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Sensitive Teeth: Whitening and Brightening and Reducing Sensitivity

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Ashley Olsen_Marie Claire Outtake 2007

I saw, right there in my bathroom mirror, how whiter teeth brighten the whole complexion and make a face look more youthful, even healthier. If a whiter, brighter smile would make you happy too, it's so easy to achieve at home -- unless you have crowns, caps or sensitive teeth. But there are options for sensitive teeth whitening and brightening, as well as something new for reducing teeth sensitivity.

The Great Canadian Smile Survey conducted by Crest this summer revealed that 80% of Canadians want to have their teeth whitened, yet only 20% has actually done so. "While we don't know why that is, the number of people who told us they have sensitive teeth makes us think that has something to do with it," says Dr. Svetlana Farrell, scientist and section head of Clinical Research for Oral Care, P&G. That same survey also showed that more than 50% of Canadians have said they're dealing or have dealt with teeth sensitivity.

what causes sensitive teeth

According to Dr. Farrell, causes of tooth sensitivity are varied, ranging from improper brushing to smoking to gum disease and aging. "Over time, the gum shrinks down and exposes an area of the root that is softer than enamel," she explains. "That exposed area has tiny channels -- tubuli -- that connect the exterior of the tooth to the interior, the blood vessels and nerves. Those tubuli are filled with fluid. When it comes into contact with certain foods or stimuli, the tubuli fluid vibrates and irritates the nerves inside the tooth." (Sheesh. Just writing this is making my teeth ache. GAH.)

Crest 3D White Luxe Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth

an ingredient that helps sensitive teeth

Size matters when it comes to the ingredient P&G uses to help reduce teeth sensitivity. The new Crest 3D White Luxe Sensitivity paste contains potassium nitrate. Its tiny molecular size allows it to penetrate the tubuli on contact with the teeth. Via the tubuli fluid, "the potassium nitrate binds to the nerves and blocks their signals to the brain," says Dr. Farrell. Over time as the potassium nitrate benefits build up, tooth sensitivity drops. Improvement may be noticeable in as little as two weeks, and hits optimal levels in eight, at which point daily use maintains the effect.

sensitive teeth whitening and brightening

smile brightening for sensitive teeth

About a week ago, during our 3DWhiteSensitivity Twitter party, participants wanted to know more about sensitive teeth whitening and brightening. During that fun, fast-and-furious tweeting session, Crest and I shared some of the following tips:

  • Good daily oral care should include two minutes of brushing twice daily, plus a daily flossing and rinsing with mouthwash.
  • Daily surface-stain removal helps to prevent discolouration. Try Crest 3D White Luxe Sensitivity paste ($4.99, drugstores and mass retailers) which contains gentle polishing beads as well as sensitivity-reducing potassium nitrate. A mouth rinse such as Crest 3D White  Multi-Care Whitening Rinse ($10.99, contains a low dose of peroxide for a little extra help removing surface stains. And the Oral B 3D Vivid White Toothbrush ($3.37, has bristles designed to cup toothpaste against the surface of the teeth to help buff away stains, "PowerTip" bristles to get at the back teeth, and blue "indicator" bristles that let you know when it's time for a new brush. (If your toothbrush ever gets to that splayed, frayed, matted, flat-tip stage, it ain't doing much.)
  • Whitening is possible for sensitive teeth. Try Crest 3D Whitestrips Gentle Routine ($54.99,, which contains a lower dose of peroxide than other Whitestrips, and calls for just five minutes of contact-with-teeth time daily. It'll take longer than more potent formulas, but it will work -- you should notice a whiter finish when you finish the box.
  • Nutrition counts; calcium-rich fruit and veggies can reduce acid levels in saliva
  • Vitamins C and D taken daily can help prevent gum disease, a cause of tooth sensitivity
  • Brighten and whiten your smile with the right lip colour. Blue-based shades (even black, @Beautycrazedcan) create a contrast against even the slightest hint of yellow.
  • A dab of gloss in the centre of your lips reflects light to brighten your smile even more.

Thanks so much to Lisamarie of, who made us laugh and laugh, and to all our Twitter party participants. And congratulations to prize winners Christina, Nicole, Rajbinder, Melanie and Julia!

This is a sponsored post.

Image of Ashley Olsen via OlsensAnonymous.