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Are those magic whitening strips off the shelf really doing anything?

We’ve all seen the advertisements and displays at the grocery store of toothpastes and strips that are meant to whiten your teeth. Almost every over-the-counter brand has a type of toothpaste they sell that has the word “whitening” in it. But what are these products actually doing?


In terms of changing your tooth color many shades whiter, the simple answer is that only professional dental whitening can make any drastic changes. Since yellow, darkened and discolored spots on your teeth take years to form, it’s likely that any significant changes can only be seen using professional dental care. Luckily, many dentists consider this to be part of their general dentistry practice and can give you lots of professional teeth whitening options.


If you don’t have the time or finances to get professional teeth whitening or oral surgery, the over-the-counter options vary to what degree they can whiten. Whitening toothpastes merely scratch the surface, literally, when it comes to your teeth. These toothpastes can slightly whiten your teeth by brushing away surface stains caused by coffee or smoking. However, if a stain is deeper than the tooth’s surface, it won’t be able to lighten that type of discoloration or alter the natural color of your teeth. Whitening toothpastes are a good start for lightly stained teeth.


Whitening strips are another commonly used method that can be bought at the store. Unlike whitening toothpaste, these strips can show changes in the color of your teeth, but they have their faults. Because of the nature of the strips, they tend to slide around and can result in splotchy results on your teeth. Typically, these strips can make your teeth 2-4 shades whiter, whereas professional services can make your teeth 5-8 shades whiter.


As a more cost-effective option, over-the-counter methods can be useful for light to moderate stains. But if you’re looking to drastically alter your teeth’s color and aesthetic, you’ll want to make an appointment with a cosmetic dentist and set up a consultation or ask for advice.