Everyone wants a bright, white smile. The question is: What’s the best way to achieve that goal? Many people turn toward whitening strips in the hope of obtaining that dazzling smile, but do whitening strips work? The answer depends on the type of whitening strips used and the level of teeth staining.
What Are Whitening Strips?
Whitening strips use a gel to achieve teeth bleaching. Over-the-counter whitening strips can make teeth appear whiter and are considered safe. These strips contain either hydrogen or carbamide peroxide at much lower concentrations than whitening strips available from in-office dental treatments or prescribed at-home treatments.
What are Whitening Strips Made Of?
Whitening strips are made of polyethylene, a plastic. The strip is covered with hydrogen or carbamide peroxide, along with other chemicals. These include:
- An adhesive polymer to keep the strip stuck on the teeth.
- Pyrophosphate as a stain shield.
- Sodium hydroxide for pH balance.
- Sodium saccharine to make strips taste good.
Do Whitening Strips Work to Whiten Teeth?
With whitening strips, most people experience teeth lightening of about one shade. Those results are considerably less when compared with professional whitening.
The peroxide in the whitening strips penetrates the tooth enamel and enters the dentin — the layer surrounding the tooth’s pulp. Once peroxide enters the dentin, it bleaches the pigmented molecules known as chromogens which cause staining.
OTC teeth whitening strips are less expensive than having teeth whitened at the dentist, but remember you get what you pay for. Side effects of OTC whitening strips include:
- Uneven results — Teeth that are crooked or out of proportion to other teeth may whiten unevenly.
- Enamel harm.
- Irritated gums.
- Temporary tooth sensitivity.
Keep in mind that whitening strips work only on natural teeth. So, use on implants and dentures is not advised.
One caveat: There are some home whitening strips containing chlorine dioxide. This acid is used in swimming pool disinfection. Although formally deemed safe, these strips are potentially riskier because chlorine dioxide may remove tooth enamel. Using this type of teeth whitener can make re-staining more likely.
Tooth Stain Types
Tooth stains are either extrinsic or intrinsic. The first refers to stains caused by frequent consumption of items such as coffee, tea, wine, sodas or frequent tobacco use. The second consists of stains beneath the tooth’s surface. Such stains are caused by particles working their way into the tooth enamel. The discoloration is actually found in the dentin. Genetics, high levels of fluoride exposure and enamel erosion over time can also result in intrinsic staining.
Whitening strips can work on both stain types. However, they are far less effective on the intrinsic variety.
When to Consider Using Whitening Strips
OTC whitening strips may prove the best choice if you are aiming for a slightly lighter tooth shade. Your teeth could be relatively white, but there’s always room for improvement. Only use those whitening strips carrying American Dental Association approval on the package.
How To Use Whitening Strips
Before using whitening strips, read the instructions carefully and follow them exactly. Not all brands have the same instructions. Brush the teeth beforehand, as indicated. That’s generally about 30 minutes before applying the strips, so saliva can remove excess fluoride from the toothpaste.
Follow the directions to ensure you are applying the proper strips to the upper and lower teeth. The side of the strip with the gel must cover all of the teeth or whitening will be uneven. The strips should not cover the gums because this causes irritation.
After applying the whitening strips, leave them on only for the time allotted in the instructions. Leaving them on longer will not make teeth whiter and could harm enamel. Rinse and brush as instructed. You should see results from most OTC whitening strips within a few days.
Professional Teeth Whitening
When you opt for dental office teeth whitening, expect better, faster results and noticeably whiter teeth. This happens because your teeth whitening plan is customized for your needs.
On average, teeth appear three shades lighter after in-office whitening compared to OTC whitening strips. The entire process takes an hour or less.
In-office treatment starts with the dentist placing a gingival barrier on the mouth. This acts to protect the gums. A hydrogen peroxide gel is then applied to the teeth.
For those whose teeth are badly discolored, it is wise to seek dental recommendations for teeth whitening rather than waste money on OTC products. When teeth are quite discolored, follow-up treatments are sometimes necessary.
When it comes to teeth whitening, a personal consultation can make all the difference. So can dental monitoring rather than the DIY approach. Find out about various teeth whitening options.
If you would like more information about whitening strips and other teeth whitening procedures, contact the team at West Coast Dental today. We will answer all of your questions to help you thoroughly understand the procedure.
American Dental Association (ADA) – Whitening