Do Whitening Strips Work?

What Are Teeth Whitening Strips?

Teeth whitening strips are one of the most popular and cost-effective at-home teeth whitening products. They are made of soft, flexible plastic (such as polyethylene). This is coated with an adhesive to keep them on your teeth. 

The other main (active) ingredient in a whitening gel is either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These are safe and effective whitening agents used in both professional and at-home treatments.

Natural teeth whitening strips don’t use peroxide ingredients. They use essential oils and botanicals to gently and gradually remove stains. These products are safe but generally not as effective as peroxide treatments.

Best Overall Crest 3D Whitestrips Glamorous White

Best for Sensitive Teeth Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth

Best Natural Whitening StripsLumineux Teeth Whitening Strips

Do Teeth Whitening Strips Really Work?

Yes, teeth whitening strips are an effective way to whiten teeth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).1 

The following products have received the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of acceptance:

  • Crest 3D White Whitestrips (Glamorous White, Vivid White, Brilliance White)
  • Crest 3D Whitestrips Classic Vivid
  • Crest 3D Whitestrips Gentle (Sensitive White, Vivid White Gentle, Sensitive)

At-home teeth whitening kits can give you the same results as professional whitening treatment in less than two weeks. (Be sure to follow instructions carefully).

Discover the top 10 teeth whitening products available today.


Even though these are the only products that the ADA has accepted, Crest whitening strips are not the only safe and effective whitening strips. However, you can use these products with confidence.

How Do They Work?

Whitening strips work by covering your teeth in a whitening gel that has hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. This gel strips off surface stains. It also saturates your tooth enamel and dentin to remove intrinsic staining within your tooth. 

Ingredients

The following ingredients are common in tooth whitening strips:

Polyethylene

Most whitestrips are made from polyethylene. It is one of the most common plastics in the world. Because it is lightweight, flexible, and non-toxic, it is ideal for the base of a whitening strip.

Hydrogen Peroxide or Carbamide Peroxide

These are the main whitening ingredients in a whitening strip. They are natural and safe bleaching agents.

PVP (Polyvinylpyrrolidone) & Carbomer

PVP and carbomer are adhesive agents. They help the strips bind to your teeth. Both of these chemicals are safe and non-toxic. However, if overused, they can cause gum irritation.

Water

Water is included in the gel to prevent carbomer from dehydrating your teeth.

PEG (Polymerization Ethylene Glycol)

PEGs are humectants. These are thickeners commonly used in cosmetic products. The PEG acts to thicken the gel and make it sticky.

Glycerin

Glycerin is a sweet, non-toxic compound. It is used as a humectant to thicken the gel and help the strips stay in place.

Acrylates Copolymer

Acrylates Copolymer is another common ingredient in cosmetics. It is used to bind the gel and keep the strip in one piece.

Sodium Hydroxide

Sodium hydroxide is also known as lye or caustic soda. It is commonly used in food preparation. It is used in the whitening strip to adjust the pH to neutral.

Sodium Saccharin

Sodium saccharin is an artificial sweetener used to improve taste.

Are Teeth Whitening Strips Safe?

Yes, if used correctly, most whitening strips are a safe way to whiten teeth.1, 2, 3 However, if they include the ingredient chlorine dioxide, they can damage your enamel. This is a chemical oxider and acid that is used to clean swimming pools and strips away your enamel.

It is crucial to follow the instructions on your whitestrips exactly. If you use them more frequently or for longer times than recommended, you could damage your tooth enamel and gum tissue.

Side Effects of Whitening Strips

Even though whitening strips are generally acknowledged safe and are even recommended by dentists, some potential side effects may occur:

Yellow or Gray Spots

Applying white strips can be difficult. They cannot fit into the small crevices or spaces between your teeth. This can create uneven whitening results. If you do not apply them perfectly, they can leave stained, uneven spots on your teeth.

Allergic Reaction

This is rare, but if you are allergic to adhesives, you may experience an allergic reaction.

Tooth Damage

Using whitening strips too frequently or for too long can damage the enamel on your teeth. This can lead to sensitive teeth and an increased risk of tooth decay and cavities.

Tooth Sensitivity

Sensitive teeth are one of the most common side effects of whitening strips. If your enamel gets stripped away, it can expose the dentin of your teeth. This can increase tooth sensitivity to hot or cold food and beverages.

Gum Tissue Damage

If the strips rest on your gum line, or you use them too frequently, you can irritate the soft tissue of your gums. Both the peroxide whitening agent and sodium hydroxide can damage your gums.

Disruption of Your Oral Microbiome

Oral microbiome is a scholarly term for your mouth health. Many types of good bacteria are essential for preventing cavities and other oral conditions. The peroxide in whitening gel also kills bacteria. If too many bacteria are killed, it can disrupt the health of your mouth. This can lead to many oral and systemic diseases.4

Pros & Cons of Teeth Whitening Strips

Whitening strips are one of the cheapest teeth whitening products available. They are generally a safe and effective way to a brighter smile. 

Here are the pros and cons of using whitening strips:

PROS
  • Effective when used properly (peroxide-based gels)
  • Affordable and easy to purchase
  • Can be found in many stores or online
  • Fast and convenient
  • Easy to apply and remove
  • Less messy than LED whitening kits
  • Treatment is done at the comfort of your home
CONS
  • Can have irregular or uneven results if not applied correctly
  • Some brands are not as effective
  • Higher risk of sensitivity than other whitening products
  • Higher risk of gum irritation than other whitening products
  • Some have an unpleasant flavor
  • Can cause enamel damage if overused
  • If overused, they can kill too many good bacteria in your mouth

Best Teeth Whitening Strips

Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips 20 Treatments

Crest 3D Whitestrips Glamorous White

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.

