Teeth whitening can restore brightness to a stained or dimming smile, making it a popular procedure in the world of cosmetic dentistry. However, this whitening process can temporarily make teeth more sensitive and susceptible to staining. Avoiding certain foods and beverages after the procedure can help optimize the effectiveness of the whitening procedure, and minimize discomfort to sensitive areas of your mouth.
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Tooth color is influenced by a variety of factors, including age, smoking habits, health history, medications -- and diet. Foods more likely to stain teeth include tea, coffee and certain dark-colored fruits and vegetables. Many people choose to counter these dental stains with whitening or bleaching treatments, which may include dental office treatments, take-home kits dispensed by a dental professional, or over-the-counter home whitening products. Unfortunately, sensitive teeth and irritated gums are potential drawbacks of these whitening treatments. According to the American Dental Association, sensitive teeth occurs in up to two-thirds of people who whiten their teeth.
Counter Sensitive Teeth
To minimize dental pain after teeth whitening, avoid hot or cold beverages for several days. Try lukewarm or room temperature drinks instead. Ice cream, frozen yogurt and cold fruit may also cause discomfort. The whitening process can also leave teeth temporarily sensitive to sticky candy or acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits, vinegar or soft drinks. Since sensitivity is a known side effect of teeth whitening, your dental professional can guide you on ways to minimize or prevent any associated discomfort. For example, reducing the time your teeth are exposed to the bleaching chemicals, or using a desensitizing agent on alternate days may help prevent this side effect.
Avoid Stains Post Treatment
The chemicals used to whiten teeth can result in degradation of the outer enamel surface, and potentially other small structural changes which temporarily increase the chance of recurrent stains. So after a whitening session, dental professionals typically recommend short-term avoidance of foods and ingredients that risk staining. Tea, cola and coffee are common culprits which may cause stains, but discoloration can also be caused by red, blue or purple foods and beverages, such as beets, tomato sauce, grape juice, blueberries, red wine and pomegranate seeds or juice. Evidence-based recommendations how long to avoid these foods and drinks is not available, but common advice is to steer clear of potentially staining foods for a few to several days after the whitening treatment.
Speak with your dental health professional to learn about teeth whitening options, and to understand the best plan of treatment for your teeth. Your dental team can provide you with specific recommendations on foods to avoid after your whitening treatment. If you have sensitive teeth, gum disease or if you are pregnant or nursing, speak with your dentist before using any teeth whitening products.
Reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH RD