Teeth whitening strips are a popular and cost-effective way to whiten your teeth at home.
Most strips are made of a flexible plastic substance that is coated with a thin layer of bleaching gel. This gel is typically made of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide.
Carbamide peroxide penetrates your enamel and reaches the discolored molecules inside your teeth. The whitening agent's oxygen molecules interact with the discolored teeth molecules, gently lifting stains. Carbamide peroxide breaks down slower than hydrogen peroxide, so it is safer to use and produces less post-whitening sensitivity.
Natural whitening strips do not contain peroxide or chemicals. Instead, they use botanicals and essential oils to lift stains gradually.
As you apply whitening strips to your top and bottom teeth, the gel firmly presses against them. It is held in place by the plastic strips to prevent slipping. You’ll leave the strips on for up to 30 minutes (depending on the brand). During this time, the gel penetrates your tooth enamel, gradually lifting stains and brightening your smile.
Depending on how discolored your teeth are, you may need to apply the whitening strips daily for two to three weeks. After the desired shade is achieved, you only have to use them every once in a while to maintain brightness.
Most directions for whitening strips consist of the same basic steps. Make sure you read the instructions carefully before applying, as they can vary.
In general, this is how you should apply whitening strips:
Whitening strips that contain hydrogen or carbamide peroxide have been shown to whiten teeth over time.1, 2, 3 When the manufacturer's instructions are followed, peroxide-based teeth whitening products are also safe to use.1
Read below to learn how whitening strips compare to other popular treatments:
LED teeth whitening kits incorporate a special light that has been shown to speed up the whitening process. Whitening strips do not use a light.
Keep in mind that an LED light will not whiten your teeth if used alone. It helps speed up the bleaching process when combined with a whitening agent (peroxide). When this interaction occurs, the blue LED light penetrates your tooth enamel and removes stains.
One study found that an LED light reduced treatment time and sensitivity by 53 percent.4 It took the non-light group over two hours to achieve the desired whiteness. The LED light group saw the same results after 72 minutes.4
Although LED whitening kits can lift teeth stains quickly, they are more expensive and time-consuming to use (up to $200 per kit). Whitening strips cost between $20 and $50 for 14 or more treatments.
Professional whitening occurs in a dental office, where you’ll be closely monitored for a pain-free and controlled whitening experience. Whitening strips are used at your discretion and have a higher risk for side effects (e.g., tooth sensitivity and gum irritation).
Unlike at-home whitening systems that use low-dose whitening agents, dentists are trained to use higher dose bleaching agents, providing visible results right away.
For example, over-the-counter whitening strips typically have a peroxide concentration of 6 to 14 percent (sometimes more). Professional, in-office whitening gels contain between 15 and 43 percent peroxide.
In-office whitening takes about an hour to complete. Your teeth will be two to three shades lighter in just one visit. And the best part is that you’ll only need retouches every six months. Whitening strips require more upkeep, and you won’t see results right away.
Brown or stained teeth? Learn more about LED Teeth Whitening
On the downside, professional whitening is much more expensive (between $500 and $1,500 per treatment). Whitening strips cost between $20 and $50 for 14 or more treatments.
Whitening strips are generally an effective, safe, and convenient way to whiten your teeth. You also don’t have to spend a ton of money trying to brighten your smile.
Despite these benefits, whitening strips have both pros and cons:
Some common side effects of whitening strips include:
Do not use whitening strips if you have cavities, worn down enamel, gum disease, braces, or exposed tooth roots. Also, do not use them if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.
Whitening strips are safe to use on fillings, crowns, veneers, and other restorations but will not whiten them like your natural teeth.
If you are allergic to peroxide, all-natural whitening strips are available. These alternatives are not as effective at removing stains. However, they can help remove plaque and debris and improve bad breath, which ultimately enhances the color and health of your teeth.
The Crest 3DWhite Glamorous White Whitestrips Kit contains 16 full whitening treatments. This includes 14 regular whitening treatments (one upper and one lower strip) and two one-hour express treatments. The one-hour express strips reveal same-day results for a visibly whiter smile.