Cost: $

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.

Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth Whitening Kit

Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth

If you have extra sensitive teeth and gums, the Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth Kit 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 Oral Essentials Teeth Whitening Strips

Lumineux Teeth Whitening Strips

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. 

How to Use Whitening Strips

Most whitening strips require the same basic steps. However, they do vary from product to product. Be sure to read and follow the instructions exactly to ensure safe and effective whitening results. 


NewMouth recommends LED teeth whitening systems to achieve a brighter smile. They are affordable, easy to use, produce minimal side effects, and highly effective.

View our review of the best teeth whitening products.


These are the basic instructions for applying at-home whitening strips:

  1. Remove the upper and lower strip from the package.
  2. If necessary, use clean scissors to cut the strips to match the exact height of your teeth.
  3. Remove the thin layer of plastic covering the adhesive.
  4. Gently place each strip on your teeth. Be sure to cover your teeth entirely but don’t let the strips touch your gums.
  5. Leave the strips on your teeth for the exact number of minutes listed on the box.
  6. Remove the strips.
  7. Rinse your teeth immediately with water.
  8. Do not brush your teeth for at least two hours.
  9. Repeat according to the directions on the box.

Your teeth should be clean before you apply whitening strips. However, do not brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes before using the strips. This can increase gum irritation.

Other Teeth Whitening Options

While whitestrips are an effective treatment option, there are many ways to get whiter teeth. Let’s see how they stack up against other whitening treatments.

Whitening Toothpastes & Mouthwashes

Whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes can potentially remove stains on the outside of your teeth.7 However, they do not remove intrinsic stains. Therefore they may reduce staining but do not help whiten your teeth. They are much less effective than other teeth whitening products.7, 8

Products and DIY treatments containing charcoal, acidic fruits, or vinegar have not shown to be effective at teeth whitening.

Whitening toothpastes, mouthwashes, and DIY treatments have little to no whitening effect on your teeth.

At-Home LED Teeth Whitening Kits

At-home LED teeth whitening kits are just as effective as whitening strips.3 First, the user applies a whitening gel containing hydrogen carbamide peroxide. Then they activate an LED light that reduces treatment time and tooth sensitivity.9

LED teeth whitening, whitening strips, and professional teeth whitening all produce similar results.3, 10, 11, 12, 13 

NewMouth recommends at-home teeth whitening kits due to their effectiveness, ease of use, and minimal side effects.

The risk of adverse side effects is increased with:

  • Treatments that require a longer time on the tooth’s surface
  • Treatments with higher concentrations of peroxide solutions
  • Treatments that come in contact with your gum line
  • Overuse or misuse 

Professional In-Office Whitening Treatment

Professional teeth whitening at a dental office is another safe and effective way to get a whiter smile. There are many different types of treatments that dentists use. Speak with your local dentist to find out what method they employ.

Professional teeth whitening is equally as effective as at-home LED teeth whitening and teeth whitening strips. However, it costs much more than the other two methods.

Takeaways

  • Teeth whitening strips are generally a safe and effective teeth whitening option
  • Crest whitening strips are the best choice
  • LED whitening kits are just as effective, and many claim they are easier to use
  • Professional teeth whitening is also a good option, but it costs more
  • Overuse or misuse of at-home teeth whitening products can result in tooth and gum damage, sensitive teeth, and disruption of your oral microbiome

What's Next?

Resources

(1) Gerlach, Robert W., and Paul A. Sagel. “Vital Bleaching with a Thin Peroxide Gel: The Safety and Efficacy of a Professional-Strength Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Strip.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, Elsevier, 30 Dec. 2014. 

(2) Oliveira, Gustavo M., et al. “Safety and Efficacy of a High-Adhesion Whitening Strip under Extended Wear Regimen.” Journal of Dentistry, Elsevier, 7 Dec. 2012.

(3) Kugel, G, and S Kastali. “Tooth-Whitening Efficacy and Safety: a Randomized and Controlled Clinical Trial.” Europe PMC, Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, Jan. 2000.

(4) Deo, Priya Nimish, and Revati Deshmukh. “Oral Microbiome: Unveiling the Fundamentals.” Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology : JOMFP, Wolters Kluwer - Medknow, 2019.

(5) Carey, Clifton M. “Tooth Whitening: What We Now Know.” Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice, Mosby, 13 Feb. 2014. 

(6) 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. 

(7) Department of Scientific Information, Evidence Synthesis & Translation Research, ADA Science & Research Institute, LLC. “WhiteningOral Health Topics, American Dental Association, 30 Oct. 2020. 

(8) Anderson, S. Eric, et al. “A Comparative Expected Cost Analysis Study on Dental Services and Products Used in the United States.” Research Gate, Account and Financial Management Journal, Jan. 2019. 

(9) 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.

(10) Heymann, H O. “Tooth Whitening: Facts and Fallacies.” Nature News, British Dental Journal, 23 Apr. 2005. 

(11) Basting, RT, et al. “Clinical Comparative Study of the Effectiveness of and Tooth Sensitivity to 10% and 20% Carbamide Peroxide Home-Use and 35% and 38% Hydrogen Peroxide In-Office Bleaching Materials Containing Desensitizing Agents.” Operative Dentistry, Allen Press, 1 Sept. 2012. 

(12) Zekonis, Ruta, et al. “Clinical Evaluation of in-Office and at-Home Bleaching Treatments.” Operative Dentistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003.

(13) Gerlach, RW, et al. “A Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing a Novel 5.3% Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Strip to 10%, 15%, and 20% Carbamide Peroxide Tray-Based Bleaching Systems.” Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, Europe PMC.

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