Table of Contents
- Best Whitening Strips – Product Suggestions And Reviews
- Best Overall: Crest Supreme Professional Whitening Strips
- Best On a Budget: EZGO Supreme Whitening Strips
- Best for Convenience: Crest 3D Touch-Ups
- Honorable Mention: Crest 3D Luxe Whitestrips
- Biology of Stained Teeth
- How Whitening Strips Work
- Are Whitening Strips Safe?
- Sensitivity Issues
- How To Use Whitening Strips
- Other Teeth Whitening Options
- Best Whitening Strips Wrap Up
Teeth whitening is important for [insert whatever major reasons here] and can help you in [insert whatever major benefits here]!!! Blah blah… we already know all that stuff. Having white teeth is a big deal and there’s tons of great reasons to do it. But you’re not here for that whole thing, you’re here for some actual, valuable information. Let’s worry about that instead.
First off, this is a huge guide. It’s got just about all the information you’d ever want not only for finding the best whitening strips, but for teeth whitening in general. The idea here is to pick and choose what information you want, and in order to do that we need a bit of organization.
Bonus: Download our free whitening tips to give your smile a boost. Includes a comparison and explanation of whitening techniques using toothpaste, mouthwash, whitestrips and at-home gels and kits.
Up above in the orange box is a handy table of contents, but even that gets a bit unwieldy in a guide this large. Below we’ve got links to all the major areas for this guide. Check out what info you’re looking for and then peruse through our list of suggested products once you’re done. Nobody expects you to read the whole thing, but the important thing here is to read enough so you feel confident picking the product that’s best for you. Being an educated consumer is really important in my eyes, so I’ve provided you with the tools to become one with regards to the best whitening strips. Alright, let’s get to it. Happy learning!
Best Whitening Strips – Product Suggestions And Reviews
Everybody’s looking for something different, that’s for sure. Some people are okay taking a bit longer to whiten their teeth to save a few dollars, some are looking for the easiest product to use, and some just want the best darn product they can get their hands on. Below we’ve chosen the product that we think works best for each category along with its complete whitening strip review.
Note: You’ll see a lot of Crest products up here. That’s not because we have any special affinity for Crest, but more because they’re by far and away the biggest manufacturers in this space. For whatever reason, other oral care companies don’t seem interested in competing in the whitening strip market.
Best Overall: Crest Supreme Professional Whitening Strips
Throughout the search for the best whitening strips, this surprisingly wasn’t a product that always came up. Other options from crest seem to be far more popular, but it’s difficult to tell why exactly. The Crest Supreme Whitening Strips have just about everything you want, and they’re a great value.
These strips have the highest concentration of hydrogen peroxide we’ve seen out on the market: 14%. That’s more than double many of your lower end strips, including many offerings from Crest themselves. This is also on par with mid-level whitening gels, which tend to be stronger than whitening strips.
The application time is around 30 minutes, which is about what you’d expect from strips like this. It’s short enough to use in the morning (or at night) but long enough to allow the strips to take full effect and let that hydrogen peroxide do its work.
Concerning the value, I honestly believe that these strips are the best value on the market. Yes, the package is quite a bit more expensive than other alternatives, but with that comes 42 individual treatments. That same number of treatments will likely cost you an additional $20-30 depending on the product, and remember, the H2O2 content in these is far great, so each application will whiten your teeth better.
One big thing to keep in mind is the expiration date. Generally whitening strips have about a full year before they expire, but this obvious varies depending on a variety of factors. Just check the packaging and keep that in mind. With so many strips, you might run into the problem of not having enough time to use them all! If so, see if you can split it half-and-half with a friend or family member for an even better value.
All in all, it’s hard to suggest anything other than these if you’re looking for the overall best whitening strips on the market. They’re powerful, they’re easy to use and they’re a fantastic value.
Best On a Budget: EZGO Supreme Whitening Strips
If you’re not interested in spending buku bucks on teeth whitening, there are options out there. The EZGO Supreme Whitening Strips are about the best option we found for the lower cost side. Coming in at a concentration of 6% H2O2, they’re certainly not the most powerful whitening product on the market. That’s okay though, because they’re significantly cheaper than most every other product offering.
This package comes with 14 treatments (enough for a full two weeks) and a shade guide. The shade guide is actually pretty nice and it’s an offering that most other strips don’t include. Having a base to go off of helps give you a better idea of where you are and where you’d like to go.
Ideally, these whitening strips work really well for two types of people. First are those who want a more subtle whitening experience. Not everyone needs a mega-blast of whitening power. Those who want something that’s a bit gentler will likely find these very effective.
