What are Teeth Whitening Strips and How Do They Work?

Teeth are an important part of a person’s self-image. However, as people age, their teeth also begin to yellow, which is inevitable. But there are various techniques that can be used to slow down the process. A lot of dentists offer professional teeth whitening services, but they usually cost a lot. That is why people are discovering different ways to whiten their teeth at home. Today, there are many teeth-whitening products that you can buy, like toothpaste, pens, gels, and more. There are also available teeth whitening kits available in local pharmacies that everyone can try.

Among the many different teeth whitening products, one of the most popular is the use of teeth whitening strips. These strips can be bought from dentists and local pharmacies without a prescription. They are easy to apply at home for those who are aiming to achieve white teeth but can’t afford expensive treatments. However, the question is, does it work? And if they do, how? If you have the same questions in mind, we are here to help you. In this post, we are giving you more information about what teeth whitening strips are and how they work. 

What are Teeth Whitening Strips?

Teeth whitening strips are a popular dental product used by a lot of people to remove stains from the teeth and to whiten them. The use of teeth whitening strips is not as effective as whitening treatments offered by dentists, but it is a simpler and cheaper alternative. They have the potential to whiten the teeth by bleaching stains using hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.

The whitening strips are applied directly to the teeth. While they contain chemicals, the American Dental Association (ADA) states that they are safe to use and can be effective if the product bears the ADA Seal of Acceptance. [1] But there are also some people that may experience adverse effects when using teeth whitening products like whitening strips. 

Do Teeth Whitening Strips Work?

man holding some teeth whitening strips while smiling

Based on the ADA, teeth whitening strips may help remove both internal and external stains on teeth effectively. Since the strips contain peroxide or bleach, they work to whiten the teeth the same way bleach works to whiten clothes and hair. The peroxide bleaches the color from the teeth in order to restore the natural white color. However, these whitening strips do not work on fake teeth. [1]

According to a 2020 review, teeth whitening strips are an effective over-the-counter agent that works better than other OTC whitening agents like whitening toothpaste. [1] But it is also important to remember that at-home whitening strips have lower concentrations of whitening ingredients compared to dentist-supplied products. Therefore, those who have heavily stained teeth or high expectations may not be happy with the results that OTC whitening strips may provide.

The effectiveness of teeth whitening strips also depends on how strong the chemicals they contain are, as well as how long people keep them on the teeth. There is also evidence that suggests that using teeth whitening products that have hydrogen peroxide may endanger tooth health. That is why it is very important to discuss the use of these products with your dentist.

How Do Teeth Whitening Strips Work?

woman placing a whitening strip on her teeth

The peroxides that teeth whitening strips contain penetrate the outer layer of the tooth or the enamel before entering the deeper dentin layer where the chromogens are bleached. Chromogens pertain to the pigmented molecules that are inside and outside of the tooth that causes staining. [1]

Most whitening strips are made out of a thin elastic type of plastic called polyethylene that is coated with peroxide. It is applied to the teeth according to the instructions on the package for them to come into contact with the tooth enamel. This way, the peroxide will remove the stains and discoloration from the surface of the teeth. There are also some strips that need to be removed after a specific period of time, while others are safe to be placed on the teeth for as long as you wish. [2]

There are two categories of staining, which are extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic staining affects the outside of the tooth. It is largely caused by environmental factors like smoking, antibiotics, foods and drinks like wine and coffee, and exposure to metals like copper or iron. Intrinsic staining, on the other hand, affects the inside of the tooth. It is caused by factors like antibiotics, genetics, tooth development disorders, exposure to high levels of fluoride, and age-related enamel erosion. [1]

Teeth whitening strips work by targeting both types of stains. Generally, stains caused by aging, smoking, genetics, and coffee are the fastest to respond to bleaching, along with yellowish aging stains. It is best to use whitening strips if you are trying to make a small touch-up to your tooth color. However, for more significant changes, it is better to consider professional whitening treatments from dentists, as they can use stronger bleaches and may provide you a customized treatment plan based on your needs. [1]

Risks and Precautions of Using Teeth Whitening Strips

Before you try to use teeth whitening strips, it is better to consult your dentist first. It’s because they are known to cause increased tooth sensitivity and gum irritation that may last for several days. The risk of developing these side effects increases depending on the concentration of peroxide in the strips, along with the amount of time you leave them on. Using high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide on your teeth can potentially damage their structure and make them more vulnerable to demineralization or the decrease of calcium and other minerals from the teeth.

Based on studies, there has been structural damage to the enamel from the application of 35% carbamide peroxide. You also have to note that teeth whitening will not change the color of existing fillings, implants, crowns, or bridges, as only natural teeth can be whitened. [3]

Ways How To Keep Your Teeth White

woman with white teeth smiling

In addition to teeth whitening treatments, there are also ways in which you can maintain the whiteness of your teeth. These include following good oral hygiene habits, minimizing the consumption of certain foods, and maximizing your tooth health. Below are some of the best ways how you can keep your teeth white: [3]

Limit your consumption of teeth-staining foods: There are some foods and beverages like red wine, coffee, dark berries, and sodas that are notorious when it comes to staining teeth. Therefore, if you want your teeth to remain as white as possible, try to limit your consumption of these foods and drinks.

Use a straw when drinking: If you are drinking beverages that are known to stain the teeth, it is better to use a straw in order to avoid the beverage’s direct contact with your teeth.

Brush your teeth: After consuming staining food or drink, it is best to brush your teeth immediately. Doing this may help limit the staining effect of these foods and beverages on your teeth.

Always follow good dental hygiene habits: To maintain white teeth, it is very important to follow good overall dental hygiene habits, like brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Doing these will not only keep your teeth white but as well as help you protect them from tooth decay and other dental issues that may cause discoloration.

Eat foods rich in calcium: It is also important to eat foods that are rich in calcium as they can help keep your teeth strong and reduce your chances of having cavities.

Limit sugar intake: When harmful bacteria in the body encounter sugar, they produce acid. This acid breaks down the teeth and may lead to tooth decay and discoloration.

Do not use tobacco products: Tobacco products contain nicotine, which can give the teeth a yellowish stain. After chronic use, the teeth may start to appear brown, which is more difficult to whiten.

Only use whitening products as a touch-up treatment: While teeth whitening products like whitening strips work, you should not solely rely on them to keep your teeth white. But you can use them to touch up mild discoloration.

If you need more tips and recommendations when it comes to whitening your teeth, you may also read our article on Exploring Different Teeth Whitening Options.


Teeth whitening strips have the possibility to whiten the teeth by a shade or two. It is also possible to see results as soon as a few days after using them. However, note that these products are only best to be used in touching up mild teeth discoloration. It means that if you are dealing with significant staining, it is better to visit your dentist to avail of an in-office cleaning and other whitening treatments.

Also, before using any teeth whitening product that you can purchase over the counter, make sure that you talk with your dentist first to see if the product is safe and if it is approved by the American Dental Association. We hope this post helped you learn more about what teeth whitening strips are and how they work.


[1] Coelho, S. (2021, July 21). Whitening strips: Do they work and how to use them. Medical News Today. Retrieved March 4, 2023, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/whitening-strips#do-they-work

[2] Humana, E. (2022, March). Understanding teeth whitening strips. Humana. Retrieved March 4, 2023, from https://www.humana.com/dental-insurance/dental-resources/whitening-strips

[3] Yetman, D. (2021, February 4). Do whitening strips work? effectiveness, results & precautions. Healthline. Retrieved March 4, 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/health/do-whitening-strips-work