Everyone wants to know whether they can or should brush before and after using whitening strips but the answer is more elusive than finding a unicorn.
Is it detrimental to the whitening process if you brush your teeth immediately before applying the whitening strips? What about brushing after you finish the whitening, does it ruin its effect by doing it immediately afterwards?
We’re going to explain what you SHOULD do and the reasons WHY because apparently none of the manufacturers are giving any directions whatsoever.
Instructions as per whitening strip manufacturers
Upon sampling a couple of common whitening strip brands, we could find no directions as to what you should do in regards to brushing. There is no mention about if you should brush before using the product. There is also no mention about if you should brush after using their product.
Most of them don’t say anything at all or give an incomplete answer and that includes Crest. However, Crest does have a short article in regards to what you should do with brushing and using their bleaching strips.
Directions from different brands
Instructions for Moon Dissolving Whitening strips:
- Place one strip on front of teeth (one for top and one for bottom).
- Let dissolve (takes about 15 minutes).
- For best results, avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes after use and use two times a day for 14 days.”
Instructions for Equate Timeless White Strips:
- Remove product from package.
- Place adhesive side on front of teeth, applying lower first.
- Wear for 30 minutes to enjoy a whiter smile.
Instructions for Lumineux Whitening strips:
They do specifically mention brushing afterwards but don’t say anything about before using their product.
- Apply upper and lower strips for 30 minutes.
- Remove, rinse with water or brush.
- Recommended Routine: Use strips 7 days in a row, then 1-2 times a week thereafter to maintain your white smile!
Instructions for Crest 3D Whitestrips:
- Apply Crest 3DWhitestrips Professional Effects to upper and lower teeth once daily for 30 minutes total for 5 consecutive days.
Article from Crest
Crest must’ve had a lot of questions in regards to their product and brushing because they do have an article to address this question. They do have a concise answer on if you should brush before and after but they don’t give too much of an explanation.
Crest says that you can brush right after you finish the whitestrips. However they say that you should NOT brush immediately before applying the strips to your teeth. Their explanation for the latter was that it may result in gum irritation. They recommend to “wait some time” after brushing before using the strips.
That was it from their article with no additional information… Nonetheless, we’ll give you our take on what you should do with a more in-depth answer. Hopefully we’ll satisfy your curiosity.
Should I brush my teeth before using whitening strips?
You should definitely brush your teeth and floss prior to placing the whitening strips on because it increases its efficacy. The bleaching material will certainly work more effectively if you give it a clean tooth surface to whiten.
As a mental exercise, you can try imagining after eating a peanut butter sandwich and then trying to whiten immediately afterwards. It most likely won’t work very well since there will be food residue that blocks the strips from being in contact with your enamel.
You may be wasting your strips if you try to whiten on a non-clean tooth surface. Although you may whiten the peanut butter but that isn’t exactly an outcome we’re looking for. It makes sense if you think about how whitening strips work.
Therefore in order to maximize the efficacy of your at home whitening and taking into account Crest’s recommendation to minimize gum irritation, this is our protocol for what to do.
Protocol for brushing before using the strips:
- Brush your teeth for two minutes.
- Spit out and rinse.
- Wait 30 minutes.
- Start whitening treatment.
The 30 minute wait is a general recommendation since that appears to be how long it at least takes for your mouth to normalize. That duration is recommended for how long you should wait after having a meal before you should brush according to Columbia University.
Last but not least, an often popular question which we receive is does fluoride in your toothpaste prevent your teeth from whitening?
Does fluoride interfere with whitening
Rest assured, fluoride will not interfere with your whitening strips nor any bleaching treatment at all. We will provide you with three pieces of evidence to placate all concerns.
The most obvious answer is that the vast majority of whitening toothpastes contain fluoride. If your toothpaste can have fluoride mixed with the bleaching ingredient then surely brushing before using whitening strips should be okay. If it wasn’t okay, then the toothpaste makers would remove all fluoride from their products.
The second answer is that there are some in-office whitening treatments which have fluoride in their bleaching gel. A prime example would be Opalesence Boost, which has 40% peroxide AND fluoride in it. If even at the dentist treatments utilize fluoride in it, your at home should be more than fine.