The second group is those who are okay with a longer, more gradual whitening process. In some ways, this is a safer route to take. With a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide you’ll have fewer issues with sensitivity and a smaller risk of over-whitening. That being said, there’s a good chance you’ll need to buy more than one package of these, as a two week treatment may not be enough to whiten your teeth to the point you’d like.
Overall, these are fantastic for their price. Yes, you can get something more powerful and yes, these may not be as effective as other products. It’s all a balancing act though. For those looking to spend less money on whitening, EZGO Whitening Strips are a great way to go.
Best for Convenience: Crest 3D Touch-Ups
Most strips on the market have an application time of at least 30 minutes. That doesn’t sound like a lot of time for most people, but for those super busy and super rushed, 30 minutes is forever. If you don’t have a lot of time to sit around with tape on your teeth, the Crest 3D Touch-Ups work great. With an H2O2 concentration of about 10% and a full 28 treatments, you’ll be good for a while. That said, this type of product can easily be used more than once per day.
As the name suggests, these strips are fantastic for those who are in maintenance mode – it’s really what they were designed for. If you finished up a whitening treatment earlier in the year and are just looking to sustain, a package of these will keep you going for several months to a year. There’s no reason to continually spend valuable money and time on more powerful whitening products when you’re just fighting off stains.
Speaking of fighting off stains, these claim to protect your teeth from stains throughout the day. To be honest, there are far better ways to keep your teeth protected than whitening strips, but the added effect is nice.
For those less interested in sustaining, these aren’t meant to take your teeth from zero to hero. If you’re looking to whiten in a drastic way you should look towards other products. If you’re looking for something a bit more subtle in a trade for more time though, these will work great. The nice thing about the Touch-Ups is the fact that they can easily be used in the morning. In fact, using them right after you wake up is a fantastic idea. Just keep the package on your bed-side table and toss them on while you’re still in sleep-zombie mode.
As with everything, there’s always a bit of a trade-off. For those looking for a bit more time and a bit less whitening, Touch-Ups are definitely the best whitening strips for you.
Honorable Mention: Crest 3D Luxe Whitestrips
We wanted to mention the Crest 3D Luxe Whitestrips because their value proposition is a bit different: flexibility. For those of you who have a slightly more chaotic and unpredictable lifestyle, you might appreciate a product offering that prepares you for just about any situation.
With Crest 3D Luxe Whitestrips you get two different types of treatments. The first is your standard 30 minute, 10% concentration whitening strips. They’re effective, easy to use and highly rated among consumers and dental professionals. Why we feel that the Supreme strips are a bit more powerful and a slightly better value, these will still do you very well.
The big draw with the Luxe strips is their added 1 hour express treatments. You’ll get two of these in a standard package. These strips are designed for that last minute whitening sprint. They work great for unexpected dates, business meetings, photo-ops or anything else you can’t plan for. To be realistic, the 1 hour express strips won’t make a massive difference – nothing can do that. It does give you a bit of an extra leg-up though.
If you find yourself in an unpredictable lifestyle, a bit of flexibility of these strips can make a big difference. While Crest 3D Luxe Whitestrips aren’t the best deal on the market, their unique value proposition makes the unique and worth mentioning.
Biology of Stained Teeth
I know, it doesn’t sound like the most interesting topic, but having a bit of knowledge on how teeth staining actually works will help you understand what products will help you the best. I’ll make sure to keep everything pretty high level and not go too much into the nitty gritty. You won’t need a minor in biology to understand this, don’t worry.
So for starters, tooth color is determined in one of two ways, inherent tooth color (basically, what your momma and pops gave you) and discoloration via staining (things that will stain your teeth). First, we’ll take a look at inherent tooth color.
Inherent Tooth Color
If you weren’t aware, the outer most part of your teeth is actually pretty translucent. Your teeth’s enamel, which is the outer protective layer that keeps all the squishy and sensitive stuff inside safe, is mostly clear. That means that the part of our teeth we see is actually the second layer, called the dentin. That being said, the transparency of your enamel and the color of your dentin both contribute to your natural tooth color.
Your transparent enamel will let light through. Enamel isn’t completely 100% transparent through, and this is what affects your teeth color. A less transparent outer layer will cause your teeth to look less brilliant, similar to fogged up glass. In general, the transparency of your enamel is affected by general oral health issues, like diet and protective care.
