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Teeth Whitening for Sensitive Teeth

Alyssa Hill Headshot
Written by
Alyssa Hill
Medically Reviewed by 
Dr. Erica Anand
10 Sources Cited

Teeth Whitening for Sensitive Teeth: Is it Possible?

Teeth whitening is a popular cosmetic treatment that brightens discolored and stained teeth. 

Many people experience tooth sensitivity from whitening. But there are several teeth whitening kits designed to help avoid or reduce sensitivity.

Everything We Recommend for Sensitive Teeth Whitening

Best Kit for Sensitive Teeth hismile PAP+ Teeth Whitening Kit™

Also Great Snow At-Home Teeth Whitening All-in-One Kit

Runner Up GLO Brilliant Deluxe Teeth Whitening Device Kit

Best Whitening Strips Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth Whitening Kit

Best Whitening Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste

Teeth can become discolored over time for many reasons. The most common way is from consuming dark-colored foods and beverages such as:

  • Coffee
  • Red wine
  • Tea
  • Curry powder
  • Tomato sauce
  • Berries

The following can also lead to staining:

  • Natural aging
  • Thinning enamel
  • Tooth injuries
  • Certain medications

There are many whitening treatments to choose from today. They range from a couple of dollars to over one thousand dollars.

For example, at-home treatments like whitening strips and toothpastes cost between $5 and $50. LED kits and professional whitening treatments range from $50 to over $1,000

Although effective, the most common side effect of teeth whitening treatment is sensitivity. Some people experience minimal to no sensitivity after whitening. However, others develop severe sensitivity from the same products. 

Dentinal hypersensitivity is defined as “a short, sharp pain arising from exposed dentin in response to stimuli.” The pain is typically temporary and localized, affecting the front teeth.8

Fortunately, there are many sensitivity-reducing whitening products available that are specifically designed to reduce this issue. This makes it possible for anyone to whiten their teeth. You just need to make sure you purchase the right products. 

5 Best Teeth Whiteners for Sensitive Teeth 

Based on our research, the best whitening products for sensitive teeth are:

hismile kit

hismile PAP+ Teeth Whitening Kit™

Best Overall

hismile's teeth whitening kit uses three powerful, enamel-safe ingredients to provide instant results without any sensitivity:

  1. Hydroxyapatite (nHAp) rebuilds the protective layer of teeth and replaces lost minerals.
  2. Phthalimidoperoxycaproicacid (PAP) is clinically proven to whiten teeth without sensitivity or gum irritation.
  3. Potassium citrate helps relieve pre-existing sensitivity and provides long-term protection.

hismile is also peroxide-free. Peroxide as a bleaching agent can cause sensitivity, gum irritation, and the demineralization of teeth.

snow kit

Snow At-Home Teeth Whitening All-in-One Kit

Best Overall: 1st Runner Up

This easy-to-use LED whitening system delivers a professional-level bleaching experience at an affordable price. The serum is also enamel-safe for those with sensitive teeth and gums. 

The kit includes two different strengths of whitening serum. This allows you to increase or decrease the bleaching concentration based on needs. For example, if you experience sensitivity after using the extra strength serum, you can switch to the standard strength serum. 

The LED light also speeds up the whitening process. This means you don’t have to leave the gel on your teeth for a long time. 

Lastly, Snow’s All-in-One Kit includes a desensitizing serum. This serum can be applied before and after treatment to reduce sensitivity. 

glo brilliant kit

GLO Brilliant Deluxe Teeth Whitening Device Kit

Best Overall: 2nd Runner Up

GLO Science™ offers patented, award-winning, and FDA-approved LED teeth whitening kits. They combine blue LED light and heat to give you faster results with minimal to no sensitivity.

GLO does not cause sensitivity in the majority of buyers. Even if you do experience sensitivity, it will likely be mild and temporary. 

The unique gel formula is also designed to stay on your teeth and off your gums. This helps reduce sensitivity even more.

Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth Whitening Kit

Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth Whitening Kit

Best Whitening Strips for Sensitive Teeth

Crest’s 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth Whitening Kit is an excellent option if you have naturally sensitive teeth.

