Usually, getting your teeth whitened only makes your teeth more sensitive for a day or three days. However, some people can experience discomfort, pain, and longer-lasting sensitivity.
If you have had your teeth whitened recently and your teeth hurt, there are ways to minimize the pain. You can use pain medications, take anti-inflammatory drugs, and avoid foods and drinks that hurt your teeth.
There are desensitizing gels and kinds of toothpaste that can make your teeth feel better, as well. You should be very gentle with your teeth and gums if they hurt – use a soft-bristled toothbrush and clean your teeth slowly.
Call your dentist back if the pain is serious or lasts for more than a few days. Treatment might have injured your mouth in some way. Dental whitening side effects are usually minor, but some people experience more serious problems.
Why Does Whitening Hurt Your Teeth?
Teeth whitening uses fairly powerful chemicals to bleach your teeth. The chemicals used (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide) can penetrate under the surface of your teeth to get at deep stains. These are not very safe chemicals, so they can burn your gums and mouth tissues, dehydrate your teeth, or make your nerves too vulnerable.
Usually, the chemicals do not hurt people. Typically, teeth whitening only causes temporary tooth sensitivity. Dentists are supposed to do the treatment carefully enough that stronger bleaching agents are safe. Chemicals in at-home whitening treatments are supposed to be mild enough for people who might not use them very carefully.
However, things can still go wrong. Many over-the-counter medications are not completely safe, and that includes whitening strips. Dentists can make mistakes. Some people are more sensitive to the chemicals than others, so someone might be harmed by a normally harmless treatment.
What To Do For Pain After Teeth Whitening
A lot of the time, over-the-counter medication will work. Some over-the-counter medication will prevent inflammation as well as pain, which is good if your gums are inflamed by contact with the bleaching agent.
Tylenol is often enough for many people, even though it does not reduce inflammation. Motrin and Advil are the best over-the-counter painkillers that have anti-inflammatory effects. Aspirin should not be combined with Motrin/Advil but is good on its own.
You can also get pain relievers that are specifically for dental pain, such as:
Zilactin-B Oral Pain Reliever, which contains benzocaine
Oraljet Instant Pain Relief Cream, which should not be used for more than ten days but which may last long enough for your teeth and gums to heal
Crest Tooth Sensitivity Relief Strips, which are only used for ten minutes and give long-lasting protection
SenzAway Tooth Desensitizing Gel, which works best for sensitivity to heat/cold and lasts for a long time
Toothpaste for sensitive teeth, such as Sensodyne, is also effective and may be enough on its own even if you are in pain. Desensitizing toothpaste works best if you start using it before your whitening treatment, but it can also work afterward.
Sometimes, your teeth and gums can hurt no matter what you eat. Watching what you eat won’t be enough if the treatment burned your gums.
However, if the pain comes from tooth sensitivity, being careful what you eat and drink can be enough. You might drink room-temperature drinks rather than hot or cold ones. Acidic, sour, and sugary foods and drinks might also hurt your teeth.
Drinking through a straw can also help you – you can minimize contact with your teeth that way. Fluoride can also help make your teeth less sensitive.