Your dentin, which is the main source of color for teeth, is the biggest factor in natural tooth color. To get things straight, dentin isn’t naturally white. Natural and healthy dentin can range all the way from slightly off-white to mostly yellow. In general, healthier teeth will be lighter and whiter shades, but it’s completely normal to have healthy but slightly yellow teeth. The factors at play here are staining elements along with light scattering and absorption properties of the dentin. If you ever hear about ‘intrinsic staining’, that has to do with the actual color of your dentin. We’ll go into that a bit more down below.
A variety of elements can cause your dentin to change color, but one of the biggest ones is age. Simply put, the older you get, the yellower your teeth will become. There’s nothing you can do about this in the current day and age aside from whitening products.
Discoloration from Tooth Staining
As you’re well aware, there’s a lot that can affect the color of your teeth aside from genes and age. That’s where actual staining and discoloration comes from. There are a lot of factors that can lead to staining – the biggest of which are listed below.
- Poor Dental Hygiene: You’ve heard this a million times and that’s ‘cuz it’s true. Poor dental hygiene will lead to staining, simple as that.
- Dietary Considerations: You diet plays a major part in staining. Below is a list of the worst offenders:
- Citric Fruits
- Energy Drinks
- Tobacco Use: Using tobacco products (both inhalants as well as topical and chewing tobacco) will cause major staining on your teeth. Stopping use is by far the best way to mitigate staining, but you can still see effective results with whitening and bleaching products.
Types of Stains
There are two main types of stains that can cause discoloration in your teeth: extrinsic stains and intrinsic stains. These two different types of stains are caused and treated in different ways.
As the name suggests, these stains occur on the outside of your teeth otherwise known as the Dental Pellicle. Your dental pellicle is a thin layer that forms on the surface of your enamel and is made primarily of the same compounds you find in saliva.
What’s this have to do with staining? The basics are that various pigments can get caught in your dental pellicle and that causes the outer layer of your teeth to become discolored. Regular food items (such as the ones listed above) will leave behind a variety of staining elements that will cause your teeth to stain.
The most common way to remove extrinsic stains is with whitening toothpaste, however other methods such as dental cleanings and chemical treatments can also help.
Unlike extrinsic stains, intrinsic stains occur on the interior of your teeth. Over time, various staining compounds can make their way through the enamel of your teeth and actually cause the dentin to discolor. The primary cause, as mentioned above, is aging. That said, the other staining methods all contribute to dentin discoloration as well.
The only way to actually change the interior color of your teeth is through bleaching methods. This is the same method that whitening strips use and the same way your teeth are whitened at the dentist.
How Whitening Strips Work
All in all, there are three primary methods for whitening teeth.
- Stain Removal: This works to remove extrinsic stains. The primary method is brushing your teeth with a whitening toothpaste.
- Stain Protection: This protects your teeth, which in turn makes staining less likely. Along with brushing your teeth with a fluoride based toothpaste, flossing and using mouth rinse are other ways to protect your teeth.
- Stain Bleaching: This is the method that whitening strips use along with at-home whitening kits.
As stated above, whitening strips actually bleach teeth. This helps to modify the inner parts of your teeth and fights against intrinsic staining. So, how exactly does teeth bleaching work?
The key with all teeth bleaching is hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide (a.k.a. H2O2) is a chemical used in a variety of cosmetic products, teeth whitening included. It works by oxidizing certain compounds in your enamel and dentin.
What exactly is oxidation? Well, it’s basically any interaction that oxygen has with some other element or collection of elements. Well known examples include rust (iron becoming oxidized) and apples (they turn brown when in contact with oxygen). It just so happens that in the case of your teeth, oxidation helps to cause things to become whiter. As you may have noticed, hydrogen peroxide has two oxygen atoms (hence the O2 at the end) so and it’ll use those to help your teeth to become whiter.
You’ll also see the chemical carbamide peroxide thrown around a lot. This is also used because when it comes in contact with water, it turns into hydrogen peroxide and a (safe) waste product. So basically, it’s the same thing. It’s important to note that carbamide peroxide will convert to about 1/3 its concentration in hydrogen peroxide. That means if something is listed as 30% carbamide peroxide, it’s equivalent to about 10% hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen Peroxide Concentration
I’ll use this nifty segue to talk about H2O2 concentration. At a high level, there are two things that will cause your teeth to become whiter with hydrogen peroxide: concentration and time applied. As one might expect, the higher the concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the more whitening will occur. If you go to a dentist’s office for a whitening treatment you’re likely to find compounds that have H2O2 concentrations of 30% or more.
This can actually be very dangerous if not handled properly which is why you’ll never find over-the-counter that have concentrations that high (and if you do, you shouldn’t use them). Dentists tend to know what they’re doing (since they’ve, you know, gone to school for years to do this) so they can get away with higher concentrations.
