Plenty of people use teeth whitening kits to brighten their smiles and give them a boost. And there are plenty of reasons to do so—white teeth can look healthier, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and make you feel more confident in your smile.
Although the ADA considers teeth whitening procedures relatively safe, there are a few risks to consider. One of these risks is dehydration, which can leave your teeth feeling rough and sensitive after a whitening session.
Fortunately, there are ways to rehydrate your teeth if they’re feeling dry or uncomfortable. This article will discuss the best tips to follow when rehydrating your teeth after whitening.
What Does It Mean When Your Tooth Is Dehydrated?
When your tooth is dehydrated, it means that the water content within the tooth has been reduced. This can cause the enamel to become weakened and brittle, leading to increased sensitivity and discomfort. Dehydration can wear away at the protective layer on your teeth, leaving them vulnerable to damage.
However, dehydration is central to how whitening treatments work. Many whitening products contain bleaching agents that can reduce the water content in your teeth, such as hydrogen peroxide.
What Causes Teeth Dehydration?
Teeth are porous, making them susceptible to deep-rooted stains from everyday drinks and foods like coffee, cigarettes, red wine, dark berries, and juice. This same porosity allows bleaching agents to penetrate the enamel layer of the tooth in order to eradicate those stubborn discolorations.
As the whitening gel permeates your teeth's layers (with help from the hydrogen peroxide), it breaks down and expels any stains through the enlarged pores.
Additionally, this procedure raises the internal temperature of each tooth to expel all moisture within it. Dehydration is, unfortunately, a byproduct of this procedure.
Signs Of Dehydrated Teeth After Whitening
Your oral health and well-being is critical, and understanding the signs of dehydration can be essential in avoiding more serious problems. Here are some of the common signs that your teeth may be dehydrated:
1. White Spots
After whitening, white spots on teeth can appear due to hypo-calcification (i.e., a loss of calcium in the teeth). This loss of calcium in the tooth enamel causes discoloration. Too much fluoride, an acidic diet full of sugar, or plaque buildup are all culprits that can lead to these unattractive patches.
After braces are taken off, white spots may become more visible. These areas can be especially tricky to get rid of because some whitening processes make the hypo-calcified parts of your teeth seem even brighter in comparison to the rest.
Teeth whitening won't create white spots on your teeth, but it can make white spots more noticeable regardless of the teeth whitening options you choose.
2. Tooth Pain
Pain or sensitivity after whitening is the most common side effect. This happens when the enamel on your teeth has been thinned, and opened pores expose the dentin layer to hot, cold, sweet, and acidic substances. Those who struggle with tooth sensitivity regardless of whitening procedures will have a harder time since these treatments further exacerbate the problem.
3. Swollen Or Puffy Gums
Whitening treatments can also cause swelling of the gums—a condition known as “gum burn.” This occurs when your gums become irritated by the bleaching agents used during whitening procedures. Gums will usually swell and may even appear red or purple if this happens.
To prevent your gums from burning, it's important to apply a protective barrier—such as petroleum jelly or wax—around the gumline before undergoing a whitening session. If you choose an in-office whitening procedure, your dentist will apply a protective layer before the process begins to prevent this.
4. Cracked Or Dry Lips
Your lips, tongue, and other areas of your mouth may become very dry during whitening sessions. The bleaching agent used in whitening treatments can cause the skin to dry out quickly, leading to cracking or peeling. This is especially common in at-home whitening kits that are worn for extended periods of time.
Since you need to keep your lips away from your teeth during the procedure, your lips can become dry from this as well. To minimize this, apply a hydrating lip balm to your lips prior and during the whitening process.
5. Sticky Or Dry Tongue
For the same reason your lips and skin may dry out, your tongue may also become dry and stick to the roof of your mouth. Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do to avoid this—it's one of the most common side effects of teeth whitening.
If it becomes unbearable, drink plenty of water or rinse your mouth out with a fluoride toothpaste and lukewarm water. You can also use soothing gels and sprays to help keep the tongue hydrated after the procedure is finished.
6. Bleeding Gums When Flossing
After whitening your teeth, you might go about your day as usual—only to be met with some discomfort when you floss that night. If you haven't flossed in a while, your gums will probably bleed regardless. But if you've been flossing regularly and have never noticed bleeding before, it could be a sign of dehydration.
When your gums are dehydrated, they become more fragile and prone to tears when you floss. To further protect your gums from damage, try using an alcohol-free mouthwash or rinse with warm salt water to help rehydrate your gums and ease some of the pain.
7. Bad Breath
Bad breath is common when your teeth are dehydrated. Thanks to their porous nature, your teeth can absorb bacteria and food particles that may have been left behind during or after the whitening process. This can lead to an unpleasant odor that is difficult to get rid of.
To prevent bad breath, remember to drink water as soon as you are advised to do so. That way, you can help keep your mouth hydrated and the bacteria away.
Additionally, make sure to practice good oral hygiene after whitening treatments.
Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily to get rid of any leftover food particles or bacteria that may be lingering in your mouth.
Dehydration Vs. Decalcification
When it comes to monitoring your dental health and avoiding the side effects of whitening treatments, it is important to understand the difference between dehydration and decalcification.
Dehydration occurs when your teeth lose their natural oils and moisture levels after undergoing a whitening procedure. This can lead to sensitivity, pain, and other uncomfortable side effects.
Decalcification, on the other hand, is when minerals contained in the tooth's hard outer layer dissolve as a result of exposure to acids. This can eventually lead to decay and cavities, which if left untreated can cause serious harm.
