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WHITENING TREATMENTS: IS TOOTH SENSITIVITY AN ISSUE?

So you want whiter teeth? Join the club. According to a survey from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, 99.7 percent of adults believe a smile is an important social asset—and 74 percent think a not-so-nice smile can wreak havoc with one’s career.

Enter today’s plethora of tooth-whitening options, from over-the-counter whitening strips and toothpastes to dental-dispensed trays for at-home use and quickie chairside treatments such as Zoom!, which uses a whitening gel and special light to zap teeth bright in about an hour.

Sure, the results may make you feel like a rock star. But will it also lead to sensitive teeth?

In a nutshell: It depends.

Kenneth F. Fat, D.D.S.“It depends on the method used, the patient and the situation,” says Kenneth F. Fat, D.D.S., who shares his family and cosmetic dentistry practice with Shareen Char-Fat, D.D.S., in Sacramento. 

Patients with receded gums, for example, “are going to have some sensitivity,” he says. In such cases, Fat says, using a fluoride treatment before and after whitening can help to desensitize the teeth.

Fat says he’s concerned about the potential for increased sensitivity with Zoom!, so he’s opted to stick to the standard tray method, in which the dentist takes impressions of the patient’s teeth to create custom-fitted trays. The patient then begins an at-home regimen, placing a small amount of whitening gel in the trays and wearing them a few hours a day and/or night according to the dentist’s instructions.

The beauty of this approach, says Fat, is twofold: predictable results and flexibility—something that comes in awfully handy if a patient develops sensitivity or other issues.

“I tell my patients if they develop sensitivity, they can scale back or back off of the trays for a few days,” he says. “It’s more manageable for them that way.”

While most sensitivity cases are easily managed, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, it’s just one more reason to skip the OTC whitening treatments and hire a dentist: If a problem develops, after all, who would be better equipped to fix it?—Cathy Cassinos-Carr

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Listings

Sheila N. Harris, Natomas Crossing Dental Care, 2121 Natomas Crossing Drive, Suite 100, Sacramento; (916) 999-1308, natomassmiles.com

Mohamed T. Hassan, Sheldon Dental Center, 8112 Sheldon Road, Suite 100, Elk Grove; (916) 691-8238, sheldondentalcenter.com

Ryan B. Higgins, 2180 East Bidwell Street, Suite 150, Folsom; (916) 984-9933, dentistinfolsom.com

Russell G. Hirano, 1840 Avondale Avenue, Suite Four, Sacramento; (916) 486-1322

Michael B. Holm, American River Dental, 10350 Coloma Road, Rancho Cordova; (916) 362-9247, americanriverdental.com

Kendall Homer, Rosemont Family Dental Care, 9216 Kiefer Boulevard, Suite Five, Sacramento; (916) 363-1733, rosemontfamilydentalcare.com

Dick C. Huang, 1102 Jefferson Boulevard, Suite A, West Sacramento; (916) 372-5757, drdickhuang.com