25 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: whitening kits have left my teeth sensitive

Before any teeth-whitening programme is started your teeth needs to be healthy and sound

Dr Joy Antony
11 Oct 2016 | 10:37 am

I’m huge fan of DIY dental whitening kits, and use them often. But I’ve noticed that my teeth have become highly sensitive. Is this because of the bleaching products?

DIY dental whitening kits are getting more popular due to ease of availability and lower cost. However, while they look to be very convenient and easy, they can cause considerable damage to your teeth if not used correctly.

With any whitening treatment, a transient sensitivity is normal, but this should last only for 24 hours after application. Prolonged sensitivity is an indication of a problem in the teeth or gums. Popular over-the-counter DIY teeth whitening kits are bleaching gels with trays, or strips. There are many products being marketed but not all are certified by regulatory bodies such as the ADA (American Dental Association).

A majority of whitening gels contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide as the active ingredient. But some gels contain a powerful bleaching agent called chlorine dioxide, the same used to disinfect pools. This is a very dangerous chemical as it whitens teeth by etching the tooth’s surface (the enamel), which makes the teeth porous and more prone to staining since the protective layer is destroyed with repeated use.

Overuse of gels can cause serious damage like gingival recession, teeth sensitivity and even loss of teeth.

Before any teeth-whitening programme is started your teeth needs to be healthy and sound. If you use a bleaching gel when you have a cavity or a crack in the tooth, the gel can seep deep into the teeth and the pulp (nerve chamber) causing excruciating pain, which may require a complicated procedure like a root canal. The trays that come along with these kits are one-size-fits-all and not customised, and this increases the chance of the gel dribbling on to the gums, leading to gingival recession.

The strips are safer compared to gels. But you need to follow the instructions correctly and not overuse it. The best way to get your teeth whitened is to visit your dentist, who will recommend a product that is approved. The regimen will be regulated by the dentist who’d normally advise you to whiten your teeth for two weeks in a year with touch-ups every four to six months for one or two days. For faster results you can do a teeth whitening in the clinic using a chairside light (power bleach).

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Dr Joy Antony

Dr Joy Antony

is CEO of Dr Joy Dental Clinic, which has branches in Jumeirah 04-3285332, Mirdif 04-2845722, BurJuman 04-3555357 and Karama 04-3979522. Website: