Tooth sensitivity and whitening

The tooth whitening is one of the most popular treatments in dental clinics come summer. It is a fast, affordable and effective cosmetic dental treatment, which undoubtedly contributes to its popularity. That is why in the last few weeks we have been asked a very specific question quite often: "What is the best way to treat your teeth?I am prone to tooth sensitivity, should I have my teeth whitened?". The answer to this question cannot be a simple yes or no, because it is somewhat more complex. Let us start at the beginning.

What does tooth whitening consist of?

Tooth whitening is a chemical process by means of which, thanks to the application of certain products, the shade of the teeth is lightened to a greater or lesser extent. Specifically, the clinical products used in a whitening treatment are dental clinic and our approach to brightening patients' smiles and delivering long-lasting results are based on the hydrogen peroxide or carbamide in different concentrations. A simple but effective way of explaining this would be to imagine that the peroxide molecules 'penetrate' the stains on the tooth and separate them, making them smaller and less noticeable.

Thanks to this, up to 8 shades whiter are achieved thanks to the treatment, but, as we always clarify to patients, up to the natural shade of your own tooth, never going beyond that. We could say that it is a process similar to 'cleaning' the surface of the tooth, and this is what makes it look whiter, but it does not achieve a shade that our tooth cannot reach naturally.

This treatment consists of two phases: clinical outpatient clinic.

  • The part clinicwhich is performed here under the strict supervision of professionals and uses a product with a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide, which guarantees fast and effective results, and is activated and 'fixed' to the tooth pore when exposed to the familiar blue LED lights.
  • The part outpatientwhich is then carried out at the patient's home. The patient is given splints with the size of their mouth, so that they fit perfectly, and they are given syringes of a product that must always be applied following the recommendations and warnings of the professionals who have carried out the treatment.

And does it cause sensitivity?

The process causes some sensitivity in some people, both during the process in the clinic and later at home with lower concentrations of the product and thanks to a splint. In cases where this occurs in the clinic, there is no problem, because the treatment can be interrupted, either temporarily or permanently, and the sensitivity usually disappears as soon as the product or LED lamp is removed.

If it happens during outpatient treatment, we can try a number of things. From using the product every other day, to applying it for a shorter amount of time or, most effectively, using toothpaste against tooth sensitivity.

What if I am already sensitive?

This is the question we are receiving the most these days. From Vélez and Lozano we would not encourage anyone to undergo cosmetic treatment without making clear the associated risks. If the person has tooth sensitivity per se, it is very likely that tooth whitening will cause some sensitivity. That is why we have a special protocol in place for this type of patient, in which we advise them to use a desensitiser during the two weeks before coming to the clinic for treatment.

In addition, we also have bleaching syringes available for the outpatient part with a lower concentration than usual (6% less) to prevent possible sensitivity. Some patients choose to take two of each and if the lower concentration syringes do not give them sensitivity, they try the other syringes.

Even so, tooth sensitivity is a risk associated with various dental treatments but does not pose any danger in itself. In other words, sensitivity is just sensitivity, it does not cause health problems and tends to disappear after treatment is completed, so some people simply choose to put up with it.

That is why we cannot give an answer to those patients with sensitivity who ask us. We cannot be sure that the treatment will or will not give them sensitivity, nor can we be sure that the patient will or will not be able to 'take it'.

Even so, having tooth sensitivity without it being due to a specific treatment or at specific times is not something 'normal' or something that should be considered acceptable. What this type of patient should do is to come to an assessment appointment at the clinic, where we can check that everything is OK in terms of their oral health, and remedy it if it is not.

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