Do Teeth Whitening Strips Work?

In the quest for a brighter smile, teeth whitening strips have become a popular choice for many. Brightening up your teeth is a great way to enhance your smile and give you a confidence boost, but do these convenient, over-the-counter products really work? And if they do, how effective are they compared to other whitening methods? In this blog, we’ll explore the science behind teeth whitening strips, and investigate their effectiveness, potential side effects, and tips for getting the best results.

If you visit your local pharmacy, you’ll likely see many products claiming to whiten your teeth. Home teeth whitening products have been available for years, and now they’re more popular than ever. But do teeth whitening strips and other whitening products actually work? The short answer is yes, they can help. Teeth whitening strips can whiten your teeth by a shade or two and can act in as little as a few days. But home products aren’t usually as effective or long-lasting as proper dental whitening techniques. They also come with some risks which we will discuss in more detail soon.

Types of At-Home Whitening Products
There are 3 main types of whitening which you can do yourself at home: whitening toothpastes, whitening strips, and bleaching trays. Whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes are by far the cheapest method of home teeth whitening but they’re also the least effective in the short term. This is because they contain only minuscule amounts of whitening agents such as hydrogen or carbamide peroxide and so the results are barely noticeable, although they are good at removing any surface stains. On the other hand, bleaching trays and whitening strips can produce quite noticeable results in as little as a couple of weeks.

How do Whitening Strips Work?
Teeth whitening strips are thin, flexible pieces of plastic coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel. The active ingredient, usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, penetrates the enamel to remove stains and lighten the colour of your teeth. Here’s a breakdown of how they work and how to use the strips:

Application: The strips are designed to fit snugly over your teeth. You simply apply them directly to the surface of your teeth, usually for a specified amount of time each day such as 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Whitening: The peroxide in the gel breaks down into oxygen molecules, which penetrate the enamel and break apart the molecules that cause stains on the teeth. This process lightens the colour of your teeth over time.
Removal: After the recommended time, you remove the strips and dispose of them. The residual gel can be brushed off, leaving your teeth looking brighter.

How Long do Whitening Strips Take to Work?
Most whitening strips come in packs of 28, which equates to one strip per row of teeth for 14 nights. Typically a person would wear the strips for about half an hour each day and can usually notice a difference in the whiteness of their teeth in the first week. However, they’re not effective on stains caused by antibiotics or fluoride poisoning and they won’t lighten dental restorations. Whitening strips can target stains caused by aging, genetics, smoking, or coffee, and these are generally the fastest to respond to bleaching. Yellowish aging stains also respond well.

Whitening strips may be best used when you’re trying to make a small touch-up to your tooth colour. For more significant changes, you might want to consider professional whitening from a dentist. A dentist can use stronger bleaches and give you a custom treatment best suited to your needs.

Professional Teeth Whitening with Toothfairy
Professional teeth whitening does cost more but with that comes supervision from an experienced dentist and a quality of product which far exceeds anything you can buy over the counter. Toothfairy offers prescription-grade whitening gel designed by our dentists, which is the strongest, most effective and safest whitening gel available. We combine this with our Halo LED Light device to accelerate the whitening process and give patients a sparkling white smile as quickly and easily as possible.

Our home whitening kits use custom made trays or aligners to fit your mouth exactly, unlike the generic trays which over the counter kits contain. This keeps the gel securely in place on the teeth and prevents any gel from leaking out and blistering your mouth and gums. The trays are to be worn for one hour per day, with impressive results usually seen in around two weeks. Plus, the gel and trays can be used for top-up treatments whenever needed.

Potential Side Effects of Whitening Strips
While teeth whitening strips are generally safe for most people, they can cause some side effects:
Tooth Sensitivity: Some users experience increased sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures during and after treatment. This usually subsides after completing the treatment, and can be helped by using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
Gum Irritation: The peroxide gel can irritate the gums if it comes into contact with them. Ensuring the strips are properly aligned can help minimise this risk.
Uneven Whitening: Strips may not cover all areas of the teeth evenly, especially near the gum line or between teeth, potentially leading to uneven whitening.

Teeth whitening strips can be an effective and convenient way to brighten your smile, especially for surface stains. While they may not be as powerful and permanent as professional treatments, they offer a good balance of efficiency, convenience, and affordability. By understanding how they work and following best practices, you can achieve noticeable results and enjoy a whiter smile, whilst maintaining your tooth health by being mindful of proper use. If you have any concerns or persistent issues, don’t hesitate to consult with your dentist for personalised advice and treatment options.


Last updated on June 27, 2024

Dr. Deepak Aulak

Dr. Deepak Aulak is a London-based dental practitioner with a special interest in cosmetic dentistry. Having graduated from King's College London in Dentistry, Dr. Aulak was decorated with over a dozen awards and scholarships along the way, which notably include the Jelf Medal, Malleson Prize for research and GKT Hospital's Full Shields.


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