No matter if it is during friendly conversation or daily consults in the office, I frequently hear the following question…….How can I get my teeth whiter, even though I have really sensitive teeth? Most people want to have their smile whiter and brighter, and we do not want sensitivity to get in the way of that desired look.
First let’s discuss why teeth can be sensitive. Assuming your dentist has given the diagnosis of all clear of cavities, most sensitivity with teeth comes from exposed root surfaces. What does this mean? Well as gums recede, or shrink back, the root surface becomes exposed to irritants. The root surface is made of a more porous surface than the enamel on top of the teeth. This leads to an increase of sensitivity. So what can you do?
First of all, I recommend using a professional product that can be customized to your teeth, not a “one size fits all” from the store. With sensitive teeth, definitely do not use the whitening strips because these sit on top of the gums and root surface area. They are not scalloped around the gum line like custom trays are made to fit. Most people can use the custom whitening trays and alter the times and frequency to get the whitening accomplished, but this can take 3-4 weeks due to having to whiten every other day instead of the everyday for the 2 weeks regimen. The custom strays are usually accompanied by the use of sensitive toothpaste, even massaging the paste directly into the root area. The sensitive toothpaste helps to block the microscopic tubules in the root surface to decrease exposure of the nerve to the irritants.
What about whitening toothpastes? Do they work? Whitening toothpastes are more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. They do help with stain removal on the outside of the teeth from things like coffee, smoking, etc, but they do not change the baseline shade of the teeth at all. Actually most whitening toothpastes are very gritty and can cause more sensitivity.
I feel the best option for whitening for patients with sensitive teeth is actually the in-office Zoom procedure. Why is it the best for sensitivity? Since it is a one-time procedure completed in less than 2 hours, it does not subject the sensitive teeth to repeated exposure of whitening gel. The Zoom uses a higher concentration of whitening gel and is activated by a Zoom Lamp allowing the teeth to be whitened in a shorter period of time. We make touchup trays to maintain that whiteness, but those only have to be used 1-2 times per month. Any sensitivity experienced is usually gone in less than 24 hours, because I prime the teeth with prescription strength sensitive toothpaste for 2 weeks prior to the Zoom procedure. Hopefully this helps to show you that there are ways to get around the sensitivity to achieve the smile you desire.
Until next time…….keep on smiling!