Throbbing Pain After Teeth Whitening: What to Expect

Many people experience throbbing pain after teeth whitening, and what causes it can vary from person to person. It is important to know the main reasons for throbbing pain so you can take preventative measures or get help if necessary. This blog post will cover what throbbing pain feels like, why it happens after a teeth whitening session, and how you can manage it.

Dental Whitening Treatment

Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure that bleaches stained or discolored teeth using different peroxide-containing whitening agents. The peroxide (hydrogen or carbamide peroxide) penetrates the tooth enamel and breaks down stains on its surface.

You can choose from different procedures when whitening your teeth. You can use stain removal toothpastes, in-office bleaching, at-home bleaching kits, and even settling for over-the-counter teeth whitening products.

Stain removal toothpastes

teeth whitening toothpasteThrough mild abrasives, all toothpaste varieties aid in removing superficial stains from teeth. Look for a whitening toothpaste that has received the ADA Seal of Acceptance for stain removal (it will tell you on the tube). These toothpaste brands have additional polishing agents that are safe for your teeth and provide stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these types of ADA-Accepted products do not change the color of teeth because they can only remove stains on the surface.

In-office bleaching

This procedure is called chairside bleaching and usually requires one office visit. Depending on the type of whitening procedure, it may take one to two hours for your dentist to finish your session. The dentist applies either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect your gums. Then a bleaching agent is then applied to the teeth. Some procedures use heat or light (or both!) to activate the whitening agent.

At-home bleaching kits

Your dentist can make you a custom-fitted tray for at-home whitening. In this scenario, the dentist will guide you on how to place the bleaching solution in the tray. This may be a better alternative if you feel more at ease whitening at home at a slower speed while remaining under the supervision of a dentist. Bleaching at home might take anything from a few days to a few weeks.

Other over-the-counter whitening products

You may come across several choices online or in your local grocery stores, such as toothpaste brands or strips that whiten your teeth by bleaching them. The bleaching agent concentration in these products is lower than what your dentist would use in the office.


If you want to use an over-the-counter bleaching kit, talk to your dentist regarding your alternatives and seek one that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This seal gives you the confidence that the product has been proven safe and effective for tooth whitening.



Possible Causes of Throbbing Pain after Teeth Whitening Treatments

Since teeth whitening works using stain-removing chemicals, irritation around the nerve endings of the teeth can happen. There are several possible causes for throbbing pain after teeth whitening. The common causes include:

Sensitivity to Peroxide

Some people who use teeth whiteners may experience tooth sensitivity. This happens when the peroxide penetrates the enamel to the soft layer of dentin and irritates the nerve of your tooth. In most cases, the sensitivity is temporary. You can delay treatment, then try again.

Overbleaching or incorrect use of whitening product

High concentration of chemicals or overbleaching can lead to gum irritation. Frequent use of whiteners can also damage the tooth enamel or gums, so be sure to follow directions and talk to your dentist.

Hot or Cold Liquids and Foods

Extreme temperatures can make your teeth sensitive after the treatment. In fact, hot or cold liquids can cause throbbing pain after teeth whitening. These hot and cold drinks and certain foods also affect the nerve endings in your teeth, which can lead to teeth hurt after the teeth whitening treatment.

Tissue Damage From the Bleaching Trays

The whitening gel can cause irritation or damage to the oral mucosa. Damage to the tissue lining the inside of the mouth can lead to throbbing pain after the teeth whitening treatment.

Infection or Abscess

Infection or abscess is more likely to develop in the gums due to overbleaching. Damage to the pulp in the tooth leaves an open pathway for toxin-producing bacteria. Nerve endings are exposed to toxins and throb or pulse in response to bacteria in the blood.


Treatments for Throbbing Pain after Teeth Whitening Procedure

Several treatments help you manage the pain after teeth whitening procedures. These include:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

professional teeth whiteningPain or discomfort after teeth whitening may be reduced by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Do not take aspirin because of its link with blood clotting. NSAIDs reduce the throbbing pain by lowering your body’s inflammatory response. You can get ibuprofen from a pharmacy, while you will have to get naproxen with a prescription. Make sure to speak with your dentist before taking these medications. And if your discomfort is severe or does not improve with NSAIDS, make an appointment with your dentist immediately.

Tooth sensitivity products

Certain mouth rinses are specifically designed to relieve throbbing pain after teeth whitening, including those containing benzydamine hydrochloride. This helps reduce the discomfort by reducing inflammation in your tooth, jaw muscles, and tissues lining the mouth. NSAID-containing Benzydamine mouthwash is available at pharmacies without a prescription in most countries.

In addition, you can also use tooth sensitivity toothpaste to brush your teeth and gums. Ask your dentist about what brand he can recommend for your condition.

Using a Straw

If you simply must have a hot cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea, try drinking it via a straw. Because a straw protrudes past your teeth, you should be able to avoid much of the discomfort associated with sipping a warm or cold beverage following treatment.


If sensitive teeth happen after teeth whitening and are not treated immediately, physical activity can exacerbate the symptom. You should rest until the discomfort has subsided; otherwise, you may cause further damage to your tooth and surrounding tissues. This includes avoiding opening your mouth wide for at least three hours following treatment with a throbbing pain after teeth whitening product or procedure.

If the pain still persists, you can contact an emergency dentist to check your condition.

Possible Consequences of Throbbing Tooth Sensitivity after Whitening procedure

Contact your dentist immediately if throbbing pain after teeth whitening persists. Some of the consequences of this discomfort include:

Tooth nerve damage

Tooth nerve damage is one of the most common consequences of overbleaching. When the tooth gets exposed to an excessive amount of peroxide products, it can have adverse effects on your nerve endings, leading to irritable pain.

As a result, you might experience pain symptoms while eating or drinking in extreme temperatures.

Gingival recession

at-home bleachingAnother possible consequence of throbbing pain after teeth whitening is developing gingival recession. Purchasing over-the-counter whitening strips can damage the gums because the whitening solution is very powerful. Should this solution touch the gums, they shrivel away, causing gum recession. This leads to teeth sensitivity and pain.

Necrosis of the tooth pulp or alveolar bone

Necrosis of the pulp and alveolar bone is a rare complication of teeth whitening sensitivity from misuse of the product. It has been estimated that this complication occurs in less than 1% of patients undergoing tooth bleaching procedures. The high concentration of hydrogen peroxide damages the vascular supply to the pulp, which is then exposed to oxygen. This causes the death of the cells in the root, deprived of their blood supply, leading to necrosis (death) of the dental pulp and alveolar bone.

Contact your dentist immediately if throbbing pain after teeth whitening is experienced. These complications can result in tooth integrity and function loss, increased risk of caries, or possible extraction.


Tips to Prevent Throbbing Pain After Teeth Whitening

  • Avoid the procedure if you have any other dental issues or gum disease
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with fluoride or desensitizing toothpaste
  • Keep your mouth hydrated by drinking lots of water and using a straw
  • Do not smoke or drink alcohol to allow your gums to heal
  • Do not floss your teeth rigorously until the throbbing pain has subsided


Pain and sensitivity after teeth whitening are very common. While these discomforts should not last long, it can be an uncomfortable experience while it lasts. We recommend you see a dentist if the sensitivity persists for more than three days after treatment or pain continues to worsen. Remember, tooth whitening is considered safe when conducted by qualified professionals, so don’t give up on brightening your smile just yet!


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