With more and more emphasis on the way we look, teeth whitening products are big business. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) state that over $1.17 billion is spent on healthcare and cosmetic products every year, with the average Australian spending $29.00 per week on personal care.
While there are no records available to define exactly what percentage of that is spent on teeth whitening products alone, Australia is, without a doubt, one of the fastest growing markets for products like teeth whitening strips. From coconut oil strips and charcoal strips through to peroxide free and even vegan-friendly, there have never been so many over-the-counter teeth whitening methods available.
But despite all that choice, the question is, are whitening strips really the best method of popping up your smile?
The issue with DIY teeth whitening
We live in an Instagram world, so understandably, people want cost-effective solutions to achieve a dazzling smile. Teeth whitening strips seem to fit the bill perfectly. After all, what could be easier? Simply open the packet, peel off a strip, place it on your teeth for 30 minutes or so and after 7-14 days you’ll have whiter, brighter teeth… or so the packet tells you. However, while they clearly work for some people, others may find they make little or no difference.
So why is this?
Well, several reasons…
Firstly, many people don’t really understand the concept of whitening strips, or rather – they don’t understand the difference between stain removal and bleaching. Light staining, for example, is usually caused by tannin-producing foods or drinks such as red wine, coffee, Coca-Cola, curry etc. These will cause surface (or extrinsic) staining.
Smoking, or rather, the nicotine contained within, can also cause light teeth staining. In these cases, it’s easier to find an over-the-counter teeth whitening product such as whitening strips that can lift the staining and restore your smile.
Conversely, intrinsic staining occurs when the inner structure of the tooth(the dentin) darkens or yellows. This can be caused by age – as the outer and whiter tooth enamel thins – or, can occur as a by-product of too much exposure to fluoride as a child, or certain tetracycline antibiotics. In these circumstances and unfortunately…. no amount of tooth whitening toothpaste, whitening gel or whitening strips are going to remove this type of intrinsic staining. For this, you need professional teeth bleaching and this can only be carried out by a registered dentist.
The other problem with teeth whitening strips is one of strength…
Did you know that the maximum allowable strength of the bleaching agent hydrogen peroxide contained in over-the-counter tooth whitening products is just 6% in Australia?
While this is higher than in some countries – in the UK for instance, products can only legally contain just 0.01% – it’s still pretty low.
To put this into perspective, dentists are legally allowed to dispense whitening products and treat patients using professional teeth whitening methods with peroxide levels greater than 6%. In many cases, laser teeth whitening contains much higher levels of bleaching agent often up to 35%.
So why should this matter?
Quite simply, if you’re purchasing teeth whitening strips from, say Woolworths, Coles, or Big W, they just aren’t going to be as effective as if you go to your local dentist for professional teeth whitening treatment.
Even the professional take-home whitening kits only retailed through dentists from companies like Phillips or Pola, usually contain anywhere between 6% and 15%. You still get to use them in the comfort of your own home, but in most cases, they’ll produce better results. What’s more, whitening treatments like these are monitored closely by your dentist so there’s far less chance of anything going wrong.
OTC Teeth whitening strips – The zebra effect
Even when you opt for take-home teeth whitening kits from your dentist, all trays – the vehicle that carries the whitening gel worn over your teeth – are made bespoke, in order to fit your teeth exactly. This ensures perfect and even coverage of your teeth.
On the contrary, when you buy teeth whitening strips over the counter, you take them off the shelf, go to the cash-desk, hand over your money and you’re free to use them right away.
While it’s certainly convenient, the problem is that everyone’s teeth are different. So, while one particular type of strip may be perfect for one person’s teeth, it mightn’t be the ideal fit for another. Sadly, this can cause uneven whitening and an embarrassing zebra smile in the unfortunate individual.
Do you really know your teeth whitening product?
Finally, let’s talk about how well you know your product. I don’t mean researching the brand of teeth whitening strip on the internet. Instead, I’m talking about product origin, storage, and shelf life. Did you know for instance that teeth whitening strips have a shelf life of around 1 year?
After this time they can still be used but it’s highly likely that they’re going to be less effective. Also, if the product has been shipped or stored in hot conditions, this too can have an impact on the effectiveness of the whitening agent contained within.
What about if you’ve inadvertently picked up a teeth whitening product that’s coming to the end of its shelf life? In all honesty, unless you’re clued up on these things, you probably wouldn’t even know.
On the contrary, when you buy a teeth whitening kit or undergo chairside teeth whitening from your local dentist, they have strict control procedures for ordering, storing and disposing of products, so you know pretty much that when you have treatment, that product is going to be in prime condition.
So there you have it….
While teeth whitening strips work for some people, if you want to be sure of having a whiter, brighter smile, then talk to your dentist about professional teeth whitening methods.
Here at Dentistry on Solent for example, we use the latest in-chair teeth whitening technology to help people achieve a whiter smile. Often patients start to see results in as little as 45 minutes. If you’re not happy with your smile, contact Dr. Sejal Raion 02 9158 6137 and let us show you how our brand of personalised sensitive dentistry can deliver the smile you really want.