This week we will talk about whitening products that are widely available over the counter in many drug stores. These products deliver peroxide (usually hydrogen or carbamide peroxide) to the teeth with a strip or moldable plastic that contains it. These products are indeed effective for some patients, especially if the teeth are not heavily stained. I always encourage patients whose teeth are not heavily stained to try these products, and I would recommend Crest Whitestrips as a good product to try. Unlike whitening toothpastes, which as we discussed, work by virtue of their abrasiveness, whitening strips that contain peroxide allow the material to penetrate the tooth and remove stains from within the tooth.
There are some minor side effects that need to be considered. Whitening your teeth with these products can cause a temporary sensitivity, especially to cold. I have been whitening my teeth for years and I always have sensitive teeth during the whitening treatment. The good news is that it is never permanent and the sensitivity is gone in a few days. One can also irritate the gums if too much peroxide material comes in contact with the gums. This is also a temporary condition that heals itself in a few days.
The limitation of these products is that the concentration of peroxide tends to be too low for most patients to see a significant result. Also, the strips can be awkward to wear for the recommended treatment time, tending to be unstable the longer they remain in the mouth and they can move around. It is inevitable that one ends up ingesting a bit of the whitening material due to the lack of seal between the teeth and the tray or strip. As a result, better options do exist. We will discuss these options in the next blog.