Tooth whitening is a common procedure to enhance the visual appearance of the teeth. Whitening is usually done by applying peroxide to the teeth for varying periods of time depending on the degree of whitening desired or the speed with which the teeth need to be whitened. Stronger concentrations of peroxide are needed to whiten teeth rapidly, but with greater whitening power there is a greater chance of developing temporary tooth sensitivity or gum discomfort.
Dentists use dental trays with a strong whitening agents that are applied to the upper and lower teeth. Prior to application of professional products, the gum tissues are isolated with a rubber dam or a protective gel to prevent damage to the gums from the hydrogen peroxide in concentrations ranging from 15 percent to 35 percent. The cost of whitening teeth at the dentist's office is usually several hundred dollars, but the procedure is usually completed in about one hour. Due to the cost, many people choose to use whitening strips that can be obtained at groceries and pharmacies for fifty dollars or less, although they require multiple applications that can take up to twenty days. Using coupons and rebates the cost of a twenty day treatment can be less than $30 dollars. The whitening strips are applied for up to two hours a day to achieve a degree of whiteness similar to what would be obtained in a dentist's office.
Dental Strip Ingredients
The thin flexible whitening strips are coated with a gel of PVP, PEG-8, water, hydrogen peroxide, acrylates copolymer, sodium hydroxide and sodium saccharin. PVP (polyvinylpyrrolidone), PEG-8 (polyethylene glycol esterified with lauric acid) and acrylates copolymer are water-soluble thickeners and gentle adhesives that provide the substrate for the active ingredients on the plastic strips. The sodium hydroxide provides an alkaline environment for the hydrogen peroxide whitening agent, and the sodium saccharin is a flavoring agent.
The whitening strips are designed for natural teeth. The strips will not whiten caps, crowns, veneers, fillings or dentures. The product will not harm dental enamel, but some temporary white spots may appear on the teeth after whitening. The white spots will go away with time unless they are due to natural imperfections that become more visible with whitening. Two common problems of tooth whitening are gum irritation or tooth sensitivity. The manufacturer recommends stopping usage for 2 or 3 days, and then continuing usage, but if the problem persists discontinue usage.
Application and Removal
Each application consists of one pair of whitening strips. A small strip is used for the lower teeth, and a broad longer strip is used for the upper teeth. The lower strip should be applied first. The reason for this is that the foaming action of the strip increases salivation, and if the upper strip is applied first, the increased flow of saliva makes it more difficult to apply the lower strip.
The teeth should be clean, but should not be brushed immediately before applying the strips. Each strip is applied by aligning the strip with the teeth at the level of the gum line and pressing with the finger pads for two or three seconds. The overhanging portion of the strip is folded over the back side of the teeth and pressed in place with the finger pads.
After the specified time, the strips are removed by peeling from the back of the teeth first, and then peeling the rest of the strip. Wash your hands after handling the strips.