Crest Whitestrips® | Touch-up treatments.

- After using whitening strips, how often are touch-ups needed? As compared to other teeth bleaching methods? | Performing touch-up sessions - How long? Directions. Options.

What do you need to do to maintain your whitening strips results?

Right about the time a person uses the last few of their whitening strips, two questions will typically come to mind. They are: 1) How long will their whitening results last? and 2) What frequency of touch-up treatment will be needed?

These two subjects are the focus of this page. And based on findings taken from research studies, we explain what level of whitening relapse can be expected. And how well the stability of the results achieved using whitening strips compares to other teeth bleaching methods.

Following that discussion, we then explain how to use whitening strips when performing your touch-up work.

How long will the whitening results you've achieved using WhiteStrips® last?

It's normal and expected that the lightening effect created by all types of teeth bleaching methods, including strips, will fade over time. And therefore touch-up work will be needed from time to time to maintain your original results.

A number of studies have evaluated the level of this effect following the use of whitening strips specifically. And how the amount of relapse that does take place compares to other whitening methods. It's generally been found that the stability of whitening results achieved using strips compares favorably.

Before and after.

Picture showing before and after results of teeth whitening.

Touch-up treatment is usually needed to maintain whitening results.

Study findings -

a) Wiegand

Study title: 12-Month color stability of enamel, dentine, and enamel–dentine samples after bleaching.

This investigation evaluated the color relapse that took place following different bleaching methods, including whitening strips, tray-based whitening and in-office treatments.

  • At the completion of their respective whitening processes, test samples were evaluated for loss of "lightness" and return of "yellowness" at intervals out to 12 months.
  • It was determined that all samples, regardless of the whitening process used, lost most of their achieved "lightness" over the following 12 months. In comparison, the "yellowness" of the samples was not found to relapse fully.


Study implications about touch-up work following the use of whitening strips.

Most importantly for this page's discussion, the authors reported that "Generally, no differences between the bleaching agents could be observed."

That means that the level of color stability associated with whitening strips use is on par with other bleaching methods. And as such, touch-up treatments will be required no more frequently.

b) Bizhang

Study title: Clinical trial of long-term color stability of hydrogen peroxide strips and sodium percarbonate film.

A part of this study's design included comparing the "color retention" of treatments performed by test subjects using both whitening strips and a paint-on whitener.

  • It concluded that "both peroxide-containing systems exhibited appreciable color retention throughout the 18-month post-treatment period."


That means that relapse was observed. But even at 1.5 years out, much of the original whitening effect was still present.

Study implications about touch-up work following the use of whitening strips.

This suggests that whatever touch-up treatments are ultimately performed, it can be expected that the level of effect they'll need to produce will never be as substantial as initially. (At least if performed within the first 1.5 years.)

This then implies that touch-up work can either be shorter in duration, or accomplished using a less potent whitener (strip), or both. (We discuss these issues below.)

c) Auschill

Study title: Randomized clinical trial of the efficacy, tolerability, and long-term color stability of two bleaching techniques: 18-month follow-up.

Auschill evaluated the long-term color stability of two tooth whitening methods (whitening strips and tray-based bleaching) and determined that "at the 18-month recall, tooth shade remained significantly lighter than at baseline." (Baseline being the color of the teeth before beginning their whitening processes.)

Study implications about touch-up work following the use of whitening strips.

These findings support those conclusions discussed above.

What we feel these studies collectively establish.

Based on their findings, it seems reasonable to us to state that:

  • When whitening strips are used, some level of whitening relapse will occur. (A normal event associated with all teeth bleaching methods.)
  • But even at a point 1 to 1.5 years following the strips' use, noticeable ("significant", "appreciable") levels of the original whitening effect tend to still remain.


  • And the degree of relapse that takes place following white strips use is similar to that that takes place following the use of other methods. (Which seems logical since they are all based on the same chemistry.)

Section references - Wiegand, Bizhang, Auschill

What do strip manufacturers say?

When scanning through the pages of the WhiteStrips® (USA) website (this is the original whitening strips brand), we noticed their statements about the kind of results that they feel are typical.

They claim that WhiteStrips® "keep your teeth whiter for 12 months" and produce "results lasting up to 12 months". Both of these statements seem totally in line with the study findings and conclusions discussed above.

Section references -

After using whitening strips, how often will touch-up work be needed?

Generally speaking, research seems to suggest that performing touch-up treatments somewhere between once a month up to every six months is generally all that's required to maintain a person's results over the long-term.


It's important to note that the total level of color relapse that ultimately takes place, and how rapidly it occurs, is affected by a number of variables. So, in regard to exactly what you experience, "your mileage may vary."

A factor you control.

It's generally considered that the degree and speed of relapse that takes place are influenced by your level of exposure to what's termed "chromogenic agents." These are dark-colored consumables, like coffee, tea, dark colas, red wine and/or tobacco products.

If you'll minimize your exposure (frequency and/or duration) to these kinds of items, the results you've achieved using your whitening strips should last longer and therefore your need for touch-up treatments less frequent.

