Like most other whitening treatments, whitening strips use chemicals to treat your teeth. They contain bleaching agents, which penetrate below the surface and react with stains to remove them. Whitening compounds from the strips can seep into your teeth, treating stains that are below the surface.
Whitening strips are less likely to hurt your teeth than harsher treatments are. They are also cheaper than in-office treatments, and you can use them at home without having to go to the dentist. You do not need a prescription to buy whitening strips.
Sometimes, you might need to go to the dentist to get rid of your stains, or you might need to use an at-home bleaching tray and not merely whitening strips. Laser treatments can also be necessary. However, whitening strips are often enough. You may want to try whitening strips before you consider a more expensive treatment.
How Do Teeth Whitening Strips Work?
Teeth sometimes become stained due to exposure to chromogens such as red wine or coffee. These chromogens can stain your teeth by changing the color of the enamel and dentin. This occurs slowly and gets worse over time.
Whitening strips work by oxidation, which breaks down stains. Oxidation is a chemical reaction where a chemical combines with oxygen and becomes different.
When hydrogen peroxide reacts with substances that discolor your teeth, they break them apart and eliminate them. The other main whitening chemical, carbide peroxide, works the same way.
Some dentists also use light, lasers, and heat combined with whitening chemicals to treat your teeth. This will activate the chemicals and make them break down stains better. Bright light can speed up these chemical reactions.
How Do You Use Whitening Strips?
First, you might want to make sure your teeth are healthy first. If you don’t go to a dentist regularly and have problems, even a relatively gentle treatment might not be completely safe.
If your teeth are reasonably healthy, you can start right away. Read the instructions and brush your teeth before you use the strips. The instructions are not always the same, and brushing can prevent food from getting trapped between the strips and your teeth.
After brushing, wait half an hour to make sure the toothpaste is off of your teeth. If you prepare your teeth properly, the strips will work better. You might even use a cloth to dry your teeth before applying the whitening strips.
Put the side of the strip with gel on it on your teeth; it won’t work if you use the wrong side. Do it slowly and carefully the first time. You might need to use different strips for different parts of your mouth. Make sure the strip completely covers your teeth without touching your gums.
After putting the strips on as regularly and evenly as possible, you need to wait roughly 30 minutes (check the instructions, it is not always close to 30 minutes) for the strips to work. You might try breathing through your mouth during this time because you want to keep your mouth as dry as possible.
After the time runs out, remove the strips. Don’t leave them on for longer than necessary for the sake of whitening your teeth faster. Whitening strips are a relatively gentle treatment, but they might irritate your mouth if you leave the strips on for too long.
Whitening Strips Are Safe
Along with simple baking soda or whitening toothpaste, whitening strips are a gentle way to treat your teeth. Stroger treatments can irritate your teeth and gums and may even dehydrate or damage your teeth. Harsher teeth whitening can affect your teeth by:
- Irritating your gums, or irritating other soft tissues such as your cheeks
- Cause chemical burns (if you use a powerful at-home bleaching kit for too long)
- Cause pain in your cavities (you can avoid this by getting your cavities filled first)
- Damage the root, if the bleaching agent reaches it through a cavity
- Make your teeth sensitive to heat, cold, and certain foods and beverages
While most people can go to the dentist and have their teeth whitened without serious side effects, there are risks involved. You can minimize these risks if you use gentler treatments.
Safer at-home treatments are often enough to get your teeth white, so you don’t have to take any risks. Whitening strips are also cheap, much cheaper than in-office treatments.