teeth whitening gel zoom on teeth

Have you ever wondered if there was a limit to how often you can whiten your teeth? Even when it comes to over-the-counter products that aren’t as strong as kits from your dentist, how often can you whiten your yellow teeth with strips, pens, or other gels?

Although teeth whitening is safe when used appropriately, there is such a thing as whitening too much (and there are side effects that can come along with it.) That’s what we call, “Bleachorexia.”[1]

How Often Should You Whiten Your Teeth? 

Most whitening systems are set up so that you’re only whitening your teeth for a maximum of 10-14 days in a row at any given time. But even then, some people will experience tooth sensitivity or chemical burns on their gums, especially if they don’t follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Normally you only want to whiten as many days in a row as it is to use up what’s in the kit that you bought. If you’re buying multiple at-home kits and using them back-to-back, it’s better to have your teeth professionally whitened.[2]

Whether you’re using commercial whitening strips or an at-home kit from your dentist, most dental professionals recommend touching up every 3-4 months or after every time you have your teeth cleaned. Typically, you only have to wear the kit 3-4 times to “boost” your smile back to its whiter color.

How Long To Wait Between Whitening Sessions

Every teeth whitening treatment is different. Some need to be used consistently each day in order to work effectively. But once you’ve worked through the initial treatment or kit, you usually need to wait a minimum of a few months before you use another one. Occasional touch-ups are completely fine, but you don’t want to use an entire bleaching system more often than every 3-4 months, and only then if you have serious tooth stain.

If you’re wanting to know how often you can whiten your teeth with strips, it might be that you need something stronger. Home teeth whitening treatments like trays and strips work great when there are only a few shades of stain to remove. But deeper discoloration responds better to professional teeth whitening treatment for more dramatic results.

Take-home whitening trays—with the right gel from your dentist—take less time to whiten your teeth than over-the-counter strips. As such, you don’t have to use them for very long and you only need to touch up a few times a year.

When you’re really strapped for time, a same-day in-office treatment will get your smile bright in just one appointment with your dentist. Normally you’ll also have a take-home kit with custom trays to keep whitening for a few days afterward or to touch up in the future.

Touch-Ups Versus The First Time of Full Whitening

The very first time you whiten your teeth, you need to wear the system as directed. That might be an hour a day for two weeks in a row or overnight for a week, or just an hour in the dentist’s chair with professional teeth whitening procedure. But after that, you shift into the maintenance or “touch-up” phase.

This is when you really want to know how often can you whiten your teeth. For touch-ups, it depends on your diet and lifestyle. If you drink a lot of coffee or red wine, you’re going to need to touch up your teeth more frequently than someone who doesn’t drink those things. Usually, that’s one take-home strip system every 3-6 months, or just a few days in whitening trays to brighten teeth.[3]

If you are having tooth sensitivity, make sure you use fluoride or sensitivity toothpaste for a week or two leading up to your touch-up sessions. And remember, whitening toothpaste does not whiten teeth, it just helps removes surface stains.

Follow Teeth Whitening Treatment Directions

 Bleachorexia happens when people keep whitening their teeth after they complete their whitening kit. Even if you’re great about following the manufacturer’s directions, you may be confused about how often you can whiten your teeth with strips for touch-up purposes.

The best rule of thumb is to touch up after every dental cleaning. That way there isn’t any buildup on your teeth and your dental hygienist has already polished away any surface stains. You’ll get better contact with your teeth and see quicker results. But if you love coffee and tea, you’re probably going to need to touch up at least once between checkups. If you’re using a full teeth whitening system twice between visits, you’re probably whitening your teeth too much.

Can You Whiten Your Teeth Too Much?

Yes. Bleachorexia is when people ignore recommendations on how often you can whiten your teeth and just keep whitening them over and over.

It’s not just your teeth you have to worry about. It’s also the gum tissues next to them, which are more sensitive to the whitening solution in teeth whitening products. Exposed to peroxide-based bleaching gel over and over every day, you can actually cause chemical burns or bleach your gum tissues.

Does Whitening Weaken Tooth Enamel?

In most cases, teeth whitening doesn’t erode tooth enamel. But it does make teeth sensitive if you expose them to bleaching agent too much.

However, some dentists will say that in severe cases of Bleachorexia (bleaching your teeth too much) it causes your enamel to erode. Similar to what we’d see in someone with poor oral hygiene or an acidic diet. With enamel erosion, we see white spots develop in teeth. And white spots don’t bleach out because it’s a structural issue instead of because of tooth color.

How To Make Whitening Last Longer 

Regardless of how often you can whiten your teeth, there are practical things you can do at home to help you keep your smile brighter, for longer. That way you don’t have to keep buying new at-home whitening kits or gels.

1. Rinse with water after you drink dark liquids

Maybe you’re not ready to give up coffee, tea, or red wine for good. That’s ok. What you can do is step away after your meal and go rinse your mouth out with water at the sink. This won’t get rid of all of the stain particles, but it will rinse a lot of them off before they settle into the tiny pores in your tooth enamel.

2. Don't smoke

Tobacco products—especially smoking—really do a number on your teeth and gums. The stain is deeply set into your tooth structure and one of the hardest types of discoloration to bleach out of your teeth. Right now is one of the best times to finally kick the habit to the curb for good.

3. Avoid eating dark foods and drinks

Consider substituting your marinara sauce for alfredo. Or red wine with white. When you have an option, try to go with the food or drink that wouldn’t stain a white t-shirt, if you happened to spill it. It might be impossible to avoid them forever, but you can at least cut back.

4. Drink with a straw

When your drinks skip straight past your top front teeth, it’s almost impossible for them to stain that area! Consider making a habit out of drinking with a straw to keep your smile brighter between professional teeth whitening sessions. A reusable, washable option is ideal to prevent unnecessary waste.

5. Plan regular dental cleanings

Make sure you’re scheduling a checkup and cleaning at least twice a year. Even if you don’t see a lot of buildup on your teeth, it’s still there. Plus, your hygienist can polish your enamel to remove tiny layers of buildup so that your touch-up application works more effectively once you get back home.

Too Much Teeth Whitening

Bleachorexia is when you whiten your teeth too often than you’re supposed to. How often can you whiten your teeth? Always read the label, ask your dentist, or plan on 2-4 touchups a year, depending on your diet and lifestyle.

If you’re teeth whitening all of the time and not seeing the results you’re looking for, ask your dentist about a professional-strength in-office bleaching treatment instead. Remember your dental health is more important than how white your teeth may look!

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