The nature of the relapse.
The color fading that takes place following whitening treatments isn't a sudden event. Instead, it takes place gradually. It usually occurs most rapidly initially (such as during the first 30 days), and then tapers off and remains more stable. (Monteiro)

Section references - Monteiro, Carey

What touch-up frequency is needed after whitening strips use?

The last bit of information we've mentioned probably holds the key in determining how often you'll need to re-whiten to maintain a consistent appearance.

It states that the greatest degree of relapse will tend to occur within the first 30 days immediately following the use of your whitening strips, and from there on remain more stable.

So if at a point 1 month out you're still satisfied with your smile's appearance (and therefore no treatment is indicated), a touch-up frequency of only every 3 to 6 months will probably be satisfactory (because this period equates with the plateauing of the rate of color decline).

What retreatment intervals are mentioned in published research?

It's common to find touch-up intervals of every 30 days to 6 months discussed in studies. With a mention in some that some people still consider their original results acceptable even 1 to 1.5 years out.

We're assuming that this latter group is composed of people who are somewhat less demanding about their smile's appearance. But absolutely, if you don't notice a need to perform additional teeth bleaching (at any point in time, no matter how extended), there's absolutely no reason to do so. This is just a cosmetic issue and nothing more.

We think the wide range of this time frame (every 1 to 6 months) is simply an indication of how widely the level of relapse that occurs varies among people. And how a person's feelings about their own need for touch-up work varies widely too.

How about shorter touch-up intervals?

When conducting our background research for this page, what we can say is that we didn't run across a single study that suggested, or even discussed, a touch-up interval of less than every 30 days.

Picture of documenting a tooth's color using a dental shade guide.

Using a shade guide to document the color of teeth.

We anticipate that a primary reason why is because the amount of color relapse that takes place during very short periods of time simply isn't readily perceptible to the human eye.
And since it's the appearance of a person's teeth alone that should be the deciding factor in determining when touch-up whitening is needed, performing treatments at intervals of less than 30 days, especially without corroborating evidence documented via the use of a dental shade guide, seems a questionable and inadvisable habit.
(The issue of whitener abuse comes to mind with such practices.)

How to perform touch-up treatments using whitening strips.

A picture of one package of Crest Whitestrips®.

The contents of one foil package of Crest Whitestrips®.

The individual foil packaging that's used with whitening strip products makes them very convenient for periodic touch-up work.
Just use the very few you need out of a box to refresh the look of your smile. Then save the rest for the next time minor retreatment is needed.

For long-term storage, keep your extra strips in a cool dark place (your refrigerator is ideal).

How many whitening strips are required for touch-up treatments?

The idea is that you only need to use that (small) number of strips that are necessary to restore your smile's appearance.

  • So in cases where the amount of relapse that's taken place is just minor (like when touching-up every month or two), just performing one or two strip applications should be adequate.
  • If a more substantial amount of fading has occurred (like when touching-up at 6 to 12-month intervals), the use of a few strips (a few days of treatment) may be necessary.


You should never feel that you have to use more strips than just the number needed to rejuvenate your smile's look.

What kind of whitening strips are best for touch-up treatments?

Since you have previous experience with a specific type of strip (whitener concentration, brand), and you're simply trying to bring your teeth back to the same level of whiteness that that product did originally, sticking with the same kind can make a good idea.

Having said that, and especially if you've previously used a relatively high-concentration peroxide strip that has caused side effects, switching to a lower-concentration one may provide a more comfortable way to accomplish what you need.

Whatever kind you choose, no special instructions apply for touch-up work, just stay within your product's guidelines found in its instructions.

Crest's WhiteStrips® Stain Shield product.

In the past, we've noticed that WhiteStrips® has offered a product in its lineup named "Stain Shield." We're currently under the impression that this item has been discontinued (we no longer see it mentioned on the WhiteStrips® website (USA)).

These strips, touted as a solution for "daily staining," are coated with a relatively low-concentration peroxide whitener and have a recommended application time of just 5 minutes. The idea associated with this product is that its daily use counteracts the normal fading process and/or formation of new staining in real-time.

It's our opinion that incessant touch-up whitening performed for unfounded/undocumented reasons helps to establish a consumer mindset that can lead to whitener abuse. Generally, we think that this product tends to encourage that type of habit. So if Stain Sheild has been discontinued, we are glad to see it go.


 Page references sources: 

Auschill TM, et al. Randomized clinical trial of the efficacy, tolerability, and long-term color stability of two bleaching techniques: 18-month follow-up.

Bizhang M, et al. Clinical trial of long-term color stability of hydrogen peroxide strips and sodium percarbonate film.

Carey CM. Tooth Whitening: What We Now Know. - Frequently Asked Questions.

Monteiro D, et al. Evaluation of the effect of different enamel surface treatments and waiting
times on the staining prevention after bleaching.

Wiegand A, et al. 12-Month color stability of enamel, dentine, and enamel–dentine samples after bleaching.

All reference sources for topic Teeth Whitening Strips.

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