The enamel-safe formula is specially designed for sensitive teeth. It provides a gentler at-home whitening experience. This product also has the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

The Advanced Seal Technology’s no-slip grip stays in place so you can talk and drink water while whitening.

The kit includes 14 whitening treatments, each with one upper and one lower strip. For best results, apply the strips once daily for 30 minutes.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Sensdoyne-Pronamel-Gentle-300x263.jpg

Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste

Best Whitening Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth

This whitening toothpaste is also specifically formulated for sensitive teeth and gums. It contains potassium nitrate to help soothe the nerves from sensitivity. Stannous fluoride helps strengthen and reharden enamel affected by acidic foods and drinks. 

The toothpaste protects your teeth from pain triggers like sweets, acids, contact, and temperature changes. The formula also helps prevent cavities and enamel damage.

For best results, use this toothpaste twice a day for two minutes. 

Why Do Many Teeth Whitening Products Cause Sensitivity? 

Tooth sensitivity is a possible side effect of both at-home and professional teeth whitening. It affects up to 57% of patients and seems to peak between the ages of 20 and 40.7

Sensitivity is mainly caused by the bleaching solution concentration in a whitening product. Alcohol can also increase sensitivity. 

For example, many products contain hydrogen peroxide as an active ingredient. This chemical is known to cause sensitivity.

This chemical removes minerals within your tooth enamel. This causes your teeth to become temporarily porous and exposes the microtubules within them. The higher the concentration of peroxide, the higher the risk for sensitivity.3

When you apply the bleaching gel to your teeth, the peroxide chemicals penetrate your enamel and break down the dark-colored pigments. This process can cause sensitivity in the tooth's nerve through the small tubules in the dentin.

There is also a minor reduction in microhardness after whitening. But this is quickly restored to normal in most people by calcium and phosphate minerals in the saliva. 

Although sensitivity is a common side effect of hydrogen peroxide, this whitening method is safe and effective when used as directed.1, 2, 4, 5, 6

Hydrogen peroxide gels whiten your teeth through oxidation. Most treatments do not cause significant changes in tooth enamel.4

Another active ingredient used in some whitening products is carbamide peroxide. Similar to hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide is also an effective tooth whitening agent.

However, one study found that hydrogen peroxide is slightly more effective at whitening teeth. It also found that carbamide peroxide results in less sensitivity after whitening.6

Who is More Susceptible to Sensitivity After Whitening?

Some factors that make someone more susceptible to sensitivity include:

  • Chewing hard objects such as ice, hard candy, and fingernails breaks down your enamel over time. This leads to more dentin exposure. As a result, people with thinning enamel have a higher risk for sensitivity from whitening.
  • Exposed tooth roots caused by oral health issues and gum recession increase your risk for sensitivity. 
  • Cavities, worn-down fillings, and gum disease naturally cause sensitivity. Using whitening products increases these effects even more.
  • Chips or cracks in teeth allow for the whitening gel to reach below the enamel. This causes sensitivity. 
  • Excessive consumption of acidic and sugary foods can cause sensitivity over time and increase your risk for cavities. Examples include fruit juices, candy, ice cream, lemons, and soft drinks, among others.

How Long Does Tooth Sensitivity Typically Last?

Sensitivity tends to disappear within a few days of whitening. The sensation is typically the most intense during the first day.

You’ll notice small improvements every day. You shouldn’t feel any sensitivity by the end of the week. Most people do not find the effects unbearable. 

However, if you have naturally sensitive teeth, the effects of whitening can be more pronounced.

You may notice that your teeth are sensitive for longer than a week. The pain is also usually more severe and uncomfortable. 

How to Manage Sensitive Teeth

Here are some tips for managing sensitive teeth before, during, and after whitening treatment:

Before Whitening

The first step is to make sure you only buy sensitivity-reducing whitening products. These treatments typically contain lower concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and other ingredients specifically designed for sensitive teeth. 

Peroxide-free whitening products also do not cause sensitivity. But they are less effective. 