Hydrogen Peroxide Application Time
The other way to improve whitening with H2O2 is by simply leaving it on longer. That’s why whitening treatments can take so long. In general, whitening strips tend to range between 5 minutes all the way up to 45 minutes, but some at-home whitening kits will have application times up to two hours (although the concentration of these products is much lower).
While it may be tempting to leave your whitening strips on for a longer period to whiten more, we strongly advise sticking to the instructions. These products are tested thoroughly and should be used as instructed. If you want your teeth to get a bit whiter, just use a few more strips. It might cost a bit more but trust me, the safety of your teeth is well worth it.
Are Whitening Strips Safe?
So, are these things actually safe? The short answer is: yes.
The long answer is: yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssss.
Just kidding – but really, they’re pretty darned safe. As one might expect with chemical treatments though, there are a few hiccups that can occur. Remember that this is the same stuff that dentist’s use, so there aren’t any foreign chemicals being used.
The biggest issue that you’ll come across is sensitivity. We won’t cover this too much since we’ve got a whole section on it below, but bleaching treatments will almost always cause some degree of sensitivity. This is a temporary effect though and can be minimized.
Concerning concentrations, the FDA requires all cosmetic products to display a proper and accurate list of ingredients on the packaging. This means that you’ll be able to look at the packaging or product information to determine what the H2O2 concentration is. Most whitening products will fall somewhere in the range of 6% to 14% concentration of hydrogen peroxide. Remember that carbamide peroxide concentrations will probably be higher (since you’ll divide by three to get the hydrogen peroxide concentration).
The other major issue is gum blanching. Gum blanching is a (temporary) discoloration of your gums. This happens when hydrogen peroxide is applied topically to gum tissue. The main concern here lies with whitening gels. It’s pretty easy to overfill whitening trays and as a result, have the whitening gel come in contact with your gum tissue. This isn’t a big concern when using whitening strips though because they’re designed to be just large enough to cover all surfaces of your teeth, no more.
A final concern with whitening treatments is accidentally swallowing some of the product. Again, this is a concern with whitening toothpaste, gels and oral rinses, but not so much with whitening strips. Just make sure to dispose of the strips properly so it’s not accidentally eaten by someone or something.
All in all, whitening strips are just about the safest method to bleach your teeth (aside from going to the dentist). They can’t be swallowed and they won’t contact your gums, so just about all the major concerns are eliminated. If you need even more proof, take a look at this clinical trial performed with Crest Whitestrips Supreme. Their results showed that “the professional hydrogen-peroxide strips evaluated in this clinical trial proved effective for tooth whitening with minimal side effects.”
If you’ve heard any concerns about whitening strips, sensitivity issues is probably the biggest one. We’ll be real with you on this one: it’ll probably happen. Okay, there we go. Let’s all take a big breath and dive into this a bit more.
What causes sensitivity in the first place? Well, that depends on the product you’re using to whiten your teeth. With whitening toothpaste, the likely cause of sensitivity is the abrasives used. It’s basically like burshing your teeth with very fine sandpaper and as such will cause a bit of irritation after some point.
The story is a bit different with bleaching products though. While scientists still aren’t 100% sure why sensitivity happens with bleaching products, they’ve got a pretty good idea.
Hydrogen Peroxide Sensitivity
The leading there has to do with small things call dental tubules. Dental tubules are very tiny tubes in your dentin (remember, the second layer of your teeth). These tiny little tubes will reach all the way up into the root of your teeth (the sensitive part that’s up in your gums). Generally a lot of these tubes will get blocked up – this is a totally natural thing and will result in less sensitive teeth. Having more tubes blocked up essentially lowers the number of pathways for feelings like hot/cold to get to the actual nerves in your teeth.
Using bleaching products likely results in these tubules becoming unblocked. It’s not an unhealthy thing to have happen to your teeth, but it’ll result in more pathways for hot/cold to get to the nerves. The end result is teeth that are more sensitive.
Whitening Strips Sensitivity Treatment
The biggest way to combat this is to supplement your oral care routine with one or more sensitivity focused products. The nice thing about using whitening strips is that you are free to modify other products you use (like toothpaste and mouthwash) to help with any issues that arise. The first step should be getting yourself a sensitivity toothpaste. We recommend Sensodyne Pronamel, but there are plenty of options on the market that will do you just fine.
