Background: A potential side effect of dentist-dispensed home tooth-whitening systems is tooth sensitivity. The authors conducted a randomized prospective double-blind study to determine the incidence of tooth sensitivity after home whitening treatment.
Methods: Fifty adult subjects used a gel containing 15 percent carbamide peroxide and 0.11 percent fluoride ion; an additional 50 adult subjects used a placebo gel daily for four weeks. Each subject's plaque index score, gingival recession status, caries status, current dentifrice and smoking history were recorded at baseline. The researchers evaluated sensitivity weekly by interview for four weeks.
Results: Fifty-four percent of subjects in both test and control groups reported mild sensitivity; 10 percent of test subjects and 2 percent of control subjects reported moderate sensitivity; 4 percent of test subjects and no control subjects reported severe sensitivity. Sensitivity decreased with time; by the second week, no severe sensitivity was reported, and by the fourth week, no moderate sensitivity was reported. The authors found a statistically significant positive correlation between reported sensitivity and gingival recession. They found no statistically significant correlations between sensitivity and any of the other recorded parameters.
Conclusions: Mild tooth sensitivity can be expected in approximately one-half of patients who undergo home whitening treatment using the gel studied. Approximately 10 percent of patients may experience moderate sensitivity, and 4 percent of patients may experience severe sensitivity for one to two weeks. Patients with gingival recession appear more likely to experience tooth sensitivity during home whitening treatment.
Clinical implications: Patients considering home whitening treatment should be advised that mild tooth sensitivity is a common side effect and that severe tooth sensitivity occasionally occurs. If gingival recession is present, the probability of tooth sensitivity increases, and tooth sensitivity tends to decrease as treatment progresses.