Have you noticed that your teeth aren’t as bright as they once were? Does it seem like stains cling to your teeth more than they used to, even after thorough brushing and flossing? There are many teeth whitening systems out there, some are quick fixes, others more long term. However, if you have sensitive teeth, some of these methods can be painful and uncomfortable, making choosing the right whitening system a bit of an ordeal. The good news is there are great options out there for those with sensitive teeth.
Discolorations of the teeth are caused by stains on the surface (extrinsic stains) or by changes inside the tooth (intrinsic stains). Extrinsic stains appear on the enamel (the outer layer of the tooth). Usually, these stains are caused by what we eat and drink, such as coffee, wine, or soft drinks. Smoking is also a cause of extrinsic staining. Stains can also appear in the inner structure of the tooth (the dentin). When this happens, you’ll notice that the tooth darkens or gets a yellow tint. So how can you remove these stains safely and without pain, you may wonder?
Firstly, tooth sensitivity is often caused when the enamel that protects your teeth becomes thinner, exposing the underlying surface called dentine, or when gums recede exposing the root. Reduced enamel means reduced protection. The enamel normally acts like a shield for the tooth and root so when it wears thin, it can result in sensitivity and pain.
There are many dentist-approved whitening systems tailored toward sensitive teeth. Choosing the right one for you can depend on your lifestyle or how much you are willing to spend to achieve a set of pearly whites. Learning how these treatments work, along with a consultation with your dentist can help you decide which option is best for you.
In-office treatments are the best solution for those with extremely sensitive teeth. Your dentist will be able to prescribe to you effective and pain-free options. Some of these methods include:
Light-activated bleaching – a wax is painted over the gums and other sensitive spots. Next, a bleaching gel is applied to the teeth and a blue light activates it, lifting and clearing embedded stains and discoloration.
Tray bleaching – A mold of your teeth is used to create a thin plastic tray much like a mouth guard. This is then filled with bleaching gel and worn for 3 days, an hour each day, every three months.
Steven Fox, DDS, a New York City dentist who has done extensive research in the field of remineralizing teeth, recommends tray bleaching for a few days every two to three months as a good way to maintain the results of an in-office bleaching treatment
At-home treatments options can also be an option for those with less-sensitive teeth. Just be weary of the ingredients found in over-the-counter treatments.
“Remember not all whitening products contain the same ingredients,” says Dr. Fischer, President and CEO of Ultradent Products. “Look for a product that contains potassium nitrate and fluoride to help reduce any potential tooth sensitivity.”
Ingredients such as silica, polyethylene, sodium hydroxide, ammonium hydroxide, and propylene glycol, should be avoided, as they will increase teeth sensitivity. Always look for products that will strengthen your teeth’s enamel and minimizes irritation.
Another alternative is taking the natural approach, such as oil pulling – an ancient method of detoxifying and lifting bacteria by swishing oil in your mouth for 20 minutes. Read all about this method and the benefits in our recent blog on the subject.
Whatever system you choose to whiten your teeth, consult your dentist first, especially if you have sensitive teeth. They can determine the cause of your sensitivity and then recommend to you the best approach to take. They also have extensive and up-to-date knowledge of the new products that are entering the market both in-office and DIY drugstore systems.