Crest 3D White Whitestrips have the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, which means they are safe and effective when used correctly.
The easy-to-apply strips only have to be used for 30 minutes a day to see results. Crest also claims the strips will remove 10 years of stains for a whiter smile.
This product is enamel-safe and uses Advanced Seal Technology. This no-slip feature helps the strips mold to the shape of your teeth. It also allows you to drink water and talk while whitening your teeth.
If you have extra sensitive teeth and gums, the Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive is a great alternative. The enamel-safe formula is specially designed for sensitive teeth and provides a gentler at-home whitening experience. This product also has the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
The strips mold to the shape of your teeth, which helps prevent slipping. These Whitestrips are also easy to use. You can talk, walk, work, and even drink water while whitening your teeth.
The kit includes 14 teeth whitening treatments, each with one upper and one lower strip. For best results, apply the strips once a day for 30 minutes.
Lumineux Teeth Whitening Strips are certified non-toxic, vegan, enamel-safe, SLS-free, peroxide-free, sugar-free, preservative-free, and dentist formulated. They also claim to whiten your teeth without sensitivity or discomfort.
These whitening strips are a great alternative if you are allergic to peroxide, alcohol, or other chemicals. However, they will not whiten your teeth as effectively as peroxide-containing products.(1)(7)
Lumineux’s whitening formula includes ingredients like sage, coconut, and lemon peel oil. These naturally-derived ingredients freshen your breath, help remove plaque, and gently brighten teeth over time.
The Spotlight Whitening Starter Bundle is an excellent option if you are looking for an all-in-one whitening routine at an affordable cost.
The whitening strips lift stains using active ingredients like hydrogen peroxide. All of the whitening products are also sulfate, BPA, DEA, gluten, sulfate, paraben, and triclosan-free. This means you’ll have visibly whiter teeth without the potentially harmful effects of chemicals.
This kit includes:
Spotlight Oral Care is a newer company that sells dental health and whitening products. Although new, the brand has hundreds of 5-star reviews across multiple websites.
Zimba Teeth Whitening Strips include 28 enamel-safe whitening strips (14 full treatments). The brand claims you will have up to six shades whiter teeth after the full treatment is complete.
The whitening strip's active ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, which has been shown to lift surface stains effectively.(1)(2)(3)
In addition, Zimba Teeth Whitening Strips come in many different flavors. Some of the most popular include mint, peach, coconut, cinnamon, and spearmint. These flavors come from naturally-derived ingredients like menthol and coconut oil.
For best results, use the whitening strips for 14 consecutive days. The whitening effects have been observed to last for 6+ months.
Read NewMouth's reviews of the Top Teeth Whitening Products of 2021
(1) Carey, Clifton M. “Tooth Whitening: What We Now Know.” Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice, Mosby, 13 Feb. 2014.
(2) Tavares, Mary, et al. “Light Augments Tooth Whitening with Peroxide.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, Elsevier, 29 Dec. 2014.
(3) Kim, Ji-Hyung, et al. “Effect of Tooth-Whitening Strips and Films on Changes in Color and Surface Roughness of Resin Composites.” Clinical Oral Investigations, Springer-Verlag, 9 July 2004.
(4) Bortolatto, Janaina F, et al. “Effects of LED–Laser Hybrid Light on Bleaching Effectiveness and Tooth Sensitivity: a Randomized Clinical Study.” Laser Physics Letters, vol. 10, no. 8, 2013, p. 085601.
(5) Markowitz, Kenneth. “Pretty Painful: Why Does Tooth Bleaching Hurt?” Medical Hypotheses, vol. 74, no. 5, 2010, pp. 835–840.
(6) Patil, PA, et al. “Comparison of Effectiveness of Abrasive and Enzymatic Action of Whitening Toothpastes in Removal of Extrinsic Stains – a Clinical Trial.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 21 July 2014.
(7) Bizhang, Mozhgan, et al. “Effectiveness of a New Non-Hydrogen Peroxide Bleaching Agent after Single Use - a Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Short-Term Study.” Journal of Applied Oral Science : Revista FOB, Faculdade De Odontologia De Bauru - USP, 2017.