Why Do My Teeth Hurt After Whitening Strips?

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

Whitening strips are an increasingly popular and cost-effective option for achieving the pearly white teeth we all hope for. However, some individuals have experienced discomfort after using over-the-counter products, which can be concerning. What causes this discomfort, and is it something to worry about?

Discomfort and sensitivity are common symptoms after using teeth whitening strips, which contain hydrogen peroxide as a primary ingredient. Brush only before using your strips, and follow the instructions for your treatment. If your teeth remain sensitive for a few days, speak to your dentist.

So don’t give up on your dreams of bright white teeth just yet. Although you may be experiencing some side effects after using whitening strips, you can take a few steps to prevent and mitigate the discomfort. Read on for everything you need to know about teeth whitening sensitivity.

Why Do Whitening Strips Hurt My Teeth?

Whitestrips or Teeth Whitening Strips

Sensitivity is a common side effect of whitening strips. You’re not alone if you’ve experienced discomfort or pain after using them yourself.

The root of the issue stems from weakened enamel (the protective coating on top of your teeth). Weakened enamel can expose the softer dentin underneath, which results in sensitivity and discomfort.

What Is Teeth Whitening Sensitivity?

Typically, over-the-counter and professional-grade whitening products use hydrogen peroxide as their main ingredient. Hydrogen peroxide can help lift surface stains and whiten teeth. However, this ingredient can also cause short-term sensitivity and discomfort.

Products with higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can sometimes lead to increased pain. However, everyone’s teeth are different, and the experience may vary from person to person.

How Long Will My Teeth Hurt After Whitening?

Your teeth should stop hurting about 24 to 48 hours after teeth whitening. If your sensitivity persists after a few days, be sure to speak with your dentist as soon as possible. Severe sensitivity and discomfort can indicate more adverse oral health complications.

How to Avoid Teeth Whitening Sensitivity

Sensitivity and discomfort are common experiences after teeth whitening. These symptoms are usually temporary and subside after a few days. However, you can employ a few tricks if you’re trying to avoid pain or teeth whitening sensitivity.

Avoid Extreme Temperatures

Even mild over-the-counter products can cause sensitivity and discomfort in some individuals. Avoiding extreme temperatures from your food and beverages is one of the best ways to minimize teeth whitening sensitivity.

Make sure your drinks are at room temperature before you consume them. You can also use lukewarm water when brushing your teeth to avoid some discomfort.

Purchase Products With Lower Peroxide Levels

It’s best to purchase products with lower hydrogen peroxide levels and application times if you have sensitive teeth. Look for products with peroxide levels of around five to six percent, such as these strips from Gloridea (on Amazon).

You can find teeth whitening products with shorter application times of around five minutes. The less exposure your teeth have to these whitening agents, the less likely you are to experience discomfort and sensitivity.

Brush Before Using Whitening Products

Brushing your teeth right after whitening can create more sensitivity. Brushing too soon can also damage your enamel, resulting in weakened teeth and discomfort.

For the best results, brush before you use any teeth whitening products and be sure to give your teeth ample time to recover after whitening. Speak to your dentist for the most accurate information about how long you should wait.

Follow All Whitening Instructions and Guidelines

Make sure you’re following all the whitening instructions and guidelines from the manufacturer or your dentist. Don’t leave whitening trays in for longer than necessary. Reducing your exposure to hydrogen peroxide will help reduce discomfort and sensitivity.

Change Your Diet

Changing your diet applies to the first few days after professional whitening. However, you should also employ these techniques if you’re in the process of using a two-week whitening product.

Avoid foods and beverages that are high in acidity or sugar. High amounts of sugar and acidity can further damage your enamel, resulting in increased sensitivity and discomfort.

Rinse With Water

Be sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after using whitening strips. You can also consider using a pH re-balancing mouthwash. Teeth whitening agents attempt to make products that are pH balanced, though many of them are slightly acidic.

Rinsing with water gets your oral pH levels back to normal and speeds up the recovering process.

Use a Soft-Bristle Toothbrush

Be sure to use a soft-bristle toothbrush during your oral hygiene routine. Soft-bristle toothbrushes, like the Nimbus Extra Soft Toothbrushes (on Amazon), are excellent at removing plaque, bacteria, and residue without causing damage to your teeth. Hard-bristle options can be tougher on your enamel and cause damage over time.

Use Desensitizing Toothpaste

Using sensitivity relief toothpaste during the whitening process can help. Products like Sensodyne (on Amazon) are typically recommended when using any in-office or at-home whitening because it can help reduce or eliminate symptoms of hypersensitivity during and after whitening.

In-Office Fluoride Varnish

Fluoride varnish can be applied to the teeth to help with sensitivity, but this option is only available at your dentist’s office. Other desensitizing agents may be used in office other than fluoride varnish since there are many types of desensitizing agents in dentistry.

Talk to Your Dentist About Teeth Whitening Sensitivity Issues

Smiling woman sitting in dentist chair ready for a dental check-up

You’re not alone if you’re experiencing sensitivity or discomfort after teeth whitening. These are common symptoms that many people face when they use such a product.

Most of the time, the symptoms are nothing to be concerned about, but if they don’t go away or are causing you a lot of pain, be sure to speak to your dentist about how to proceed.

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