Does teeth whitening hurt?

Know more about teeth whitening!

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Written by NoFrills Dental

This dental article has been curated by the clinical team @ NoFrills Dental 🙂

January 20, 2022


Why do my teeth hurt after teeth whitening treatment?

Our teeth tend to become stained through the dark-coloured foods and drinks we enjoy or they may start to turn yellow as we get older.

Professional teeth whitening by a dentist addresses these problems to give you a sparkling smile that boosts your self-confidence. It offers a safer alternative to over-the-counter teeth whitening kits and works more quickly with better results.

All this makes professional teeth whitening one of the most popular types of cosmetic dental treatments.

However, some people experience discomfort after teeth whitening. What causes this pain? How long does it last? What can you do to ease any soreness?  You can find out here.

teeth with nerve

Why teeth whitening can sometimes irritate dental nerves?

Teeth whitening goes deeper than simply treating the surface of teeth. It’s a procedure best done by dental professionals because it also affects inner structure of teeth.

The main teeth whitening component is hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which acts as a bleaching agent. It penetrates tooth structure to oxidise colour compounds in the dentin beneath the outer layer of tooth enamel. When this inner part of teeth is whitened, the colour then reflected through the enamel is brighter.

Enamel – the hardest substance in your body – contains no living cells. But dentin is a layer of living tissue. It contains microscopic tubes that stimulate nerves, causing sensitivity. This is why your teeth may hurt after whitening – as the oxidation process gets deep into dental tissues, it can irritate the nerves.

tooth bleeding

How teeth whitening may irritate

Besides tooth sensitivity, the peroxide used in teeth whitening may also cause mild irritation of soft tissue in the mouth, particularly the gums. The sensation is similar to that of sunburn. The gums become mildly sore and may become paler, with some blistering.

The risk of gum irritation increases if you use store-bought whitening trays. These are mass-produced, one-size-fits-all products. The resulting poor fit – or incorrect application – can cause the bleaching agent to leak onto your gums and tongue.


How long does pain last after teeth whitening?

Teeth pain after whitening should subside within a couple of days. Gum irritation generally disappears within 24 hours.

If problems persist, you should contact your dentist.

tooth getting cleaned

Can I prevent teeth whitening pain?

Taking anti-inflammatory medication before your whitening appointment can help to minimize discomfort later.

Brushing your teeth before treatment will help to remove plaque – the sticky layer on the surface of teeth – so the whitening agent will make better contact with your teeth.

But avoid brushing immediately after whitening – your teeth may be a little more sensitive for a few hours.

In the long-term, you should continue to brush and floss regularly. This will ensure your teeth stay looking their best as well as maintain optimum oral health.

Hot, cold or acidic food and drinks can heighten sensitivity of teeth and gums for a while after the teeth whitening process, so it’s best to avoid them.


Reducing post-whitening dentin hypersensitivity

Some people’s teeth are more sensitive than others. Dentin hypersensitivity can occur if you have thin tooth enamel that exposes the underlying dentin.

If you have sensitive teeth, ask your dentist about using a desensitising toothpaste containing fluoride and potassium nitrate. This will help to counter any discomfort you might have after your whitening treatment.

female dentist

Is teeth whitening safe?

Professional treatment by your dentist is the safest way to whiten your teeth, although some patients with dental sensitivity issues may get some discomfort.

Here are some things you can do to ensure your teeth are whitened safely.

  • Talk to your dentist. They can assess your dental health and address any problems, such as cavities or gum disease, before you start whitening treatment.
  • Be wary of home-made whitening concoctions. Homemade teeth whitening remedies tend to have dubious benefits and some may damage your teeth.
  • Follow instructions. If you have whitening trays from your dentist to use at home, make sure you follow the dentist’s instructions. Overuse or incorrect use of whitening trays may put you at greater risk of side effects like tooth sensitivity or gum irritation.
oral hygiene

Can teeth whitening permanently damage your teeth or gums?

Any damage the bleaching agent in teeth whitening does to your teeth or gums is generally likely to be temporary.

However, if you use whitening kits without the supervision of a dentist, you could over time experience some permanent damage.

Brushing your teeth straight after whitening can also damage tooth enamel, and once that’s gone, you can’t get it back.

A further problem is trying to whiten your teeth when you have a dental issue such as a large cavity. Lasting nerve damage can result from this, requiring extensive dental treatment.


    Benefits of teeth whitening 

    The best way to avoid or minimise teeth whitening pain is to get professional whitening treatment from your dentist. This is why Singapore Ministry of Health says teeth whitening should only be carried out by a qualified dentist.

    As well as being safer, professional whitening works faster than ill-advised homemade potions or off-the-shelf whitening products. And you get superior results, with teeth several shades brighter.

    Teeth whitening in the dental chair is carefully monitored. Your dentist can adjust the levels and concentration of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide and will ensure your gums and other parts of your mouth are protected.

    If you use at-home whitening trays prescribed by a dentist, they’ll be custom-made for a perfect fit, so you won’t have to worry about leaking bleaching agent.

    Before whitening treatment, your dentist will ensure there are no dental problems that could aggravate discomfort after whitening. You’ll also get a professional cleaning ahead of whitening to remove plaque and tartar to help protect your oral health.

    Why Choose NoFrills Dental?

    Teeth whitening treatment at NoFrills Dental is supported by advanced dental technology.

    We use the ZOOM teeth whitening system for optimal effectiveness and safety. With the ZOOM chairside lamp producing ultra-violet light, we can lighten discoloration of both enamel and dentin in less than an hour.

    We’re experienced in both cosmetic dentistry and procedures to keep teeth and gums heathy, so your sparkling new smile will go hand in hand with optimum oral health.

    If you’d like to know more about professional teeth whitening that minimizes discomfort, check out our Ultimate Guide to Teeth Whitening in Singapore or contact us online.

    NoFrills Dental Team of Professionals | Professional Team of Dentists in Singapore | Best dentists in Singapore

    Looking to get started on your brand new & improved smile? Speak to our dentists today!

    Our team of experienced dentists are fully dedicated to providing patients with high-quality and affordable dental care. Our dentists are well-versed in the cosmetic dentistry, and highly adept in producing highly aesthetic and long lasting results for all of our patients.

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    We are conveniently located at these locations:

    NoFrills Dental @ Suntec City

    3 Temasek Boulevard
    Suntec City (North Wing)
    Singapore 038983

    T: +65 6337 7319
    E: suntec@nofrillsdental.com.sg

    NoFrills Dental @ Marina Square

    6 Raffles Boulevard,
    Marina Square,
    Singapore 039594

    T: +65 6227 8885
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