Why do my teeth hurt after using whitening strips? What you need to know!
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Why do my teeth hurt after using whitening strips? What you need to know!

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You may ask “why do my teeth hurt after using whitening strips?”. Whitening strips have become incredibly popular over the last few years. It is easy to understand their appeal since they promise white smiles; they are easy to use, relatively cheap, and give immediate results. People can achieve the beautiful smile of their dreams in a couple of hours. But there can be some downsides to using whitening strips. Many people who use them might suffer from unexpected outcomes.

One of the most common questions people ask is; ‘why do my teeth hurt after using whitening strips?’. There can be several reasons for whitening strips to hurt your teeth. The most common one is the hydrogen peroxide that is in many whitening strips as well as other whitening treatments like carbamide peroxide gel.  

In this article, we will look at why and how your teeth hurt after using whitening strips. We will also discuss some coping strategies you can use during the process.

Why Do My Teeth Hurt After Using Whitening Strips?: It could be because of hydrogen peroxide

Patients who suffer from tooth sensitivity describe it as a sharp wave of pain on their teeth. This pain is especially triggered by temperatures such as too hot or too cold. Experiencing certain sensitivity after using whitening strips is fairly common but it can be irritating as it can sometimes last days after treatment. The teeth whitening procedure is a pretty standard dental process. Most dentists regard teeth whitening as safe and it is not exactly clear why this process might cause sensitivity. However, the assumption is that due to the chemical nature of the process involving hydrogen peroxide, some irritation and discomfort might occur.

The reason for teeth sensitivity after whitening strips usually is the hydrogen peroxide that many over-the-counter whitening strips contain. Hydrogen peroxide is the active ingredient of the strips that is a whitening agent. The acidic nature of it causes erosions on the teeth’ surface and can damage some of the natural tooth enamel. To be able to whiten the teeth, peroxide has to penetrate the natural tooth enamel and oxidize colored compounds in the layer of dentin. People who go through whitening procedures or use whitening strips might refer to this, which is known as bleaching sensitivity. Bleaching sensitivity can happen in previously non-sensitive teeth. It is this type of sensitivity that medical research cannot provide adequate reasons for its occurrence.

    Another type of teeth sensitivity that patients might experience is dentin hypersensitivity. This is more common; it is the type of teeth sensitivity people experience when they come in contact with hot drinks or cold food or vice versa. In this type of sensitivity, the fluids shift in the dentinal tubules and activate mechanosensitive nerve endings in the dentin and pulp. Scientists hypothesize that the mechanism of pain generation in these conditions differ due to their different nature.

    However, one thing is for sure: teeth sensitivity is not fun or comfortable. If you already are prone to have sensitivity on your teeth, whitening strips might worsen your condition. However, we gathered a few tips for you to try and reduce the symptoms of sensitive teeth during the whitening process.

    How Can I Ease My Teeth Sensitivity  While Using Whitening Strips?

    If you are experiencing teeth sensitivity during the whitening process using strips, it is wise to follow a few common-sense ways to ease these symptoms.

    • Even if you are using whitening strips at home, ask your dentist about their instructions. They can be able to help you take precautions while using over-the-counter treatments. They can also give tips on how you can deal with teeth sensitivity as a result of using the strips. Their tips will be specific to your situation and target your needs better.
    • Reduce the amount of time you wear the whitening strips. When you have less contact time with the hydrogen peroxide in the whitening strips, you will experience less sensitivity on your teeth. Shorter application times can significantly improve sensitivity after teeth whitening. You can also try using the whitening strips every other day or even more sparsely than that. 
    • Switch to a whitening strip brand with a smaller amount of hydrogen peroxide level. A smaller percentage of hydrogen peroxide will reduce the amount of irritation on your teeth due to the low concentration of hydrogen peroxide. One study looks at two groups who use whitening strips with 4% hydrogen peroxide concentration, and 10% hydrogen concentration respectively. The study found that both of the whitening strips provided significant improvements in color change. But it also showed that whitening strips with 10% hydrogen peroxide increased the risk and the intensity of tooth sensitivity.
    • You should avoid consuming any hot food or cold beverages as well as acidic foods while you do whitening strips. The extreme temperatures of these foods and drinks can irritate your sensitive teeth.
    • Be careful about not using too many tooth whitening strips in a certain period of time. Sometimes people can get carried away with the results they get from whitening strips and use too many in a row. Or similarly, they can leave them for too long. Be mindful of the condition your teeth are in and don’t risk damaging your teeth or making them too sensitive.
    • Use sensitive teeth toothpaste, and brush with warm water. Using sensitive teeth toothpaste that contains fluoride, or rinses with fluoride can help ease sensitivity. You can use them before or after your treatment.
    • Pay attention to your brushes. If you use hard-bristled brushes, they can increase the sensitivity of your teeth and cause more tooth pain. Try using a soft-bristled toothbrush and be gentle while brushing.
    • Consider getting a professional teeth whitening treatment. If you want to improve the color of your teeth, doing a professional teeth whitening treatment can give your the best and safest results. Your dentist will know your needs and can give you the appropriate care if you experience sensitivity during the whitening procedure. 

    If your feel like your teeth sensitivity continues after taking the measures we listed above, consult your dentist. The cause of the sensitivity might be something else such as cavities,  gum sensitivity, or gum disease.


    Teeth whitening strips can be a convenient and effective way to whiten your teeth in the comfort of your home. However, bear in mind that you are still dealing with chemicals and can experience negative side effects. If you want to achieve a bright smile but wondering ‘why do my teeth hurt after using whitening strips?’ you are probably getting sensitive teeth due to exposure to hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide in the whitening strips can irritate your teeth and gums, especially if you are using a heavy concentration of it or leaving the strips on for too long. When you whiten your teeth at a dental office, professional teeth whitening can eliminate potential side effects better. Your dentist can identify the cause for your teeth sensitivity and treat it with counter-products. That way, you do not have to give up a brighter smile due to sensitive teeth.  




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