You’ve seen the advertisements and the Hollywood smiles touting the convenience and effectiveness of at-home whitening strips. You’ve considered giving them a try yourself but first you want to know, do they really work? It’s a fair question and today I’m covering everything you need to know about over-the-counter (OTC) whitening strips.
There are many reasons our teeth can become discolored; Age, trauma, medications, tobacco and the foods we eat and drink can all contribute to tooth discoloration. In some situations, this discoloration can be treated with whitening agents and give you back the brighter, more vibrant smile you’ve been looking for.
In this post, we’ll cover all aspects of whitening strips and answer your most critical questions so you can have a complete understanding of what they are and how they work and can make an informed decision about tooth whitening.
Benefits to using whitening strips
Whitening strips are less expensive than bleaching treatments performed in the dental office and are the economical choice. Retail stores sell them for $25-$40 whereas laser whitening from the dentist can cost upwards to $1200.
Easy to use, whitening strips are simply applied over the top of the teeth with no preparation. Whitening kits tend to get a little messy and require you to prepare the gel, place in a tray and then insert in the mouth.
Whitening strips are often preferred because of how convenient they are to use. Not only can you easily take them anywhere, you only need to wear them for five to thirty minutes; instead of a couple of hours which is standard for most whitening kits.
Are whitening strips safe?
Yes and no. Most whitening products use a bleaching agent that contains peroxide and does carry a risk for side effects; with the most common being tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. These side effects will usually dissipate after treatment stops. On rare occasions, permanent tooth damage has occurred. Limited research has been done on long-term use of at-home bleaching products.
The concentration and type of active ingredient in whitening products determines how safe a product is. You’ll find that products approved by the ADA contain 10 percent of carbamide peroxide and is deemed safe; under the assumption that the products are used correctly and you assume the risk of side effects.
Avoid using whitening strips that contain chlorine dioxide, it could destroy the enamel on your teeth.Recent stories have brought to light concerns about using chlorine dioxide based products because of the harmful erosion that occurs.
When shopping for over-the-counter products always look for the ADA Seal of Acceptanceto ensure you are getting a product that has been evaluated and is safe.
Will whitening strips work for everyone?
Although whitening strips can brighten teeth in some circumstances it’s not a solution for everyone. Whitening strips will not alter the shade of dental restorations nor will it treat discoloration that is a result of tooth trauma, antibiotic use, tooth decay or imperfections in the enamel. As a normal part of the aging process our teeth can change color over time; surface stains can benefit from whitening agents but only if the teeth and gums are in a healthy condition to begin with.
Can I use whitening strips with dental work?
If you want to whiten the surrounding teeth, then yes, you can place the whitening strips over top of your existing dental work. However, whitening strips will not alter the shade of dental restorations. Your dental restorations were custom made to achieve a specific shade; the materials used and the fabrication process ensures a permanent shade of the restoration. Your only solution to alter the shade would be to replace it with a new one.
How do whitening strips work?
Whitening strips work similar to how bleach whitens your clothes or hair. The peroxide penetrates the surface and bleaches the color from your teeth to allow your natural, whiter color to shine through.
Fairly easy to use, most whitening strips are coated with a gel that contains peroxide (some more than others) and you simply apply the strip to your teeth so that the peroxide coating comes in contact with the enamel. You simply apply and remove according to the packaged directions. Whitening strips continue to increase in popularity because they are so easy to use.
Things you should be aware of when using whitening strips
- Because strips do not cover the entire tooth surface you may experience uneven whitening.
- Bleaching agents could cause damage to gums; you may experience irritation, inflammation or discoloration of the soft tissue.
- Overuse can result in erosion of the tooth enamel and cause permanent tooth damage. Some will be more sensitive than others.
- Immediately after treatment you may see white spots appear on the surface. This is a result of a loss of water from the tooth enamel. It’s not harmful and will go away.
- You may experience excess saliva or foaming while wearing the whitening strips, this is a normal reaction to the peroxide coming in contact with your saliva.
How long before the whitening strips start to work?
Each person is unique and will experience different results. The whitening strips will go to work immediately bleaching the color from your enamel. On average you should start to see a noticeable difference in 5-7 days.
How long will the whitening last?
Manufacturers say that your habits will determine how long treatment lasts. Coffee, tea, wine and tobacco can cause tooth discoloration and dull a bright smile. Consumers report that whitening from strips, on average, lasts approximately 12 months; could be more or less depending on diet, oral habits and hygiene.
You can help your teeth stay whiter longer by following a good oral health regimen that includes brushing, flossing and rinsing; Get regular cleaning and exams from your dentist, limit intake of foods that can stain teeth and avoid tobacco completely.
How do whitening strips compare to professional whitening?
Compared to professional whitening at the dental office, whitening strips continue to increase in popularity because they are convenient and cost less. However, they can be awkward to use, provide uneven results and usually only bleach the front six teeth.
Whitening in the dentist office is performed in a controlled environment and produces a much better result. The dentist not only ensures your teeth and gums are whitening ready, they use proven products and can recommend a whitening solution that meets your unique situation.
In today’s world, dentists now have a wide variety of effective options at their fingertips and because of this they can offer a customized treatment plan to give you the beautiful, brighter smile you deserve.
Before starting any whitening treatment it’s important to see your dentist and have your teeth and gums evaluated. Bleaching agents will not work on damaged or infected teeth and you should address any oral health concerns prior to starting whitening.
The best way to maintain a bright healthy smile is through proper care and prevention. Sometimes, the best of care isn’t enough to maintain healthy teeth and genetics can play a role in your overall oral health. Don’t be afraid to discuss your concerns with your dentist. They can devise a treatment plan that caters to your unique situation and it is possible to have a smile you can be proud of.
According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Americans spend 1.4 billion dollars annually on teeth whitening products and with much success. Results from whitening strips vary and some persons will benefit. Before spending money on any product schedule an appointment with your dentist; your greatest chance at whitening success is starting with a healthy mouth.