During Whitening

If you use an at-home whitening kit, only use a small amount of whitening gel to cover each tooth. Applying too much gel makes your teeth more sensitive. It will not result in quicker or more effective whitening.

Using whitening gel in excess can also cause gum irritation.

Also, read the instructions carefully. Treatment duration and the amount of whitening gel needed varies from product to product. Overusing whitening gels increases the risk of sensitivity.

If you notice that the recommended treatment duration is too long, try shortening the sessions. This way you can see if the sensitivity is less severe.

After Whitening

Rinse your mouth and brush your teeth after each whitening session to remove any excess gel. Use lukewarm water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. 

Avoid consuming hot and cold drinks directly after whitening. These drinks can stimulate nerve endings and increase pain. Avoiding coffee and tea can also help your whitening results last longer.

You can also ask your dentist to recommend a prescription-strength gel or toothpaste to help reduce any sensitivity. Over-the-counter toothpaste that contains potassium nitrate can help with sensitivity. 

Why Trust Us? How We Judge Whitening Products

All medical content on this site is written by our team of experienced writers and researchers. This includes this guide and other product reviews.

All NewMouth writers vet products recommended and reviewed in the industry. In cases where this is not possible, our team will:

  • Compare positive and negative reviews on the products
  • Talk to company leaders to ensure their products are safe and effective
  • Look into costs to ensure customers are getting the best quality products at reasonable prices
  • Read research studies to compare the pros and cons of each product

Every piece of content is heavily reviewed before publication. All content on NewMouth is also medically reviewed by a licensed dentist. This is specifically any content where we recommend products. 

Our dentists are specifically instructed to flag any recommendations they don’t agree with. Any products that don’t meet their professional standards are removed.

Last updated on April 25, 2022
10 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 25, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Basting, RT, et al. “Clinical Comparative Study of the Effectiveness of and Tooth Sensitivity to 10% and 20% Carbamide Peroxide Home-Use and 35% and 38% Hydrogen Peroxide In-Office Bleaching Materials Containing Desensitizing Agents.” Operative Dentistry, Allen Press, 1 Sept. 2012. 
  2. Heymann, H O. “Tooth Whitening: Facts and Fallacies.” Nature News, British Dental Journal, 23 Apr. 2005. 
  3. Cvikl, B, et al. Enamel Surface Changes After Exposure to Bleaching Gels Containing Carbamide Peroxide or Hydrogen Peroxide.Operative Dentistry, Allen Press, 1 Jan. 2016. 
  4. Eimar, Hazem, et al. “Hydrogen Peroxide Whitens Teeth by Oxidizing the Organic Structure.Journal of Dentistry, Elsevier, 24 Aug. 2012. 
  5. Tao D;Smith RN;Zhang Q;Sun JN;Philpotts CJ;Ricketts SR;Naeeni M;Joiner A; “Tooth Whitening Evaluation of Blue Covarine Containing Toothpastes.” Journal of Dentistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  6. Peixoto, Aline Carvalho, et al. “High-Concentration Carbamide Peroxide Can Reduce the Sensitivity Caused by in-Office Tooth Bleaching: a Single-Blinded Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Applied Oral Science : Revista FOB, Faculdade De Odontologia De Bauru - USP, 2018.
  7. Addy M. “Etiology and clinical implications of dentine hypersensitivity.” Dent Clin North Am. 1990;34:503–514.
  8. Holland GR, Narhi MN, Addy M, Gangarosa L, Orchardson R. “Guidelines for the design and conduct of clinical trials on dentine hypersensitivity.” J Clin Periodontol. 1997;24:803–813.
  9. Carey, Clifton M. “Tooth Whitening: What We Now Know.” Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice, Mosby, 13 Feb. 2014.
  10. Bizhang, Mozhgan, et al. “Effectiveness of a New Non-Hydrogen Peroxide Bleaching Agent after Single Use - a Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Short-Term Study.” Journal of Applied Oral Science : Revista FOB, Faculdade De Odontologia De Bauru - USP, 2017.
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