Fact Checked

What to Do for Pain After Teeth Whitening?

Written by Fernanda Elizalde

August 23, 2022

Medically Reviewed

By Dr. James Younan, DDS

It's common for your pearly whites to feel sensitive after a teeth whitening treatment. Teeth whitening procedures can cause heightened sensitivity for a few hours or days. Dental sensitivity can occur with at-home treatments and professional whitening treatments.

Thankfully, tender teeth are temporary, and usually, soreness only lasts a few days. This article will cover tips for dealing with teeth whitening sensitivity.

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Causes of teeth sensitivity

Dentin hypersensitivity, also known as tooth sensitivity, is triggered by the active ingredients found in teeth whitening treatments. Tooth enamel is permeable, and certain ingredients can reach the nerves in your teeth.

Most tooth whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. These two active ingredients are potent. They can be found in professional dentist offices and over the counter. The difference lies in the concentration.

Sensitive teeth are triggered by bleaching gel, whitening gel, and whitening trays. You may also notice temporary sensitivity to hot or cold liquids after a whitening treatment.

How to minimize pain before a teeth whitening treatment

Here are some steps you can take before your teeth whitening treatment to reduce sensitivity.

Use a desensitizing toothpaste

Brush your teeth gently with a soft-bristled brush and use desensitizing toothpaste. Look for 'sensitive teeth toothpaste' at your local drug store before your next teeth whitening treatment. This type of toothpaste helps block pain signals to teeth nerve endings. You can also use a desensitizing gel to combat sensitivity.

Reduce frequency of treatments

The bleaching agent found in teeth whitening treatments can be harsh on your teeth. Some people tend to overuse whitening products and seek to force fast results. Scale back on your whitening sessions if your mouth is feeling tender. Your goal should be to keep your teeth sparkly white and protect your oral health.

Take a pain reliever

Pain medications such as Advil, Aleve, or Tylenol can also help minimize discomfort and reduce sensitivity. Consider taking medication before your treatment and afterward if you're still experiencing sensitivity issues. Take only the recommended dosage at the recommended times.

Visit your dental office

Before your next whitening session, visit your dentist to discuss your teeth whitening options. Ask them for personalized methods for reducing sensitivity. They may also recommend a deep tooth cleaning to help strengthen your teeth and gums.

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Ways to soothe tooth sensitivity after treatment

After a teeth whitening procedure, here are some steps you can take to minimize sensitivity.

Avoid hot and cold drinks

Cold foods and hot drinks can trigger more sensitivity after a whitening treatment. Stay away from intense temperature foods until your teeth feel back to normal. You'll also want to steer clear of acidic foods such as oranges, tomatoes, and soda.

Use a straw

If you can't resist a hot cup of tea or an iced latte, use a straw to reduce pain and sensitivity. A straw will help warm and cold liquids minimize contact with your teeth. Take slow sips and be careful not to make contact with your teeth and gums.

Find the right whitening treatment for you

Certain over-the-counter products may cause you to experience discomfort. It's important to be aware of the products that 'do' and 'don't' work for you. Teeth whitening home kit with trays may work fine for one person, but perhaps it's causing intense gum pain and teeth sensitivity for another person.

Try different products to find what's right for you. You can try paint-on whitening gels or LED mouthpieces. You may need to go for products with a lower concentration of active ingredients. The results will be more gradual but less painful.

Use a fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen your teeth and prevent tooth decay. This mineral is also found in local drinking water. Fluoride has many benefits, it strengthens tooth enamel, making it more resistant to acid and bacteria. Stronger teeth are more equipped to withstand whitening treatments. Dental fluoride products come in mouthwashes, regular toothpaste, and some flosses.

Consider a professional whitening procedure

If home whitening treatments are causing sensitivity, consider professional treatment. Dental professionals use active ingredients with higher concentrations. This enables the bleaching agent to be on your teeth for less time in a faster amount of time. Your gums are also protected with a special gel to minimize sensitivity further.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are my teeth and gums sore after teeth whitening?

After whitening treatments, your teeth become sore due to exposed root surfaces, enamel porosity, and sensitive teeth nerve endings. Teeth whitening products contain ingredients that temporarily cause soreness or tenderness during and after treatment.

How long will my teeth hurt after whitening treatments?

Your teeth may hurt for 24 to 48 hours after a teeth whitening treatment. It depends on the type and strength of the procedure and your sensitivity threshold.

Practice preventative measures to minimize the duration of tenderness afterward. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to not aggravate your teeth and gums. If the pain lasts more than a few days, see a dentist for guidance.

What causes teeth sensitivity?

The active ingredients found in teeth whitening treatments cause sensitivity. Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the powerhouse ingredients responsible for lifting stubborn teeth stains.

In professional settings, a dentist will use a highly concentrated bleaching gel to whiten your pearly whites faster. At-home products contain the same active ingredients in a lower concentration.

The active ingredients are safe and effective. However, they may cause temporary pain or sensitivity.


Teeth whitening procedures can cause intense sensitivity. Thankfully, there are many measures you can take before and after treatment to reduce pain. Finding the right product for you also matters. You may be more sensitive to different methods or formula concentrations.

It's also good to talk to your dentist to ensure your oral health is in good standing before you begin brightening your teeth. Your teeth may feel more sensitive if you have cavities, demineralization, or tooth decay. A dental professional may recommend specific procedures to strengthen your teeth first.

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