Are teeth whitening strips bad for you?

Updated: May 10

Have you seen the whitening strips at your local pharmacies? Are you wondering if you should take it to the check out counter?

Over the counter whitening strips
Crest 3D whitestrips

I bet I know what is on your mind. Does the whitening strips work and is it bad for your teeth?

What are teeth whitening strips?

These strips are OTC, over the counter, and are meant to be a take home product where you do it yourself on your own time. They are a flexible piece of plastic that is coated in a whitening gel that is either composed of:

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Carbamide peroxide

These are the same materials used in professional dental office products albeit at a lower concentration.

How bad can the strips be if they sell it over the counter?

Just to be clear, if you decide to use a strip every hour on the hour, you may end up doing some serious damage to your teeth. There is also a good chance that you'll end up in excruciating pain.

With that being said, it is highly unlikely for any individual to get to that point because the instructions on the box do not condone it. The first noticeable effect aside from your teeth getting whiter is the increase in tooth sensitivity. Yes, whitening will make your teeth sensitive. The sensitivity doesn't have to come from drinking a cold beverage either. You will feel it even if you simply suck in some plain air.

Any reasonable individual will stop using the product once they experience a certain threshold of sensitivity. That is good because it is kind of self-limiting in that regards so the damage to your enamel is limited.

So, yes they can be bad but it is unlikely for you to cause any severe damage due to the reasons above. The same could be said about taking an entire bottle of tylenol for headaches... That will be the last headache you'll ever have.

Everything in moderation please but overall, we would have to rate the typical crest whitening strips as fairly safe.

Are these Crest whitestrips actually effective as in do they really whiten your teeth?

The answer to that would be, it depends. Since they are OTC, the concentration for the whitening material is usually lower than what you can get professionally at a dental office.

For some people, they actually do work fantastically! If that is the case for you, you can continue to use them as touch ups throughout the year. It's definitely much more cost effective than purchasing at a dental office.

Uneven Whitening

Although for some people, they may not see much of a result because the strips whiten your teeth unevenly. This is simply due to how the products are made because it is just a rectangular strip. The shape of the strips do not allow it to reach into the nooks and crannies of your teeth.

If you get whitening trays made at your dentist's office, the shape of the trays will conform and hug every contour of your teeth. This ensures that the gel can reach every angle of your tooth to produce a more even brightening effect.

It is pretty obvious in the photo above that the professional take home kits are superior just because it conforms to your teeth. Another reason is that it helps in preventing saliva from washing away the whitening gel. As you may know, there are a lot of enzymes that will break down and dissolve the whitening material. The trays offer a better seal to protect the gel compared to the strips.

Aside from the sensitivity are the crest whitestrips safe?

The teeth sensitivity would be the biggest risk in our opinion but there is also the chance of having gum sensitivity from some of the gel spilling over on top of your gums. This is less of a safety concern in the dentist made trays since it follows the contours of your gums but is more of a concern for the pharmacy strips. The strips are just cut straight across, ignoring the scalloping of your gums so there is a higher chance of you accidentally whitening your gums.


Therefore, we do have to say that if you don't get the results that you want from the OTC products, we would recommend that you seek out a professional dentist for a higher concentration product.

If you do plan on getting your teeth whitening professionally done, we here at Jackson Ave Dental would still recommend that you give the whitestrips a try first. The reason isn't so much about whether we want to know if it works for you or not but rather for finding out how sensitive your teeth are to whitening gels.

As you can imagine, with an increase in whitening gel concentration, there will be an exponential increase in teeth sensitivity. If you cannot handle the sensitivity level from an over the counter product, you most likely will not be able to handle the professional grade one.

The mantra for whitening is NOT, no pain no gain. That is solely reserve for the meat heads at the gym and all the people insisting on wearing high heels!

Take away:

We hope that sheds some light on the take home whitening strips. Just for full disclosure the particular product that we use here in our long island city office is the KoR Whitening.

Take home whitening kit
KoR teeth whitening kit

According to KoR, whitening materials are the most effective when they are kept refrigerated because once the product is exposed to heat for a long time it will start to break down. They will become less effective. The whitening material is permanently kept in a dedicated fridge in our long island city office on Jackson Ave. Our LIC dentist, Dr David Chen, is ready to give you the most dazzling smile ever.

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