Do You Need To Brush Your Teeth Before Or After Whitening Strips?

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

If you’ve been using whitening strips to clear away pesky stains on your teeth, you may be wondering whether you’re supposed to brush your teeth before or after the treatment — or at all for that matter. It sounds like a potentially useful thing do, but you want to be sure brushing doesn’t counteract the effects of the whitening strips.

There is no clear-cut answer to whether you should brush before or after applying whitening strips. Brushing before with a wet toothbrush (no toothpaste) can help remove food and open up the pores in your enamel. If you prefer to brush afterward, make sure you wait at least 30 minutes.

No matter which option you choose, you should wait between brushing and applying the strips. This will allow the strips to have the best possible impact and help them to work properly. As long as you are careful and follow the specific instructions for the item you’re using, you should be well on your way to whiter teeth.

What Are Teeth Whitening Strips?

Whitestrips or Teeth Whitening Strips

Teeth whitening strips are a product you can buy in the store and apply to your teeth to whiten them. The strips contain hydrogen peroxide or another similar peroxide, which is basically bleach. The strips are made of plastic and have a thin peroxide gel on them.

When placed on teeth, the peroxide works by penetrating through the enamel to break up stains embedded within. Normal dental cleanings can’t remove those stains.

Whitening strips don’t require a prescription, can be used at home, and are less expensive than most teeth-whitening procedures done dentists. One of the best options is the Crest 3D Vivid Plus Whitening Kit (on Amazon).

Typical treatment involves putting the strips on your teeth for 20-30 minutes and repeating this for a certain period of time, such as 14 days. For best results, it’s important to apply the strips daily and not to skip a day.

Can Whitening Strips Cause Damage to Teeth?

Each version of whitening strips is slightly different since they contain different amounts of chemicals. If not used properly, whitening strips can do damage.

Therefore, it’s imperative to follow the instructions on the product you buy, and don’t leave the strips on longer than recommended. As long as you follow the instructions, the strips are safe to use.

Excessive use can cause permanent damage to your teeth. The strips can erode your enamel and leave teeth more vulnerable to decay.

Before buying whitening strips, check the ingredients carefully. Some contain chlorine dioxide, which can erode tooth enamel. Strips with this ingredient should be avoided.

There can be some side effects from using whitening strips too. They include:

  • Teeth becoming more sensitive (most common side effect)
  • Gum irritation
  • Damage to teeth (can occur if you wear the strips for too long)

If you are concerned or want more details, you should consult your dentist. They can provide specific recommendations and advice based on the condition of your teeth.

How Do I Prepare My Teeth for Whitening Strips? 

Regular, daily brushing and flossing is an important step in preparing your teeth for whitening strips. Doing so prevents food, plaque, and stains from building up and reducing the effects of the strips.

If it’s been 6 months or more since your last professional cleaning, you should get one. The less tartar and plaque in your mouth prior to using strips, the better.

You should also consult your dentist if you have gum disease, cavities, canker sores, or sensitive teeth so that you can get professional advice on how to proceed and if whitening strips are a good option in the first place.

How Do I Use Whitening Strips?

Woman Using Whitening Stipes or Whitestrips

Always read the instructions on the package carefully. Even different options from the same company can work differently, so pay attention and follow the directions carefully. While applying the strips for about 30 minutes is common, some are meant to be worn overnight.

Keep in mind that it’s important the strips don’t touch your gums. The ingredients can harm the tissue and cause future problems.

When applying the strips, put them on evenly. This will allow the whitening action to work on all your teeth instead of some of them. Consistent placement of the strips is key so that you avoid uneven whitening.

It’s a good idea to brush with just a wet toothbrush — no toothpaste — before applying the strips. This opens the pores in your enamel and helps the strips to work better. After brushing with just a wet toothbrush, rinse out your mouth to remove any other debris.

If you do brush with toothpaste, wait at least 20 minutes before putting on the strips. After you brush, rinse your mouth with water.

Can You Brush After Using Whitening Strips?

It is safe to brush your teeth after using whitening strips. Many dentists and health experts recommend it. Once you remove the strips after their allotted time, however, you should wait an additional 30 minutes before your brush your teeth.

Brushing too soon can prematurely remove the gel that is working to whiten your teeth.

Additionally, if you put the strips on right after brushing, they might not stick properly, and that would defeat the purpose.

Make sure to brush your teeth gently to avoid gum irritation, too. Another good idea is to use a soft-bristled toothbrush, like this one from Nimbus (on Amazon), or electric toothbrush.

When you do brush your teeth after removing the strips, be careful and go slowly. Otherwise, you can damage your teeth and hurt your gums.

Definitely don’t eat or drink anything besides water for at least 30 minutes after removing the whitening strips. Doing so can cause stains on your teeth because the pores of the enamel have been opened up for the whitening process.

Foods and Drinks to Avoid After Using Whitening Strips 

To get the most out of your whitening strips, avoid foods and drinks that stain while you’re in the whitening process. These include:

  • Coffee/tea
  • Red wine
  • Fruit juice
  • Energy drinks
  • Soda and other acidic drinks
  • Candy/chocolate

It is also important to avoid items that have a lot of acid. Besides what’s already been mentioned, foods and drinks to watch out for are fresh and processed meat; fruits such as lemons, grapes and blueberries; tomato sauce; soy sauce; and balsamic vinegar. Any food with a dark pigment can stain teeth.

The reason for avoiding these types of foods is because they open the pores in the teeth’s enamel. The color and acid from these foods and drinks then gets in and leaves stains.

Smoking or chewing tobacco products should be avoided as well. Tobacco can leave some serious stains on your teeth and work against the whitening strips. Consider whether the food or drink would stain a white shirt. If the answer is yes, then you should avoid it.

If you’re going to have a drink that can stain your teeth, use a straw to reduce direct exposure from the liquid. Should you eat or drink anything that stains, brush your teeth afterward to neutralize the impact. You also can chew sugar-free gum. Rinsing your mouth out with water is another way to help prevent stains from developing.

You don’t have to give up these foods and drinks forever, but you should wait to have them until you complete the process of applying whitening strips.

Basic care and oral hygiene play a role too when attempting to whiten your teeth. Continue to brush at least twice a day and floss regularly.

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