requires root canal therapy. Root canal procedures involve drilling through the center of each tooth until reaching its tip. Then, the interior part of the tooth is cleaned and filled with a sealant material.
Once completed, the entire space beneath a tooth is disinfected to ensure no germs remain behind. While the procedure itself may not hurt anyone, patients must wait for weeks for the healing process. Sometimes, additional surgeries are necessary to complete root canal therapy.
Patients should seek immediate assistance from a doctor if they suspect a pulpal injury occurred.
Read on to discover ways to avoid pain and suffering.
How To Prevent Sensitivity Associated With Teeth Whitening
People often want nothing more than to enjoy the benefits of a bright smile. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Whether you feel great or miserable after being treated with a whitening solution depends on personal preferences and overall health status.
Taking steps to protect yourself from potential complications can limit unpleasant reactions later. Here are a few tips worth considering:
Check with your dentist to determine whether you’re eligible for whitening services. People with extensive dental work done with metal appliances react poorly to bleaching products. Those who have undergone orthodontic surgery involving titanium implants may also require special consideration.
Consult with your physician before scheduling any whitening service. They can advise you whether the situation warrants a trip to the office.
Take acetaminophen to relieve pain and ease headaches. Acetaminophen relieves minor aches and pains, reduces fevers, treats flu, and lowers cholesterol levels. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known commonly as NSAIDs, include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium. Ask your pharmacist which formulation suits your needs best.
Don’t exceed recommended dosages, especially if combined with other medicines. Side effects increase with age and vary depending on dosage size. Children younger than 12 years old should consult a pediatrician before ingesting any medication.
Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before going to the dentist. Alcohol consumption may weaken blood vessels and slow reaction times. Drinking too much can result in spontaneous bruising, vomiting, and unconsciousness.
Sudden loss of consciousness could prove dangerous. Even if someone suffers from a hangover, drinking alcohol before visiting the dentist increases the risk of nausea, dizziness, and fainting spells.
Keep teeth clean and free from tartar buildups. Gum disease weakens the bone structure and promotes plaque formation, causing further irritation. Proper brushing and flossing practices are essential to prevent harmful substances from accumulating below the gum lines.
Keep teeth well hydrated by consuming lots of water throughout the day. Use fluoride products to strengthen bones and fight against tooth decay.
Avoid smoking cigarettes. Smoking decreases moisture content in saliva, which leads to the more rapid development of tartar and plaque growth. Worse still, nicotine constricts blood vessels, reducing circulation.
Reasons Your Teeth Hurt After Whitening
Since sensitivity varies for every person, knowing exactly why yours hurts can help you figure out how to manage it effectively. Common triggers include prolonged contact with whitening chemicals, dehydration, poor diet choices, and improper storage.
Using low-concentration peroxides, wearing tooth molds, and holding breath during applications can worsen sensitivity. Eating excessive sugary and starchy food can promote plaque accumulation and acid production, worsening dry mouth conditions.
Allergic responses can also arise from eating dairy, citrus fruits, onions, and shellfish shortly after whitening sessions. Last, swallowing air bubbles during whitening can lead to painful swallowing difficulties.
Treating sensitive teeth begins with identifying the exact source. Please talk with your dentist about your concerns. Ask them to explain what they think the problem entails.
Next, follow these guidelines provided by the Mayo Clinic: Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeinated drinks, carbonated sodas, and juices. Instead, opt for plain water with lemon juice, or unsweetened teas.