You can do teeth whitening after fluoride treatment because sodium fluoride doesn't affect the bleaching process but it depends on the type of fluoride treatment. In other words, we're not so concerned with the fluoride itself but rather the delivery method which may affect the whitening.
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Fluoride does not interfere with teeth whitening
According to a study in Clinical and Experimental Dental Research, the application of sodium fluoride prior to teeth whitening did not interfere with the bleaching process. All of the teeth still whitened as they were expected to.
That is great news because now you know for certain that getting fluoride will not interfere with you trying to get whiter teeth. However, you should take note of how the study was conducted and how they came to that conclusion.
The important point that we want you to pay attention to is that the researchers submerged the teeth into a fluoride solution. This was a 50 mL liquid solution of 0.2% NaF.
That is different than the type of fluoride treatments that your dentist usually uses. We don't give liquid fluoride treatments in the office. At the dentist it usually comes in a paste form, varnish, or gel. That is something to keep in mind, which we will explain later on.
Other evidence that its not a contraindication
There has been concerns that since whitening is highly acidic, it may alter the surface of the enamel thus making it more prone to cavities. Researchers have come up with the idea of adding fluoride to whitening gels in order to decrease the risk of tooth decay afterwards.
A study by JISPCD found that adding fluoride to carbamide peroxide bleaching gel did not affect the whitening outcome. What it did help with was increase remineralization of the demineralized enamel from the bleaching.
A different study by JERD also came to the same conclusion where the addition of sodiuim fluoride did not interfere with the bleaching process. Once again, all it did was help with remineralizing the tooth from whitening.
Last but not least, there are plenty of whitening toothpastes which contain fluoride. In fact, the colgate optic white renewal toothpaste actually contains more fluoride than their regular fluoridated toothpaste.
That should be more than enough proof that it doesn't interfere. If it did, all of the manufacturers would remove the fluoride. Did you know that the opalesence boost, which is an in-office whitening system contains fluoride in it? Here is a photo as proof!
Under the 40% PF, you can see that they say it contains potassium nitrate along with fluoride. Therefore if you can whiten simultaneously with fluoride in the gel, it should put to rest your doubts about it preventing your teeth from whitening.
Delivery method of fluoride may interfere with whitening
The fluoride itself may not structurally interfere with how hydrogen peroxide whitens your teeth but the delivery mechanism may. What we mean by that is fluoride treatment at the dentist is applied to your teeth in various ways. The way that it is applied may affect the whitening process.
Types of fluoride treatment:
Fluoride prophy paste
The prophy paste does not interfere with whitening
The prophy paste is actually the polishing paste that is done at the end of every dental cleaning. It is the equivalent of using toothpaste except that it is highly concentrated in fluoride.
Since it is similar to toothpaste and you simply rinse your mouth out afterwards, there shouldn't be any residue on your teeth. Since there are no more physical traces of the paste afterwards, it will not affect the bleaching of your teeth.
The fluoride varnish may interfere with whitening
The fluoride varnish can potentially interfere with the whitening but it is not because of the fluoride. It has more to do with how the product is delivered onto the teeth.
The varnish comes in a very stick film that gets applied to the enamel. It looks similar to caramel and it will stick and stay on your teeth until you either brush it off or while you're eating.
Basically you have a layer of material covering over your teeth and that is NOT good for whitening. having a layer over your enamel can prevent the whitening gel from getting to the enamel. That is similar to how if you had a lot of tartar or even food covering your teeth. Don't you think the whitening would work better if you had a clean surface to work on?
That is the reason why you should get your teeth cleaned prior to whitening. You want to remove everything that may be on the surface of your teeth so that the gel can work directly on them. Having the varnish on means that you don't have an unobstructed surface to work to.
The fluoride gel shouldn't interfere with whitening
The gel form of fluoride isn't really quite a gel per say. It comes out in a gel like state but it quickly becomes bubbly and foamy. The great thing about this is that it does NOT stick to your teeth like the varnish does.
In other words, the gel treatments should not interfere with the whitening process. Here is a video showing what the consistency of the gel is like.
You can easily rinse your mouth out with water after completing the treatment. All of that foam and gel should come off very easily. That means you can immediately begin the in-office bleaching procedure if you wanted to.
However we do want to point out that under normal circumstances, you shouldn't be rinsing your mouth out with water after fluoride treatment. The reason is that we want the fluoride to work for as long as possible. Nonetheless if you wanted to get your teeth whiter, the optimal way to do it would be to rinse out prior to starting!
Evidence supporting fluoride gel does not inhibit whitening
A study in the American Journal of Dentistry actually used a fluoridated desensitizing gel for 10 minutes prior to whitening. The fluoride did not affect the bleaching efficacy at all. Although what they did find was that it did help with desensitization after the whitening procedure.
The Verdict - can you still whiten your teeth after getting fluoride treatment?
Fluoride has been shown to not prevent you from whitening your teeth. The mechanism with how fluoride works and how hydrogen peroxide whiten your teeth are independent of each other. That makes it permissible to bleach your teeth immediately after receiving a fluoridated treatment.
However there is one exception and that is if you are getting a particular type of fluoride treatment in the form of a varnish. The varnish is a very sticky substance that adheres to your teeth thus covering over your enamel. This layer over your teeth may prevent the whitening gel from coming into direct contact with your teeth. This can certainly reduce the effectiveness of the whitening.
Hopefully that answers all of your questions in regards to whether or not it may influence your bleaching procedure. Just as a fun fact in case you were curious since some people ask about it but fluoride does not whiten your teeth!