Whitening Pain: Does Tooth Whitening Hurt?

Posted on: 22 January 2019

Are you put off by the idea that tooth whitening might be painful? While it is true that some patients experience pain after whitening treatment, it helps to know why before you decide against whitening. If you take the right precautions before and after treatment, you can reduce or even stop after-whitening pain.

Why Whitening Sometimes Hurts

Not all patients experience pain during or after a whitening procedure. Under normal circumstances, you may experience some sensitivity afterwards, but that should last no longer than 48 hours. Moreover, as long as you are careful not to irritate your teeth further, the pain will gradually subside.

But what causes pain and sensitivity?


Just as the human body can become dehydrated, teeth can too. If a patient opts to go for in-office whitening that utilizes laser technology, their teeth will likely become dehydrated. Dehydration occurs because the laser used to whiten your teeth causes the liquids inside your teeth to bubble to the surface. This leaves your teeth feeling sensitive.

However, dentists prepare for the possibility of pain by giving their patients pain medication before and after treatment. You can also do your part to ensure that sensitivity is kept to a minimum. To keep sensitivity at a minimum after in-office whitening, do the following:

  • Avoid hot and cold drinks for 24–48 hours, depending on the severity of the sensitivity. While dehydrated, the nerves in your teeth are extra sensitive to temperatures.
  • Try to breathe through your nose as often as possible. Breathing through your mouth could cause cool air to irritate your sensitive teeth.
  • Give your teeth a break. Don't whiten your teeth at home until the sensitivity has subsided. Otherwise, you could be in for a painful surprise.

Over Whitening

Using over-the-counter (OTC) whitening trays in the wrong manner can also cause pain. While the bleaching agent used in OTC trays is less potent than that used by dentists, misuse can cause you significant pain. Always follow the instructions. Hydrogen peroxide, the bleaching agent in whitening trays, can damage gums and teeth if used too much.

Take your at-home whitening efforts step by step. Leaving your trays on for too long could damage the nerves in your teeth, leading to pain, sensitivity and possibly even a root canal if a nerve dies in the process. Take care not to splash the bleaching gel on your gums too, as this can be very painful.

If you are unsure which teeth whitening treatment is best for your teeth, see your dentist. Together, you can decide on a treatment that doesn't leave you in constant pain. Take-home whitening trays might be just the thing you need if pain is an issue.