The second method is to get yourself some remineralization gel (and an oral tray to use them with). These gels will patch up tiny holes in your enamel meaning that the hydrogen peroxide won’t have the opportunity to get into the sensitive areas of your teeth. Don’t worry, your whitening strips will still work just fine. You’ll just have less sensitive teeth as a result, which is the main idea. Remineralization gel isn’t glamorous to use, but one or two applications a week for 15-20 minutes will really help mitigate problems with sensitivity.
Duration of Sensitivity
It’s important to keep in mind that sensitivity from whitening products isn’t a long term problem. It’s almost always a temporary issue. If things get too intense, lay off the whitening strips for a few days and let things return to normal. It’s tempting to hit the ground running with your teeth whitening efforts, but taking a few extra weeks to get where you want will be just fine. And of course, if things get too intense then make sure to consult your dentist.
How To Use Whitening Strips
First and foremost, make sure to consult the instructions that come with the packaging of whatever you get. Below is a general outline that applies to most whitening strips, but we absolutely defer to however the manufacturers intent to have their product used.
Step 1: Make sure to keep from brushing your teeth beforehand. This will help the strips to adhere to your teeth better.
Step 2: Remove the outer protective layer from your whitening strips.
Step 3: Align the edge of the whitening strip with your gum line. Make sure that the strip won’t contact your gum tissue at all. An occasional overlap here and there isn’t an issue, but you don’t want this to be a repeating issue.
Step 4: Fold the strip around your teeth and take care to avoid any air pockets or larger gaps. These can lead to uneven whitening.
Step 5: After the entire strip has been adhered to your teeth, make sure to firmly press against it to remove any final pockets and gaps.
Step 6: Keep the strip applied for as long as the manufacturer recommends. This is generally somewhere between 5 and 45 minutes and will depending on the concentration of the product. Remove the strips at or before the recommended time. Using them for longer than intended can result in unwanted side effects.
Step 7: When the time is up, remove the strips and dispose of them in a safe container. Make sure that container is enclosed so that pets or children can’t find them.
Step 8: Continue use of the product until you’re happy with results. This may be several days all the way up to several months. Whitening takes time – keep at it until you get where you want.
Other Teeth Whitening Options
If whitening strips just aren’t your deal, no worries. There are plenty of other fish in the sea. As we mentioned above, there are several ways to whiten your teeth. Even in the realm of teeth bleaching, you’ve got a few other options. Below we’ve got the most common alternative methods to whitening your teeth.
The most common form of whitening is through using toothpaste. The basic idea is this: the toothpaste utilizes small particles called silica. These small particles behave similar to how a buffer works on a car – they wear away the very outer layer (i.e. the Dental Pellicle, as we talked about before) to remove stains. These products only work on extrinsic stains (the ones on the outer surface of your teeth) but the end result is the same: whiter teeth.
Toothpaste is also the best way to protect your teeth, so you can get some whitening through the abrasives as well as protect your teeth from staining in the first place.
It’s important to keep in mind that using abrasives will also lead to some degree of sensitivity. The harsher the abrasives, the more likely you are to experience sensitivity. You can read more about whitening toothpaste along with the different levels of abrasives in our article about the best whitening toothpastes on the market.
Believe it or not, there are some mouthwashes that specialize in whitening. I’ll be honest, if you’re only using mouthwash for whitening and nothing else, your progress will certainly be a lot slower than those using other methods. The reason for this is that most whitening mouthwashes use hydrogen peroxide as their primary form of whitening.
As you may remember from above the effectiveness of H2O2 relies on the concentration and the duration applied. Mouthwash should never be used for more than two minutes at a time, so you simply can’t apply the hydrogen peroxide for very long. Whitening mouthwashes are best used as a supplementary element to your whitening efforts as opposed to the primary product. Either way, you can check out the best whitening mouthwashes in our full guide.
At-Home Teeth Whitening Kits
At-home kits are the only product that really give whitening strips a run for their money when it comes to whitening. While whitening strips are convenient and easier to use, at-home whitening gels are really the powerhouse of the industry. It’s the same stuff that your dentist uses, only a little bit weaker.
The main draw here is that you can still get some pretty powerful options, even with the reduced concentration. The drawback is that you’ll need to sit around for some time with the whitening gel in your mouth. Both strips and gels have their pros and cons, so we encourage you to read about both. If you want to get more information on check out our full guide on at-home whitening kits here.
Best Whitening Strips Wrap Up
So there you have it – just about everything you want to know about teeth whitening and whitening strip reviews. And probably some stuff you didn’t. That’s alright though – the informed consumer is the best consumer in my opinion, and you can certainly consider yourself informed when it comes to teeth whitening now.
If you’ve got any questions or feel that we’ve missed any major areas, please let us know either through the comments below or through our contact page. Happy whitening!