How effective are teeth whitening strips (Crest Whitestrips®)?

- How well do they whiten teeth? | What level of results can you expect? | How about as compared to other teeth bleaching methods? | Findings of effectiveness reported by research studies.

How effective is using teeth whitening strips, like WhiteStrips®?

Before buying your first box, you might like some confirmation that the idea of using whitening strips makes a good, effective choice. This page addresses that subject and generally makes the case that they do.

What evidence is that opinion based on?

We've drawn our conclusions from the findings of published dental research, like those studies discussed below.

Collectively, they give an idea of the type of results you can expect when using whitening strips in general, and specifically how their effectiveness tends to compare with other teeth-bleaching methods (both at-home and in-office treatments).

What does dental research report about the effectiveness of using whitening strips?


Most studies have evaluated WhiteStrips® products.

Crest® was the first company to introduced at-home teeth bleaching via the use of strips technique. This was about two decades ago.

And as you might expect, as a result of their efforts to promote their products (via conducting sponsored research), and as the market leader (which makes them the brand most independent researchers would tend to choose), most of the studies that have investigated the whitening results produced by this technique have evaluated the use of WhiteStrip® products in particular.

So on this page, that's why it's the predominant (and really only) brand mentioned.

How do other brands compare?

No one can state with certainty that the effects documented for one brand will hold true for another. (And we'll be the first to state that Crest's® product line seems to be the market leader for good reason.)

But in broad terms, we feel comfortable enough in suggesting that the findings reported about WhiteStrips® should generally hold true for equivalent products too. (Meaning strips that have a similar hydrogen peroxide concentration that are made by reputable generic or alternative brands.) Because they're all based on the same thin-film peroxide chemistry.

A picture of a box of Crest Whitestrips® Vivid.

A standard "introductory" Whitestrips® product.

Some of the original WhiteStrips® products studied have been replaced with newer versions.

Much of the original research that documented the effectiveness of using strips dates back to a time when the basic (introductory) WhiteStrips® product was a 6% hydrogen peroxide one, used twice a day, 30 minutes each application, for 14 days. At this point in time, we're under the impression that this specific product is no longer offered.
The current equivalent.
We'd suggest that Crest's® Classic Vivid (10% hydrogen peroxide, one 30 minute application a day, for 10 days) seems to be one of their current "introductory" products. And as such, it could be considered to be an equivalent stand-in (just as effective, if not more so) for the strips treatments discussed in the studies below.

So, what level of effectiveness does research show for whitening strips?

As you read through the study findings we discuss below, it should be easy enough to notice that they suggest the following points.

a) Whitening strips vs. tray-based systems.

When similar treatment time periods are involved, the use of an "introductory" kit of whitening strips can be expected to produce results similar to those created by an "introductory" at-home tray-based system (10% carbamide peroxide whitener).

Although, when each is used for maximum effect (8 hours treatment daily for trays vs. 1 hour for strips), a tray-based system can be expected to create a larger whitening effect.

b) Strips vs. other at-home methods.

As compared to using paint-on whiteners (whitening pens) or whitening toothpaste, using strips can be expected to produce noticeably better results.

c) In-office bleaching vs. whitening strips.

The in-office bleaching techniques that your dentist has to offer, especially when multiple treatments are involved, can be expected to produce a greater whitening effect than just using an introductory kit of strips.

FYI: For a person in the know about whitening teeth (like your dentist or dental hygienist), we can't imagine that any of the statements above would be considered controversial.

Rules of thumb about choosing whitening strips as a bleaching method.

Based on the above conclusions, which are supported by the research studies discussed below, it's easy enough to suggest that in regard to effectiveness:

Before and after picture of teeth whitening results.

Using whitening strips usually makes a good choice.

a) Teeth whitening strips usually make a good initial (introductory) choice.
People who use whitening strips should find that they produce at least some noticeable level of results. And for a very large percentage of cases, the full effect that was sought.
Note: This page only addresses the issue of whitening-strip effectiveness. If you're looking for information about what type of tooth discoloration can usually be successfully treated via teeth bleaching methods in general, use this page: Types of tooth staining and their treatment solutions.
b) Using strips is probably the most convenient of the more-effective at-home whitening methods.

Tray-whitening technique is generally considered to be the unofficial standard for at-home teeth bleaching, and the method to which all others are compared. And in terms of effectiveness, when optimal (extended) treatment periods are used, this method seems to hold an advantage over using strips.

But in light of how easy they are to use and the short application times they require, the trade-off of possibly being a less effective vs. a more convenient method may be an easy compromise for many people to make.

c) If using strips hasn't proven to be as effective as you had hoped ...

There's no way to know precisely what level of results any teeth-bleaching method will create for any one individual. There are simply too many variables involved (such as type of tooth staining, user compliance with directions, etc...).

So, if after trying a whitening-strips approach you feel that you haven't achieved the level of results that you're seeking, you should discuss matters with your dentist. In light of your recent bleaching experiences:

  • The possibility of extending your whitening strips treatment might be considered.
  • They might suggest that a tray-based system should be used. This often makes the best next step with comparatively more difficult to treat cases.
  • In-office (professional) whitening might be suggested if quicker results, or an inability to find time for treatments, are overriding issues.


Research studies that have investigated the effectiveness of using whitening strips.

This section discusses the findings of individual research studies on which we've based our statements above.

A picture of a teeth-whitening strip.

A teeth whitening strip.

Hanning (2007)

Study parameters -

This investigation compared the use of WhiteStrips® (6% hydrogen peroxide, twice daily, 30 minutes each application, 2 weeks duration) to a tray-based system (10% carbamide peroxide, one daily application, 60 minutes, 2 weeks duration).

