When Whitening Gets on Your Tooth's Nerves: How Should You Approach Whitening Chipped Teeth?

Posted on: 10 December 2018

If you are planning to whiten your teeth in the near future, ensure that you examine your teeth beforehand. This is especially important if you plan to use an over-the-counter whitening kit. Before in-house teeth whitening takes place, your dentist will examine your teeth for decay or damage. Badly chipped or broken teeth should not be whitened until they have been repaired.

Moreover, your dentist can protect chipped teeth during the whitening procedure. However, if you are using over-the-counter trays, it is up to you to determine the best course of action.

Consider the following factors before whitening chipped teeth.

No Pain, No Gain

It is normal for patients to feel some sensitivity in their teeth after whitening. This is because the whitening agent, hydrogen peroxide, dehydrates teeth for 1-2 days. The level of sensitivity varies from person to person. For some patients, there is very little, if any, sensitivity. However, damaged teeth are often much more sensitive after whitening.

You should begin by examining your teeth. Are there any large chips? Does the chipped tooth experience more sensitivity than the surrounding teeth? If you answered yes in both instances, the damage to your tooth is too great to go ahead with the whitening. Whitening a badly chipped tooth may result in extreme sensitivity. That's not all you have to worry about.

Some Chips Leave the Nerve Exposed

Enamel can be as thick as 2.5 millimetres in places where teeth have cusps. However, it can be much thinner in other areas, especially on your lower central and lateral incisors — the 4 central teeth in your lower jaw. When a chip is quite severe, there is a chance that the dentin layer has been exposed.

Dentin is the last line of defense against tooth decay or trauma. Although it is quite hard, it contains tiny tubules filled with dentinal fluid. This fluid travels from the centre of a tooth to the outer layer, nourishing and hydrating the tooth. However, hydrogen peroxide can reverse that flow and enter the tubules, irritating and possibly killing the nerve.

If one of your teeth experiences more sensitivity than the rest and it is badly chipped, see a dentist before you whiten your teeth.

See a Dentist Before Whitening

Having a dentist examine your teeth before proceeding with at-home whitening will help you to avoid damaging an already injured tooth. If the damage is serious enough, your dentist may first protect it with a temporary filling before the whitening procedure.

Later, after a week or so, you can use composite bonding of a shade that matches your newly whitened teeth, to repair the chip.