Lastly, there was a study which tested mixing sodium fluoride with hydrogen peroxide. There were no adverse effects reported and the teeth whitened normally. The hydrogen peroxide is the main whitening agent in all whitening products and it does so by oxidizing intrinsic stains.
In case you wanted more information, we have written extensively on fluoride treatment and whitening. The conclusion there was that it fluoride itself doesn’t interfere with peroxide.
Should I brush my teeth after using whitening strips?
You should brush your teeth after using whitening strips to desensitize and remineralize them but you should wait 30 minutes to do it.
Protocol for brushing after using the strips:
- Remove strips from teeth.
- Rinse out your mouth really well with water or baking soda.
- Wait 30 minutes.
- Brush your teeth for two minutes.
Desensitize the teeth
The whitening sensitivity can be quite uncomfortable for some people which is why we recommend to use a desensitizing toothpaste afterwards. This type of toothpaste will help to reduce the discomfort after you take off the strips.
There are a variety of different desensitizing toothpastes which you can use to accomplish this:
- Stannous fluoride based – Colgate Total; Crest Pro-Health; Sensodyne Rapid Relief
- Potassium nitrate based – Sensodyne Pronamel; Colgate Sensitive
- Hydroxyapatite based – Risewell; Dr Jen super paste; Wellnesse; Davids sensitive
You don’t have to suffer through the teeth discomfort because you can start using a sensitivity toothpaste to alleviate the symptoms. Therefore, we highly recommend to specifically brush with a toothpaste that can lessen the discomfort after taking off the strips.
The toothpaste that you brush with should also possess the ability to remineralize the enamel in addition to decreasing the sensitivity. Remineralizing the teeth will help strengthen them after you’ve literally subjected them to a highly acidic whitening gel. Once they get remineralized, it will also help reduce the sensitivity as well.
When the enamel comes into contact with the bleaching gel it will start to demineralize, where it loses minerals. If you leave it as such, the tooth will begin to weaken over time.
However the process is often temporary because you can remineralize by adding minerals back into the enamel. This is typically accomplish by using a fluoride or hydroxyapatite based toothpaste. In essence, it will restrengthen the weakened tooth structure.
Aside from making your teeth stronger, the remineralization process also desensitizes the teeth as well. The stannous fluoride and nano-hydroxyapatite can occlude the open dentinal tubules to reduce the sensitivity.
The reason you feel sensitivity is because the peroxide whitening gel dissolves and dislodges the smear plugs that were naturally occluding the tubules. With the tubules wide open, stimuli can enter or interact with the nerve endings unopposed.
Additional read: How to remineralize your teeth. Yes, there is more to it than simply using toothpaste! Other techniques that you can employ to help speed up the repair process.
Wait 30 minutes
Your teeth may feel sensitive immediately after taking off the strips but you shouldn’t brush it right away. It is better if you wait 30 minutes prior to brushing them. You can rinse out with water but you shouldn’t brush them.
Reason for waiting is because the whitening gel in the strips is highly acidic and right afterwards there will be residual acid on the enamel. If you brush your teeth immediately afterwards you will be rubbing acid into the enamel.
That can potentially be harmful because it may erode the enamel if you do that. What you want to do is rinse and then wait 30 minutes for your body to naturally neutralize the acid.
Typically after that half hour wait, it will be safe for you to brush your teeth. This principle also applies to why you shouldn’t brush immediately after a meal. According to Columbia University, you should wait half an hour before you brush.
Therefore, regardless of if you were whitening or after you eat, you have to wait before you brush!
Hopefully we’ve answered all of your questions in regards to whitening strips and brushing. The short answer is that you can and should brush before and after using the strips but you should wait 30 minutes in between both.
- After brushing, wait 30 minutes before using the strips.
- After whitening, waiting 30 minutes before brushing again.
The brushing before will give the strips a clean tooth surface to work on. The brushing after will help you decrease sensitivity and remineralize the teeth from the peroxide.
Doing it this way will maximize the whitening and you’ll also get the most value out of the product. You don’t want to use it in an ineffective way and waste all that money that you spent on it!