Whiten your smile with strips. They’re easy to apply and can be used repeatedly, but there are some things you should know about them before taking the plunge into whiteness. Here’s how they work — and what happens if they don’t.
White teeth have always been a symbol of beauty. In ancient times, kings wore white or pale-colored crowns because it made their skin look whiter. And even today, people in Asia wear bright colors like red, yellow, green, blue, orange, pinks, and purples for cosmetic reasons. The idea is that bright colors reflect more light onto the wearer’s face, giving their complexion an airbrushed appearance.
While these trends may seem far removed from modern American culture, where most people want to appear more tan than pale, we still find ourselves wanting whiter teeth– which brings us right back to those little strips of paper that were popularized by JCPenney back in the 1990s.
When it comes to using teeth whitening products, many Americans prefer getting them from home rather than the dentist. But do they give results, as well as dentists say they will? Let’s take a closer look.
Should You Use Teeth Whitening Strips?
Before you decide whether you’ll try one of these strips, let’s discuss why anyone would choose this option compared to visiting a dental office. It all has to do with cost. Dental procedures involving fillings, crowns, bridges, root canal therapy, gum surgery, implants, orthodontic treatments, and other significant surgeries usually involve multiple visits to the practitioner.
Those visits often add up to hundreds of dollars per visit. If you go through the process of having several appointments with your dentist, then follow up with additional tooth bleaching sessions at home (usually around $100 each), you could end up spending thousands on getting your teeth as white as possible.
Going to the dentist may cost more money, but it also offers professional care, expertise, and advice. At least, that’s part of the reason why so many people love seeing their dentist regularly for routine maintenance.
However, if you’d rather spend less money on something that works effectively, then teeth whitening strips might be worth considering. These options typically offer safe, inexpensive ways to achieve significant amounts of visible brightness without risking side effects associated with higher-priced methods such as laser treatment or prescription mouth rinses. Additionally, since you apply the product yourself every day, you won’t need to make any trips to the dentist.
Some studies show that whitened coloration achieved with strips tends to fade significantly after six months. However, maintaining the white appearance can be extended with proper care and avoiding foods and drinks that can restain your smile.
No evidence suggests patients who use strips experience greater sensitivity or irritation than others when appropriately applied. So although the strips certainly aren’t perfect, they could be considered an excellent alternative to expensive and time-consuming procedures depending upon your needs.
Now that we’ve discussed why people use whitening strips, let’s talk about how long you leave them on your teeth.
How Long Do You Leave Whitening Strips on Your Teeth?
The best way to reach the whitest smile achievable is by using the strips until one or the other is reached first; you reach a level of satisfaction, or your teeth no longer get any whiter. One thing you shouldn’t do is stop applying strips altogether once you start noticing results.
It is crucial to follow the directions for the whitening strips and not wear them longer than the maximum amount of time for each use. Extended wear could irritate your gums, create a hot or cold sensitivity in your teeth, or possibly both.
Most teeth whitening strips are recommended to be worn for fifteen to thirty minutes at a time. Some individuals will notice whiter teeth immediately, while others may take longer to see a color change.
Depending on the amount of tooth discoloration, aftercare, and personal hygiene habits, it could take anywhere from one strip to one whole container or even multiple packages to reach the level of white you are seeking.
If you start to notice any new or increased tooth sensitivity, irritation, bleeding, or gum discoloration, stop using the strips and consult your dentist as soon as possible. Whitening strips are generally not harmful, but everyone’s teeth and gums are not the same and may react differently.
Should You Brush Your Teeth Before Using Whitening Strips?
The simple answer is yes. To achieve the whitest smile possible, you want to whiten your teeth, not the daily build-up and leftover food particles that have accrued from eating and drinking. There are two methods of brushing your teeth that work equally well depending on the amount of discoloration you are battling.
Method one is to brush your teeth using only a wet toothbrush. This method works for early risers who brushed and flossed the night before and prefer to whiten their teeth in the morning before the day begins.
Without using any toothpaste, wet the toothbrush and brush as usual. The gentle strokes of the bristles along the teeth will open the pores, allowing the whitening agent in the strips to do its job. After brushing, rinse your mouth with clean water and when ready, apply the whitening strips. Set a timer for the designated time found in the directions for the strips.
When the timer is done, remove the strips, and wait for at least thirty minutes before brushing your teeth with toothpaste.
Method two is to brush your teeth using toothpaste as you usually do. As we eat and drink throughout the day, we start to build a daily plaque layer on our teeth, and without flossing, we can easily have food debris stuck between teeth after every meal.
Brushing with toothpaste will remove the daily build-up and allow the whitening strips to reach the tooth quicker than breaking through plaque first. It is important to wait for at least thirty minutes after brushing before applying whitening strips to not irritate your gums or cause unnecessary tooth sensitivity.
Method two works best for individuals who do not have time to whiten their teeth in the morning or for those who prefer to whiten later in the day or before bed.
If there is an unpleasant aftertaste from the whitening strips, it is safe to brush and floss afterward. Make sure to wait for at least thirty minutes before brushing with a soft-bristle toothbrush to avoid gum irritation.
How Do Teeth Whitening Strips Work?
The active ingredient in whitening strips is hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. By itself, the cariostatic properties of hydrogen peroxide are weak, making more substantial concentrations necessary to treat severe cases.
However, pure carbamide peroxide must undergo special processing to become effective because of its low solubility. Manufacturers employ various hydrates to increase the compound’s ability to penetrate pores.
Hydrates are salts derived from combining urea with acids, including sodium hydroxide, citric acid, lactic acid, phosphoric acid, maleic acid, hydrochloric acid, and sulfamic acid. Carbamide peroxides are volatile molecules that break down quickly after entering our cells.
Therefore, unless stored properly, strips lose effectiveness over time. One way of maintaining stability is storing strips in small foil envelopes lined with silica gel beads. Silica is porous, allowing moisture to escape the oxygen barrier surrounding the strips.
Although strips contain various chemicals, the primary purpose behind their unique formulas is to release oxygen radicals. Oxygen-free radicals are atoms containing unpaired electrons. Normally stable, these elements react strongly with organic compounds, and this is when the whitening agent can begin to work.
As the peroxide comes in contact with the teeth, it works similar to how bleach is used to brighten white laundry. The whitening gel from the strips removes surface stains, and in some cases, it further saturates into the enamel and dentin to clear up intrinsic stains.
With proper instruction and supervision, teeth whitening strips represent safer alternatives to dangerous lasers and pricey prescriptions or procedures.