The issue of sensitive teeth after whitening is a common problem amongst patients. Teeth and gums can become sensitive during or after whitening treatment due to the perfectly safe chemical and thermal changes that occur during the process of whitening.
Dentine hypersensitivity caused by oral health problems such as receding gums, exposed dentine, cavities or a cracked tooth need to be addressed and treated before any whitening treatment can begin.
Having whitening treatment can exacerbate such sensitivity problems which are often undiagnosed. That’s why a detailed pre-treatment patient assessment is so essential to find any underlying issues.
Ask the questions
When assessing patients for whitening treatment, there are some important questions they need to be asked:
- Do they have any sensitivity to cold?
This can indicate gingival recession. The use of a desensitising toothpaste two weeks prior to treatment can help to reduce sensitivity.
- Do they have any sensitivity to sweet?
This can indicate the presence of a cavity.
- Do they have any sensitivity to heat?
This can indicate pulpitis where the nerve has become inflamed.
- Do they have any pain on biting and sensitivity to cold?
This can indicate a cracked or damaged tooth.
Other contraindications for whitening include:
- Pregnant or lactating women
- Children under 18
- Deep surface cracks or fracture lines
- Extensive restorative work
- Severe fluorosis.
Reducing or eliminating sensitivity
Once assessed it’s necessary to fully explain the method of treatment and give patients a realistic idea of the end results and ensure their consent.
Offering patients poladay or polanight home whitening treatments that combine a high water content to reduce dehydration with a fluoride-releasing agent plus built-in desensitisers, is also an important first step to reducing any issue of sensitivity.
Look to your strengths
A range of strengths enables clinicians to choose a suitable level of active whitening agent which will suit day or night application. If sensitivity is an issue it’s recommended to use a slow release, lower concentration (10% carbamide peroxide) of whitening gel.
Patients also need to be reassured that there are effective solutions to the problem of sensitivity such as a desensitising gel that can be applied before and after each treatment that works quickly to tackle any discomfort.
A gel such as SDI’s pola soothe that contains sustained-release potassium nitrate which works to block pain, plus fluoride which reduces sensitivity and further remineralises the teeth does not interfere in any way with the whitening process. pola soothe’s high viscosity makes it easy to apply and remains safely in the tray during treatment.
If patients follow their clinician’s and manufacturer’s instructions carefully, the majority will have no side effects. If patients do experience temporary sensitivity (dull or sharp, sensitivity to hot or cold) it will subside after several hours of stopping treatment and will not leave any residual problems. In addition, the wear times can be shortened or made less frequent and teeth can be treated with a desensitiser to soothe the problem.
Making the right choice
Having confidence in your whitening system is vital when it comes to offering whitening to patients and to avoid any issue of sensitive teeth after whitening it’s important to choose a whitening system such as pola that offers an option to suit – and soothe – every patient.
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