3 fast ways to stop your teeth sensitivity immediately after whitening

healthy tooth
Teeth whitening is a popular cosmetic dental treatment that can improve the appearance of your smile and help you feel more confident. However, it can come at a price, which is tooth sensitivity as a potential side effect.

The good news is that, in most cases, the sensitivity is reversible, temporary, and mild, which means it won't keep you up at night.

You should expect it to appear quickly, immediately after treatment, last for a few days (3-4 days), and then gradually fade.

In this blog post, we'll discuss the three most effective ways to stop or reduce tooth sensitivity after whitening so you can enjoy your new, brighter smile without discomfort.

Key takeaways:

  1. Tooth sensitivity after teeth whitening is common and usually temporary, lasting for a few days before subsiding gradually.

  2. Desensitizing gel and toothpaste containing potassium nitrate and remineralizing agents help block nerve pathways and reduce sensitivity.

  3. Using fluoride supplements can also help. This mineral binds with the tooth surface, reducing its porosity and creating a protective barrier against external stimuli.

  4. Paying attention to your diet and avoiding hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks for the first few days after whitening can help to reduce sensitivity and prevent further irritation.

Why are teeth sensitive after a whitening treatment?

The mechanism behind tooth sensitivity after whitening is similar to the one that causes tooth discoloration and staining in the first place.

Enamel Porosity

Enamel Porosity

The outer layers of the tooth are porous and allow outside substances to pass through. This is why our teeth can become stained and discolored over time.

Teeth whitening involves using a peroxide-based whitening agent that can penetrate the enamel of the teeth and reach the sensitive dentin layer beneath.

This harsh product irritates the tooth nerves and causes the enamel and dentin to become temporarily more porous, increasing sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, sweet or acidic foods, and even air. The whitening process also dehydrate the teeth, further contributing to sensitivity.

Who is most at risk of sensitivity after tooth whitening?

While anyone can experience tooth sensitivity after a whitening treatment, some people may be at a higher risk than others. People with thin enamel, receding gums, or tooth decay may be more susceptible to tooth sensitivity because the peroxide-based whitening agent can reach the sensitive dentin layer more easily.

Therefore, if you were already dealing with tooth sensitivity before you started treatment, there is a high chance you will experience or worsen your tooth sensitivity afterward. Overuse or misuse of whitening products can also increase the risk of sensitivity. So it's always a good idea to talk to your dentist before starting a whitening treatment to make sure it's a good option for you.

The 3 most effective ways to stop or reduce tooth sensitivity immediately after whitening:

There are two main approaches to overcoming sensitivity after whitening.

The first is to seal the enamel and dentin with remineralizing agents. The second is to numb the nerve endings to block the pain pathway of the tooth with an active ingredient such as potassium nitrate.

Overall, here are the most effective ways that can provide relief immediately:

  • Apply a desensitizing toothpaste or gel and leave it on for a few minutes before brushing
  • Consider a fluoride supplement such as a gel or mouthwash
  • Adjust your diet

1. Desensitizing gel and toothpaste:

Desensitizing gel and toothpaste are formulated with ingredients that can help to block the nerve pathways in the teeth that cause sensitivity. The best-known agent is potassium nitrate. Select a product that contains 5% potassium nitrate and apply it regularly to your teeth as directed.

There are also desensitizing toothpastes that contain remineralizing agents that create a protective barrier on the tooth, reducing sensitivity. Active ingredients to look for include Novamine, Stannous Fluoride, Arginine, and Strontium Chloride.

For best results, apply the desensitizing product to your teeth and let it sit for a few minutes. This will allow the numbing agents to penetrate deep into the tooth. Then spit out the product and avoid rinsing your mouth for 30 minutes. You can repeat this procedure 2 to 3 times a day.

2. Fluoride products:

Fluoride is a mineral known to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. It has also been shown to significantly reduce tooth sensitivity.

When fluoride is applied to the tooth surface, it binds with the tooth's minerals, reducing the porosity of the enamel and creating a protective barrier against external stimulations. The dentin is then better protected, which reduces sensitivities.

There are different ways to use fluoride to treat your tooth sensitivity. You can rinse your mouth daily with fluoride mouthwash, use fluoride toothpaste (between 1350 and 1500 ppm), or apply home-use fluoride gel to your teeth. Fluoride gel is the most concentrated (0.4%, or about four times more than toothpaste), so avoid swallowing the product when applying it.

Your dentist may also recommend a professional in-office fluoride treatment (high-concentration fluoride varnish) before or after whitening to reduce sensitivity in the next few days.

Many studies have backed up the effectiveness of fluoride in reducing sensitivity. HOANG-DAO showed significant and immediate efficacy within the first 15 minutes after the first application of fluoride varnish in reducing tooth sensitivity.
Israel Lewinstein found that fluoride restores the hardness of enamel and dentin after teeth whitening treatment.

the effects of fluoride on our teeth

3. Pay attention to your diet for the first few days after the treatment:

After a whitening treatment, your teeth may be more sensitive to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks. Avoiding these types of foods for the first few days after the treatment can help to reduce sensitivity and prevent further irritation. Stick to soft, bland foods and drinks like yogurt, oatmeal, and water until your sensitivity subsides. Below you will find the foods to eat and avoid for the first few days after the whitening treatment.

Foods to eat and avoid after teeth whitening to prevent sensitivity:

Foods to eat:

  1. Soft, bland foods like yogurt, oatmeal, and scrambled eggs
  2. Cooked vegetables like carrots and squash
  3. Cooked grains like rice, quinoa, and barley
  4. Milk, water, and other non-acidic drinks
  5. Soft cheeses like ricotta and cottage cheese
  6. Soft-cooked meats like fish, chicken, and ground beef

Foods to avoid:

  1. Acidic foods and drinks like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and soda
  2. Cold foods like ice cream
  3. Hot foods and drinks like soup and coffee
  4. Hard or crunchy foods like chips, nuts, and popcorn
  5. Sticky or chewy foods like caramel and taffy
  6. Sugary foods and drinks like candy and juice

  1. Does post-bleaching fluoridation affect the further demineralization of bleached enamel? An in vitro study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4161869/.
  2. Effect of different peroxide bleaching regimens and subsequent fluoridation on the hardness of human enamel and dentin https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15507905/
  3. Clinical efficiency of a natural resin fluoride varnish (Shellac F) in reducing dentin hypersensitivity https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19522897/
  4. Effect of sodium fluoride pretreatment on the efficacy of an in‐office bleaching agent: An in vitro study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6115870/