In other words, dehydration is a side effect of teeth whitening procedures. Decalcification is caused by bacteria and acids, and teeth whitening cannot fix it.
How To Rehydrate Teeth After Whitening
It seems counterintuitive that reversing yellow teeth can have such adverse effects. But chemical whitening solutions are strong—that's what makes them work so quickly and effectively.
The good news is that there are several steps you can take to rehydrate your teeth and restore their health. Here's how:
1. Stimulate Your Saliva.
According to the Mayo Clinic, saliva is one of the best ways to hydrate your teeth—it's natural, fast-acting, and works whether you're awake or asleep.
There are a few ways you can get yourself to salivate more:
- Chew sugar-free gum that won't cause tooth decay.
- Stop all tobacco use.
- Limit your caffeine intake.
- Avoid sugary or acidic drinks.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.
It's worth noting that most of these tips are steps you should take anyways—keeping your teeth white is challenging when you use tobacco, many caffeinated beverages, and consume acidic drinks.
2. Eat A "Clear Liquid Diet."
After a successful teeth whitening treatment, abiding by a clear liquid diet is essential to rehydrate and preserve your pearly whites. Say goodbye to smoking, coffee, red wine, or any other dark-colored liquids, as these can affect the longevity of your results.
Similarly, you can avoid crunchy, acidic, and sugary foods like chips, candy, and certain fruits. The idea is that the less contact you have with these items, the easier it will be to keep your teeth looking their best.
Instead, opt for light-colored foods like white and beige vegetables (e.g., cauliflower, sweet potatoes, squash). These are packed with vitamins and minerals that can help keep your teeth strong and rehydrated (and they won't stain your teeth!).
3. Use A Fluoride Mouthwash.
Fluoride is an important mineral that helps protect and strengthen your teeth. It can help rehydrate and restore the moisture levels in your teeth, while also boosting the natural pH balance of your mouth.
Fluoride also restores the natural minerals in your teeth, helping to reduce sensitivity. Some fluoride mouthwashes are specifically designed for dehydrated teeth and dry mouths, so look for them if you're having trouble finding relief.
4. Stay Hydrated.
Drinking plenty of water is one of the best ways to stay hydrated, and your teeth will benefit from it too! It sounds redundant, but when you drink enough water throughout the day, you feel more energized and alert, and your mouth's naturally acidic environment can be neutralized.
Plus, drinking lots of water helps rinse away any leftover food particles or bacteria that may be lingering in your mouth.
5. See Your Dentist Regularly.
Dental appointments are an important part of any teeth whitening routine, as they allow your dentist to monitor the condition of your teeth and gums and ensure that whitening treatments do no further damage.
They can also provide advice on how you can manage oral health and stress issues that whitening treatments may cause.
Rehydrating your teeth after whitening is possible, but you need to be proactive about it. Following the steps above can help keep your pearly whites healthy and prevent any serious harm in the long run.
Whether you choose an at-home whitening product or work with a dental professional, teeth whitening can have serious implications for your dental health. By taking proper precautions, following instructions, avoiding certain foods and drinks, and keeping up with regular dental visits, you can keep your teeth healthy and bright.
Want to know more? Here are a few questions our customers frequently ask us:
How Long Does It Take For Teeth To Rehydrate After Whitening?
When you use a bleaching agent like hydrogen or carbamide peroxide, your teeth may appear a bright shade of white due to the opening of pores in the enamel. Teeth will return to a normal shade after about two days, but it may take up to a week for them to rehydrate.
How Can You Rehydrate Tooth Enamel?
To help rehydrate tooth enamel, there are several steps you can take:
- Follow your natural teeth whitening routine, including brushing and flossing twice daily.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Adopt a clear diet, avoiding crunchy, acidic, or sugary foods that could stain your teeth.
- Avoid caffeine and any substance that could inhibit saliva production.
- Use a fluoride mouthwash to restore minerals in your teeth and reduce sensitivity.
- Regularly check in with your dentist to monitor tooth health.
Why Is Dehydration Harmful To Teeth?
Dehydration can cause your teeth to become brittle and susceptible to decay as they lose their ability to self-repair. When saliva production is low, it can increase bacteria and plaque buildup, which can cause cavities and gum disease. And dehydration can cause other unwanted side effects like gum sensitivity, bad breath, and dry mouth.
How Does Dehydration Affect Your Oral Health?
Dehydration can cause several issues with your oral health, from gum sensitivity and bad breath to dry mouth and cavities. It can also make it difficult for your teeth to rehydrate after whitening treatments, as saliva production is reduced when you're dehydrated. Since dehydration affects the overall ecosystem inside your mouth, going too long without drinking enough water can lead to significant issues.
What Happens To Your Teeth When They’re Dehydrated?
On a scientific level, dehydration can cause the calcium in your teeth to crystallize, resulting in weakened enamel. What this means for you is that your teeth become more prone to wear and damage, making them vulnerable to cavities and other forms of decay. To prevent these problems from occurring, it's important to stay hydrated throughout the day.
How Long Does It Take For Enamel To Rehydrate?
It can take anywhere from a few days to a week for enamel to rehydrate after bleaching or whitening treatments. During this time, it's important to give your teeth extra care and attention by drinking plenty of water and avoiding anything that could stain or weaken your enamel, such as acidic foods and beverages.
Additionally, talk to your dentist about any sensitivity issues you may be experiencing, and use a fluoride mouthwash to help restore minerals in your teeth.