How Teeth Whitening Strips Work

For many people, yellow teeth are problematic and cause unwanted attention. As we age, our teeth darken naturally. However, surface stains from the foods we eat and tobacco use can cause the teeth to darken even further resulting in varying shades of grey and yellow. There are many ways to whiten the teeth. You may have seen whitening strips available at the pharmacy. Most over-the-counter whitening products are deemed safe by Health Canada — but that doesn’t mean they won’t harm your mouth or work at all.

What are whitening strips made of?

The over-the-counter whitening strips you get at the drugstore are made of synthetic plastic known as polyethylene. This is the same material used in plastic bags, food containers and packaging. The plastic is cut into small flexible strips that are coated with a gel rich in hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. The peroxides are the whitening agents in the strips. The strips also contain water, glycerin, carbomer, an adhesive polymer known as PVP, a thickening agent called acrylates copolymer, sodium saccharin for taste, pyrophosphate for stain shielding, and sodium hydroxide to keep the pH in the strips neutral. The chemicals used in over-the-counter whitening strips are safe in small doses but they don’t always come together and work when they are in limited amounts.

How do whitening strips work?

Each strip is coated in the mixture of chemicals noted above. You place one strip over your top teeth and the other over the bottom teeth. The mixture on the strips seeps into the teeth to lighten them. You generally leave the strips on for a set period of time. Each brand has a different time so consult the instructions that come with the whiteners. Most over-the-counter whitening kits contain enough strips for you to use them twice daily for approximately two weeks. Be wary of products that claim they can whiten the teeth immediately or within a few hours. These products usually do not work and do more damage to your teeth than good.

The Impact of Whitening Strips on Your Teeth?

If you use whitening strips correctly and sparingly, your teeth will be fine. However, If you misuse over-the-counter whiteners, your teeth and gums could become impacted.

Teeth: Your teeth can become sensitive to cold or heat after using whitening strips. However, if you have cavities while using whitening strips, they could become aggravated and get worse.

Gums: The chemicals used in the whitening strips are safe – but if you overdo it and use the strips more than directed, your gums can be impacted. The strips aren’t designed to fit your mouth alone, they are designed to fit every mouth. These one-size-fits-all strips can be too big for your mouth and sit over the gums causing them to become inflamed.

Spots: Over-the-counter strips feature a one dimensional design, yet our teeth are three dimensional. This means the strips aren’t able to penetrate the curves and spaces that are found at the edges of our teeth. Instead of a uniform whiteness across teeth, you get a white spot in the middle of the each tooth while the edges of the teeth remain yellow. The spots at the centre of each tooth will greatly contrast with the yellow edges, making them (the edges) stand out.

What is the ideal way to whiten teeth?

The ideal way to whiten your teeth is to visit your dentist for a comprehensive whitening procedure. If you must use whitening strips, check with your dentist beforehand. They can recommend a brand that they trust. You should also be prepared to see limited results with over-the-counter whitening strips. They can work but they don’t always.

For more information about our teeth whitening procedures, please contact Dawson Dental. Pearly whites are in your future!