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It seems like the ultimate practice in ease and convenience: teeth whitening at home. Although using a less expensive product at home can be a good alternative to other treatment options, you should know that some bleaching products – such as trays and strips – can result in sensitive teeth. If you want a gleaming white smile at home without the resulting irritation, take care that you always follow the instructions and watch out for foods that could have you wincing after a whitening session. Here are some ways to keep your teeth strong and healthy as you whiten.

Take Care When Brushing

If you’re planning to brush your teeth in conjunction with bleaching, make sure that you brush before, rather than after. When you remove the strips, your teeth can be extra sensitive, and any style of toothbrushing can irritate weakened layers of your teeth. If you must brush afterward, do so with a soft-bristled brush to clean teeth safely and with extra care.

Read the Labels

The American Dental Association notes that tooth sensitivity is directly related to hydrogen peroxide concentration in various whitening products. Some users are subject to more sensitivity than others, so if whitening leaves your teeth feeling sensitive, read the labels on your products. Always use the lowest concentration of active ingredients necessary to achieve a brighter smile. Of course, some stains are more stubborn than others, so a higher concentration is required. But if you’re just looking for general brightening, you might not need the heavy-duty products.

Opt for Toothpaste

If your teeth protest when you use strips or trays, you might need a gentler product. Use toothpaste to whiten instead, which typically has a lower concentration of active bleaching ingredients, and thus won’t aggravate your sensitive teeth as much.

Follow the Instructions

One of the most common mistakes with whitening products is simply not using them as directed. When you leave the whitening agent on your teeth longer than directed or advised, you’re opening your teeth up to sensitivity and pain due to prolonged exposure. It’s why most whitening strip kits are packaged for several days of treatment: whitening little by little results in less sensitivity than whitening a lot during one session.

Avoid Certain Foods

Hot, cold, and acidic foods can all exacerbate tooth sensitivity, and you’ll be more susceptible to pain after bleaching at home. Therefore, if you find that your teeth are sensitive after whitening, avoid foods that are hot, cold, or acidic for a few hours after your bleaching session.

Luckily, you have plenty of options when it comes to teeth bleaching at home. If trays and strips hurt, you can turn to toothpaste or talk to your dentist about other alternatives. There’s no need to sacrifice a bright smile because you have sensitive teeth. With the right products and precautions, a whiter smile is yours for the taking.