Whitening treatments for sensitive teeth

A bright, white smile is often associated with good health and attractiveness, which is why many individuals strive to achieve it. However, for those with sensitive teeth, teeth whitening can be a daunting process. Sensitive teeth can cause discomfort or pain during the teeth whitening treatment, discouraging some patients from pursuing it.

The great news is there are professional teeth whitening options available which are specifically designed for individuals with sensitive teeth. Here, we’ll explore the challenges of teeth whitening for sensitive teeth, the benefits of professional teeth whitening, and the options available for achieving a brighter, whiter smile without discomfort.

Causes of tooth sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is often caused by the exposure of dentin, a layer of the tooth beneath the enamel, which is usually protected. When dentin is exposed, it can cause discomfort and sensitivity, especially when exposed to hot or cold temperatures. Certain factors can cause dentin exposure, including:

  • Gum recession: When the gum tissue around the teeth begins to pull back, the roots of the teeth may become exposed, leading to sensitivity.
  • Tooth decay: When the protective layer of enamel on the teeth is damaged or eroded, it can expose the dentin and lead to sensitivity.
  • Enamel erosion: Acidic foods and drinks, as well as certain medications, can cause enamel erosion on the teeth, leading to sensitivity.
  • Cracked or chipped teeth: When teeth are cracked or chipped, the dentin can become exposed and cause sensitivity.
  • Overbrushing: Brushing teeth too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear away enamel and expose the dentin.
Sensitive Tooth

The impact of tooth sensitivity on teeth whitening should also be considered when considering professional teeth whitening options. You may experience discomfort during teeth whitening, making it difficult to achieve the desired results.

It is essential to choose a whitening option that is specifically designed for individuals with sensitivity issues. Such options are formulated to minimise discomfort and irritation to teeth and gums during whitening. Additionally, it is essential to avoid further aggravation of the teeth during the whitening process.

Teeth whitening options for sensitive teeth

In-chair teeth whitening

In-chair teeth whitening is popular for patients who want immediate and noticeable results. During an in-chair teeth whitening treatment, a dental professional applies a high-concentration hydrogen peroxide gel to the teeth, which is then activated using a light or laser. The entire process takes about an hour, and you can see a noticeable improvement in the shade of your teeth.

In-chair teeth whitening is a good option for sensitive teeth because the dentist can control the amount of gel and exposure time, minimising discomfort. Additionally, using desensitising agents before and after the treatment can help reduce sensitivity.

Teeth Whitening

Take-home teeth whitening

Take-home teeth whitening involves using custom-made whitening trays filled with a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide gel. The trays are worn for a specified amount of time each day, typically for two weeks.

Custom-made whitening trays are a good option for sensitive teeth because they provide a more gradual whitening effect, minimising discomfort and sensitivity. Additionally, the trays can be customised to fit the individual’s teeth, reducing the risk of the gel coming into contact with the gums.

Other take-home teeth whitening options, such as whitening strips and paint-on teeth whitening, may also be effective for sensitive teeth, as they use a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide gel. However, they may take longer to deliver noticeable results than other teeth whitening options.

Light-activated teeth whitening

Light-activated teeth whitening involves using a special light to activate the hydrogen peroxide gel on the teeth. The light helps to accelerate the whitening process and may result in brighter teeth in one treatment.

Light-activated teeth whitening can be a good option for sensitive teeth because it uses a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide gel and can be customised to the individual’s level of sensitivity.

Tips for avoiding sensitivity during teeth whitening

While professional teeth whitening options for sensitive teeth are designed to minimise discomfort and sensitivity, there are steps you can take further to reduce the risk of sensitivity during the whitening process.

Desensitising toothpaste

1. Using a desensitising toothpaste can help to reduce sensitivity during teeth whitening. These kinds of toothpaste contain ingredients that help to block nerve signals and reduce sensitivity in the teeth. Using a desensitising toothpaste for several weeks is recommended before starting a teeth whitening treatment.

2. Acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits and juices, can weaken tooth enamel and increase the risk of sensitivity during teeth whitening. It is recommended to avoid acidic foods and drinks before and during the teeth whitening process.

3. Whitening your teeth gradually over several sessions can help to minimise sensitivity. Gradual whitening allows your teeth to adjust to the bleaching agent more slowly, reducing the risk of sensitivity.

4. Using a lower concentration of whitening gel can also help to reduce sensitivity. Many professional teeth whitening options for sensitive teeth offer lower concentrations of bleaching agents or include desensitising agents to minimise sensitivity.

Teeth whitening alternatives

Here are some alternative teeth whitening options that you may consider:


Microabrasion is a minimally invasive dental treatment that involves using a combination of mild acid and abrasive particles to remove a thin layer of enamel from the surface of the teeth. This can help to remove surface stains and improve the appearance of the teeth without causing sensitivity. Microabrasion is generally safe and does not require any anesthetic.

Porcelain veneers

Porcelain veneers are thin, custom-made shells bonded to the teeth’ front surface to improve their appearance. Veneers can help to cover up stains, chips, and other imperfections in the teeth, giving them a whiter, more uniform appearance. Porcelain veneers are more invasive than teeth whitening, but they are durable and can last many years with proper care.


Dental bonding involves applying a tooth-coloured composite resin material to the surface of the teeth and then shaping and polishing it to improve their appearance. Bonding can help to cover up stains and other imperfections in the teeth, giving them a whiter and more uniform appearance. Bonding is a relatively quick and painless procedure that can be completed in a single visit to the dentist.

Remember, your journey towards a dazzling smile needs to be the right one for you, so talk with a dental care professional. Seek professional guidance, and take care of your oral health along the way. With the right approach, you can overcome tooth sensitivity and unlock the confidence of a great smile that radiates your bright personality.

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