Dentistry
Cosmetic
Product Reviews
Updated on November 28, 2022

Should I Brush My Teeth Before or After Using Whitening Strips?

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Teeth whitening strips are dental products that whiten teeth and remove stains. They are an at-home aesthetic treatment that makes many people more confident due to a brighter smile.

Whitening strips are generally safe and effective. Possible side effects include temporary tooth sensitivity and gingival inflammation.1

Taking care of your teeth while using whitening strips can increase the overall treatment efficacy. Read on to learn the best oral hygiene practices while using tooth whitening strips.

Can You Brush Your Teeth Immediately After Using Whitening Strips?

Yes, you can brush your teeth immediately after using whitening strips. Most manufacturers recommend gently brushing if you choose to do so.

Keep in mind that your teeth may be sensitive after using whitening strips. Wait for the sensitivity to subside before you brush your teeth. This usually takes about half an hour to a few hours.

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Can You Brush Your Teeth Before Using Whitening Strips?

No, you shouldn’t brush your teeth right before applying whitening strips. Most manufacturers advise waiting at least 30 minutes after brushing. 

Applying the strips too soon after brushing may cause gum irritation. In addition, brushing can make your teeth too smooth for the strips to stick.

However, brushing and flossing your teeth 30 minutes or more before placing the whitening strips can increase their efficacy. Removing plaque allows the strips to make closer contact with your teeth. 

How to Use Teeth Whitening Strips Properly

Whitening strips are flexible, plastic strips that stick to the teeth. Like most whitening treatments, they use bleaching agents to whiten teeth.

The main active ingredient in most whitening strips is either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. They come in the form of a thin gel layer on the strip. Research shows that both ingredients are safe and effective to use on teeth.2

Knowing how to use whitening strips will help them work successfully. 

Preparing Your Teeth

Depending on the product, you’ll need to wear your whitening strips once or twice daily for 30 minutes. Apply them at least half an hour after eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth.

During Application

Closely follow the directions included with your whitening strips. The application process usually involves the following:

  1. Peel away the plastic liner covering the sticky part of the strips.
  2. Place the gel side of the strips against your teeth.
  3. Leave the strips in place for the instructed time. Depending on the product, this can range between 5 and 60 minutes.
  4. Remove and discard the strips after the allotted time.

After Application

After applying and disposing of the strips, gently brush and floss your teeth.

You can also eat and drink whenever you like, but avoid food and beverages that can stain your teeth, such as:3

  • Wine
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Foods and drinks with artificial dyes
  • Chocolate
  • Soda

Common Side Effects 

The two most common side effects of whitening strips are tooth sensitivity and gum inflammation

Research has found these effects are more likely when using products with a higher peroxide concentration.4 Side effects are, however, almost always mild and temporary. Whitening strips will not have a permanent adverse impact on your oral health.

You can alleviate and prevent tooth sensitivity symptoms by:

  • Brushing your teeth with a soft-bristled brush
  • Using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth
  • Limiting acidic foods and beverages

If you have swollen gums or gum inflammation, you can also:

  • Rinse with salt water
  • Apply warm or cold compresses to the gums
  • Drink water to stimulate saliva production
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and strong mouthwashes

Make a dentist appointment if symptoms worsen or do not go away over time. Always consult a dental professional before starting an at-home whitening regimen. They will help you decide which treatment is best for you.

Other Tips for Using Teeth Whitening Strips

Here are some additional best practices to keep in mind while using whitening strips:

  • Be consistent – follow the product instructions. Don't skip a day if you’re supposed to apply them daily. Always leave them on for the recommended length of time.
  • Apply the strips carefully – cover as much of your teeth as possible when applying the strips. This will help them whiten evenly.
  • Practice good oral hygiene – continue your usual dental hygiene regime while whitening. Brush twice daily and floss every day.

Here’s what not to do while using whitening strips:

  • Don’t overuse – using strips beyond the recommended time can cause adverse effects. If you don’t see results, consult your dentist. 
  • Don’t apply them to your gums – avoid overlapping the strips with your gums. Direct contact with the gums can increase gum inflammation. Cut your strips down to size if needed.
  • Avoid dark foods and beverages – soda, chocolate, coffee, and alcohol can stain your teeth. Avoid consuming these and other dark-colored foods and drinks while whitening your teeth for the best results.
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes – research shows smokers have darker teeth compared to non-smokers.6 If you want to whiten your teeth, reduce or avoid smoking altogether. 

Summary

It is safe to brush your teeth after applying whitening strips. Most manufacturers recommend waiting 30 minutes to do so. Always avoid brushing your teeth right before using whitening strips. 

Whitening strips are a safe, effective way to whiten teeth. They can, however, cause mild, temporary side effects such as tooth sensitivity and gum inflammation. Follow the product instructions closely for the best results, and contact your dentist if you have concerns or develop symptoms that won’t go away.

6 Sources Cited
Last updated on November 28, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Whitening.” Research, American Dental Association, 2022.
  2. Carey, C. “Tooth whitening: what we now know.” The Journal of Evidence-based Dental Practice, National Library of Medicine, 2014.
  3. Benahmed, A., et al. “A review on natural teeth whitening.” Journal of Oral Biosciences, National Library of Medicine, 2022.
  4. Eachempati, P., et al. “Home‐based chemically‐induced whitening (bleaching) of teeth in adults.” Cochrane Database System Review, National Library of Medicine, 2018.
  5. Grover, V., et al. “ISP Good Clinical Practice Recommendations for the management of Dentin Hypersensitivity.” Journal of Indian Society Periodontology, National Library of Medicine, 2022.
  6. Conte, G., et al. “Repeatability of dental shade by digital spectrophotometry in current, former, and never smokers.” Odontology, National Library of Medicine, 2022.
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