Bleaching teeth – no food or drink afterward, literally?
December 12, 2013 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Can I bleach my teeth late afternoon or early evening, and then eat or drink later without unbleaching?

I have asked my dentist. He will sell bleach because he’s not stupid. However, he thinks bleaching is stupid and waves off questions by talking about gum health and keep spending your time flossing and how many people with sparkling white front teeth have gross and stinky periodontal disease in their vital back molars because they don’t care about dental health. (He seems professional insulted by this attitude.) His office ladies, who are in charge of things cosmetic, insist that you absolutely, positively cannot and must not have anything to eat or drink between using the trays and breakfast the next morning.

Obviously, having red wine and blueberry pie immediately after would be foolish. But. would the results be lessened if, for instance, I used the bleach at 6 p.m. and then, maybe around eight or nine, if I was feeling peckish, had a glass of white wine or maybe crackers and apple cider?

The alternative is to go to bed, perform my wifely duties, and then get up and use the trays.

What’s the real deal?

Personal experience or professional opinions welcome.

(Previous asks seem to be about product choices. I’m all set with gel and trays. Just wondering about the process.)
posted by Lesser Shrew to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total)
What’s the real deal?

If you eat or drink, you'll remove the remaining bleach residue, seriously limiting its effectiveness. You'd have to use it for a far longer period to get the same results than if you just let it sit overnight, assuming you could even get them.

I don't use the things, but my understanding is that it's the same basic process for things like your the fluoride rinses you get when you're a kid. Most of the actual work happens after the material is removed from the mouth but before you rinse off.

If you were to rinse it off right away, the stuff really wouldn't work at all. The question is how many hours is sufficient time to get most of the effectiveness out of the product. I'm tempted to go with whatever the package tells you. Think about it this way: if the product worked adequately in three hours, there's a significant incentive to say so rather than to say you should wait six or nine hours. The easier the product is to use, the more people will buy it. It stands to reason that companies put the smallest time on there that they can reasonably get away with.* So if you're not willing to follow the directions on the box, be prepared for your results to be less-than-stellar.

*True, there's probably an FDA requirement lurking in the background somewhere, but I'm not thinking that would make a huge difference here. If the manufacturer knows you need to leave it on for [x] hours, telling people that it only takes [x-y] hours isn't in its best interest.
posted by valkyryn at 8:36 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I use super un-fancy drugstore tooth whitening gel a few mornings a week (brush it on in the shower, rinse it out after a few minutes) and then get up and go to work where I eat breakfast and drink coffee and do fuckall to maintain the pristine bleachedness of my teeth. They are fine. My 5 minute gel isn't designed to be on all night, though. Your fancy overnight gel tray product sounds like it is.

If I were you I would be more concerned about the effects of the wine and bleach on my tooth enamel when used so close together. Acidic things (like wine) are problematic for enamel, and doing something aggressive like using a whitener in such close proximity might do more damage to your teeth than just lessen the effectiveness of the bleach. I'd ask your dentist about that and see if there's a waiting period you should give between the two so your enamel can rest.

He's right about flossing, though. My uncle's a dentist. He rants all the time about how people come wanting their teeth Zoom'd so much they're almost blue but then don't even floss and it's like OMG PEOPLE YOUR TEETH AREN'T JUST A FASHION ACCESSORY AAAHH.
posted by phunniemee at 8:44 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Most modern bleaching systems don't require contact with the teeth for more than half an hour to be effective. The bleach will dehydrate your teeth and remove the protective film called the pellicle layer. it takes several hours for a healthy pellicle layer to reform and during this time your teeth will be susceptible to demineralization (if you eat sugars or starches) or stain.
It's probably best to have your snack before you bleach, but if the wait is long enough you won't likely undo anything.
yes brush and floss.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:49 AM on December 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

The way my dental hygienist explained it to me was this: in the period after bleaching, your teeth are more porous than usual. This means coffee, mustard, anything red, etc will have a greater chance of staining your teeth even though you just bleached them. That's why you shouldn't eat after bleaching. You'll stain your teeth even worse.

I decided not to use the chemicals. Bleaching works by stripping down some of your tooth enamel, leaving a slightly more white shade exposed. But you only get so much enamel. It never grows back. Why throw away what you have?
posted by helloimjohnnycash at 9:15 AM on December 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

Personally I found my teeth felt painful after bleaching so I didn't want any food or hot/cold drinks anyway. (That's why I stopped my OTC bleach program.)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:57 AM on December 12, 2013

Thanks! Using my own personal innumeracy, I’m going to average the answers from valkyryn(which is informed), and phunniemee (what I was hoping for). Therefore, two hours post-bleach, if I’m hungry, I’ll boil an egg or have some pemmican.

In case anyone else wants to use these answers, here details that should have been in the question: Dentist says gel should be less than 30-percent but at least more than 20-percent carbamide peroxide. Office ladies say gel works for between 20 minutes and an hour. After an hour, although gel and salvia carrying gel can irritate your gums and throat, the bleaching effects are over. Package inserts and product web sites frequently punt to “as your dentist instructed.”

Have not yet seen a package insert that says boo about when you may eat or drink after bleaching so thanks again for the answers.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:14 PM on December 14, 2013

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