Whitening strips are a popular dental product that may help remove stains from and whiten the teeth. While they are not as effective as treatments from a dentist’s office, they can be a more simple and cheap alternative. However, people should take care to check the ingredients of the strips and apply them carefully.

Teeth can be an important part of a person’s self-image. Inevitably, teeth begin to yellow with age, but people can use various techniques to slow the process. Among these techniques are whitening strips, which people can purchase over the counter (OTC) and use to help remove stains and whiten teeth.

People apply whitening strips directly to their teeth. Although the strips contain chemicals, such as carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, the American Dental Association (ADA) states that they are safe and effective if they bear the ADA Seal of Acceptance. However, people may experience adverse effects when using any whitening products.

In this article, we look at whether whitening strips work, what to look for when buying them, how to use them, their pros and cons, and how to avoid teeth staining.

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According to the ADA, teeth whitening products, including strips, can help effectively remove both internal and external stains on teeth. However, they do not work on fake teeth. A 2020 review also states that teeth whitening strips are an effective OTC agent that typically works better than other OTC whitening agents, such as whitening toothpaste.

However, it is important to note that at-home whitening strips contain lower concentrations of whitening ingredients than dentist-supplied products. People with heavily stained teeth or high expectations may not get the results they want using OTC whitening strips.

Additionally, the effectiveness of the strips may rely on the strength of the chemicals and how long people keep them on the teeth. Evidence suggests, though, that using teeth whitening products that contain hydrogen peroxide can endanger tooth health. Therefore, it may be advisable to discuss the use of these products with a dentist.

When shopping for whitening strips, people may wish to consider the following:

  • Ingredients: People should opt for products that contain proven effective ingredients, including carbamide and hydrogen peroxide.
  • Dentist approval: It is advisable to look for products with approval from dental organizations, such as those with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
  • Customer reviews: People can also check online reviews to see what others have to say about a product. A comparison of before and after photos can provide an accurate view of what to expect from a particular brand of whitening strip. Additionally, a person can ask their dentist for specific advice.

People should carefully read any information on the product’s packaging and instructions before using whitening strips.

However, a person typically applies the strips directly to their teeth. Manufacturers may recommend avoiding brushing the teeth shortly before applying the strips. A person will then leave the strips on their teeth for the recommended length of time. This duration may vary among products, but it is common to leave the strips on for about 30 minutes.

Manufacturers may also recommend the ideal frequency of use for their whitening strips. A standard recommendation is to apply whitening strips twice daily for 2 weeks.

However, these instructions may vary depending on the product. Therefore, a person should follow the guidelines on the packaging and never wear the strips for longer than the manufacturer suggests.

The pros of using whitening strips may include:

  • effective whitening
  • ease of use
  • no need to visit the dentist
  • affordable

While there are advantages to using whitening strips, there are also some downsides. These include:

  • The strips can cause side effects, such as tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. However, sensitivity is less likely to occur with at-home bleaching than it is with in-office procedures.
  • As whitening strips use bleaching agents to achieve their effects, the overuse of these products can damage the teeth.
  • Some people might not get the results they want with at-home whitening strips, which may not have dramatic effects. A person may have to do several sessions to get noticeable results.
  • It can be difficult to keep the strips in place, so using them might be fiddly.
  • Whitening sessions can take roughly 30 minutes, so using them requires time and patience.

People are more likely to experience side effects if they do not follow the manufacturer’s instructions for a product. If a person has gum disease or another dental disease, they should consult a dentist before trying OTC whitening strips.

There are various reasons why teeth may stain over time. These include:

  • high intake of certain foods and drinks, such as coffee, red wine, and tea
  • use of tobacco products
  • medications, such as allergy medications and blood pressure drugs
  • wear and tear due to aging or trauma

People can attempt to avoid staining by limiting their consumption of foods and drinks that are known to discolor teeth. They can also try to stop smoking or chewing tobacco, if applicable. If medications are the culprit, a doctor may be able to recommend alternatives if they are available.

There are two categories of dental whitening products: those available through a dentist and those for sale OTC.

Aside from whitening strips, other products available OTC include:

A person can also get whitening products or services through their dentist. Dentist-supplied whitening products are usually more concentrated. The options available directly from dentists include:

  • custom dental trays with bleaching gels, for either at-home or in-office application
  • light-activated bleaching, which is an in-office procedure
  • power bleaching

Some people prefer to use natural products to remove stains, but most reports of effectiveness are anecdotal at best. However, evidence does suggest that baking soda can help whiten teeth. A 2017 review concludes that brushing with baking soda-based toothpaste or powder is an effective and safe way to remove stains and whiten teeth.

Similar to the possible risks of carbamide and hydrogen peroxide, it is important to apply caution if using certain products that people sometimes recommend, such as fruit juices, vinegar, or scrubs. These may instead cause damage to the teeth or make staining even worse.

Learn more about natural ways to whiten teeth.

Teeth whitening products, such as whitening strips, are generally safe to use and can be a beneficial and cost effective way to remove stains from the teeth. However, it is important that people use them correctly to avoid adverse effects.

Some people may experience gum irritation and tooth sensitivity after using whitening products. In some cases, if people use them incorrectly, these products may damage the enamel on the teeth and result in long-term complications.

People considering the use of teeth whitening products may wish to discuss them with their dentist. It is also important to check user reviews, dentists’ recommendations, and ingredient lists.

People should also set their expectations and understand that it may take time to achieve noticeable results. Although at-home bleaching products work, they may not produce results equal to those of in-office bleaching procedures.