Study findings -

The authors determined that "both WS (WhiteStrips®) and VS (the tray method) demonstrated significant and comparable levels of tooth color improvement after 2 weeks."

Our take -
A more common period for bleaching tray wear is 2 hours or longer, once a day. But yes, when used for the same, more limited time period that's associated with wearing strips, both introductory-level methods were found to produce similar results.

Section references - Hanning

Ferrari (2007)

Study parameters -

This study compared using whitening strips (6% hydrogen peroxide) verses a tray-based system (10% carbamide peroxide) under head-to-head testing conditions (twice daily applications, 30 minutes each, for 2 weeks).

Study findings -

The researchers determined that using strips under these conditions was more effective than trays.

They stated that the whitening strip treatments "yielded (a) significant reduction in yellowness compared to the custom tray, at both end-of-treatment and posttreatment monitoring" (measurements taken 1 month following treatment completion).

Our take -
So once again, when used for similar daily durations, strips were found to produce at least an equivalent (actually better in this case) level of results as compared to a tray-based system.

Section references - Ferrari

Gerlach (2000)

Study parameters -

This investigation evaluated the level of results achieved using an early version of WhiteStrips® (just 5.3% hydrogen peroxide, 1 hour per day, 14 days) versus tray-whitening systems utilizing 10%, 15% and 20% carbamide peroxide whitener (2 hours per day, 14 days).

Note: The cumulative exposure time to the whitener via trays was twice as long as for strips (28 vs. 14 hours).

Study findings -

The strips treatment created whitening results on-par with the 10% tray system, and within 80% of the levels measured for the 15% tray whitener.

Our take -

Just as with the other two studies, this one showed that the effectiveness of "introductory" strips and tray-based systems (10% carbamide peroxide) can be considered fairly equivalent. (Although less treatment time was needed for the strips.)

And it's pretty impressive that the strips came close to doing as well as the 15% tray system, once again, especially considering its reduced treatment time.

Section references - Gerlach

This next group of studies investigated the effectiveness of using strips versus other whitening methods (both at-home and in-office).

Bizhang (2009)

Study parameters -

This study compared the level of results achieved using whitening strips (6% hydrogen peroxide, twice
a day, 30 minutes each application, for two weeks), a tray-whitening system (10% carbamide peroxide, overnight (8hr) applications, for 14 nights) and having in-office teeth bleaching treatments (15% hydrogen peroxide, 45-minute applications, 1 per week X 3 weeks).

Study findings -

The authors concluded that the use of the at-home tray and in-office systems "revealed a bleaching effect superior to WhiteStrips®."

Our take -

Different than any of the studies discussed above, this one utilized tray-whitening protocol in its most effective form (around 8 hours of treatment time daily) and determined that tray whitening was more effective than using strips. Considering the difference in whitener exposure (8 hours vs. just 1 hour daily), we doubt that any dentist would be surprised by these findings.

In practice, one would simply need to decide what's more important to them. Using a more convenient and reasonably effective strips method (that under dentist supervision could involve the use of extended treatments so to improve the level of results). Or the more effective, although more demanding, tray-system regimen.

In regard to the superior results achieved via performing three in-office treatments, we're not so sure how fair comparing the two methods really is. Just the cost difference between these two whitening protocols alone (something on the order of $50 vs. many hundreds of dollars) implies what a lopsided comparison this is.

Section references - Bizhang

Yudhira (2007)

Study parameters -

This study evaluated the use of WhiteStrips® (6% hydrogen peroxide, twice daily, 30 minutes each application, 2 weeks duration) to whitening toothpaste (twice or more daily use over a 3-month time frame). Two different kinds of toothpaste were tested.

Study findings -

It was concluded that "whitening strips yielded superior whitening initially and over time compared to either of the whitening dentifrices."

Our take -
Few dentists would be surprised by these findings, given the generally ineffective reputation of whitening toothpaste in accomplishing anything other than assisting in the removal of surface stain from teeth.

Section references - Yudhira

Xu (2007)

Study parameters -

This study evaluated the use of WhiteStrips® to a brush-on (paint-on) whitener.

Study findings -

It was determined that "7 days use of a 6% hydrogen peroxide strip-based bleaching system provided superior and meaningful whitening compared to 14-day use of a 5.9% hydrogen peroxide" (brush-on product).

Our take -
This study is a testament to the benefit of the "barrier" effect created by strips technique. It showed that when using a similar concentration whitener, strips (due to their design) produced better results and in just one-half of the amount of treatment time.

Section references - Xu

How long will the whitening effects achieved by using strips last?

It's normal and expected that the lightening effect produced by any and all types of teeth-whitening methods, including whitening strips, will fade over time. So some level of touch-up treatment will be needed at some point.

We discuss what you can expect on our "Whitening strips / Touch-up treatments" page.


 Page references sources: 

Bizhang M, et al. Comparative clinical study of the effectiveness of three different bleaching methods.

Ferrari M, et al. Daytime use of a custom bleaching tray or whitening strips: initial and sustained color improvement.

Gerlach RW, et al. A randomized clinical trial comparing a novel 5.3% hydrogen peroxide whitening strip to 10%, 15%, and 20% carbamide peroxide tray-based bleaching systems.

Hannig C, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of two home bleaching systems having different peroxide delivery.

Xu X, et al. Randomized clinical trial comparing whitening strips, paint-on gel and negative control.

Yudhira R, et al. Clinical trial of tooth whitening with 6% hydrogen peroxide whitening strips and two whitening dentifrices.

All reference sources for topic Teeth Whitening Strips.

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