Teeth whitening is increasing in popularity, and many brands of whitening strips are popping up on shelves in grocery stores and pharmacies. If you’re dreaming of a whiter smile, you may wonder if these teeth whitening strips actually work.
At Shawnessy Dental, we care about our patient’s smiles and want to ensure their most optimal oral health. We’ve examined the ingredients of many teeth whitening products, and have determined that store-bought teeth whitening strips will do the job, but may not be the most effective teeth whitening method.
Why Are My Teeth Stained?
Teeth staining can be divided into 2 categories:
Extrinsic staining typically affects the tooth’s enamel and can be caused by external factors like:
- Dark-coloured food and drinks like coffee, juices, wine, and dark berries
- Certain antibiotics
Intrinsic stains affect the inner dentin layer of the tooth, and may result from:
- Enamel erosion
- Certain antibiotics
The Science of Whitening Strips
Teeth whitening strips are thin strips of plastic coated with whitening gel. The primary types of gel used in whitening strips are carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. The amount of peroxide will vary by brand and strength of the treatment.
The peroxides in whitening strips penetrate the tooth’s enamel and are absorbed into the inner dentin layer, which houses pigment molecules called chromogens. When the peroxides from whitening strips bleach the tooths’ chromogens, it can result in less stained and lighter teeth.
Whitening strips are applied to the front of the teeth and moulded to fit. The strips will stay on your teeth for a specific time, allowing the peroxide gel to penetrate the teeth gradually. If treatment is effective, teeth may appear less stained and whitened over a few days to a few weeks.
Whitening at Home
When appropriately used, teeth whitening strips can be a cost-effective way to brighten your smile.
Before purchasing whitening strips, you should:
- Do an ingredient check: Each teeth-whitening product will have different ingredients, formulas and bleach concentrations.
- Look at application times: If you have sensitive teeth, you may want to shorten your exposure time to minimize irritation.
Speak to your dentist before using an at-home teeth whitening kit. If you have issues with oral health or sensitive teeth, at-home teeth whitening products can easily irritate your gums and teeth. A dental professional can help you find a brand with the right ingredients for your smile.
Use Products Carefully
Ensure you are closely following the directions, and read labels carefully for the warnings and side effects of your chosen teeth whitening products.
Misuse or overuse of whitening strips can result in:
- Damage to the gums: White strips can occasionally cause chemical reactions in the mouth’s soft tissue, resulting in damage and inflammation. Do not let teeth whitening strips touch your gums during the application process.
- Damage to the teeth: Excessive whitening can soften the tooth’s enamel, resulting in further discolouration.
- Irritation: Whitening agents like peroxide penetrate the tooth’s enamel, which can easily aggravate the nerves and gums.
At Shawnessy Dental, we recommend consulting a dental professional before using whitening strips.
If you’re interested in a whiter smile, but are not convinced that at-home treatments will work, you may want to consider professional teeth whitening at your dental office.
Professional teeth whitening is a more expensive, but typically more effective solution. The products used at your dentist’s office are of higher quality than the kits available at the drug store or supermarket, and professional whitening lasts longer than at-home treatments.
The application is performed by an experienced dental professional and is closely supervised. Most dental offices will offer desensitizers or gels to alleviate any discomfort during the procedure.
Yes, store-bought teeth whitening strips do work, but only to a certain point. These products can remove surface stains and lightly whiten your teeth.
However, the concentration of whitening ingredients in at-home products is relatively low. They are not as effective as the results of a professional teeth whitening performed by a dental professional, where there are higher concentrations of bleaching agents and skilled application.
Prolong Your Whiter Smile
Whether you decide to use at-home whitening strips or a professional treatment, you’ll want to make sure that your smile stays bright for as long as possible.
Here are Shawnessy Dental’s tips to help extend the effects of teeth whitening:
- Indulge in tooth-healthy foods like cheese, apples, celery, and yogurt.
- Brush or rinse teeth after consuming teeth-staining foods like tomatoes and dark berries.
- Drink with a straw to help protect teeth from liquids that cause discolouration like black coffee, tea, wine, and fruit juices.
- Avoid cigarettes, and other stain-causing tobacco products.
Consult a Professional
Your dentist has insight into your dental history and oral health, and can help you find the most effective options for whitening your smile. If you have gum disease, sensitive teeth, or cavities, your dentist may hesitate to recommend at-home whitening strips until these issues are resolved.
If you have additional questions about teeth whitening strips, or other products and procedures for whiter teeth, contact the team at Shawnessy Dental. And don’t forget to keep smiling!