A few years ago, I paid a small fortune to have my teeth professionally whitened at the dentists. It was done using trays which were specially made for my teeth, and which had to be filled with gel and worn overnight. The results were great, but not only was the cost high, the gel trays would sometimes literally make me gag – to the point where I could hardly bear to have them on my teeth, and would put off using them, I hated it so much. The gel also left my teeth feeling really painful and sensitive, so while I was gad I'd done it, I was even more glad when it was over.
When too much coffee (and, OK, maybe the occasional glass of red wine) started to make my teeth revert back to their original shade, I decided to give the trays a miss, and went for Crest Whitestrips instead. Again, the effects were good but I wasn't keen on the way the strips felt on my teeth: they were a little on the slippery side and I was always paranoid that they'd drop off, so every time I wore them I'd clench my teeth together, and sometime end up frothing at the mouth as a result. Nice!
(From all of this you'll have gathered that I'm not all that keen on having things on my teeth. Never have been, probably never will be. Just one of my little, um, "quirks".)
And now there's Crest Whitestrips Advanced Seal – the latest incarnation of the tooth-whitening gel strips, and these are what I've been using this time round in my fight to brighten up my smile. So, how well do they work?
Unlike their predecessors, Whitestrips Advanced Seal have a super-strong adhesive which temporarily molds the strip to teeth, allowing you to talk and even drink while you're wearing them. This really is as strong as they say it is: once you've applied the strips to your teeth it can actually be a little tricky to get them back off again (patience and a bit of very gentle tugging, loosening the back of the strip first, will do it). If you have any kind of temporary dental work, like temporary veneers or crows, you're going to want to give these a miss until the work has been completed, because these strips REALLY stick hard to your teeth.
What this means is that they're much more comfortable to wear than previous Whitestrips (or, indeed, the gel trays I've used before). They mold to your teeth, so you don't have to worry about them falling off, and yes, it is possible to drink water while you're wearing them, although given that you only need to wear them for 30 minutes per day, I probably wouldn't bother, as the gel doesn't taste great and there's always a chance of a little bit escaping.
While I wouldn't take up the suggestion of wearing these while "out and about", I did find them much pleasanter to use than anything I'd tried before, and completely without that "gag" effect that's put me off other tooth-whitening solutions.
As I said above, these need to be worn for 30 minutes each day to do their work. Probably the biggest drawback fro most people is that they can make your teeth feel very sensitive. I have fairly sensitive teeth anyway, so I've been using them every second day instead, giving my teeth a chance to recover. Sensodyne toothpaste will also help, but you do need to be aware that increased sensitivity is a common side effect of these systems.
With that said, I'm currently just over halfway through the box (each box contains 14 packets, each containing two strips – one for your upper teeth, one for the lower set), and have found that my teeth seem to be getting less sensitive: in fact, I've been able to use the strips for three days in a row now, so perhaps my teeth are getting used to them.
As for the results, I've definitely noticed an improvement in the colour of my teeth, and am hoping this will continue as I use the rest of the pack. I would say these are for people who only need to "top up" a previous whitening job, though, or who just need to go up a shade or two: they're not going to turn very discolored teeth bright white overnight, but you should notice a difference if you use them regularly enough.
My only criticism of the strips themselves is that the lower strip is very small. This is because, for most people, only a few of the lower teeth are visible at any given time, but I would still have preferred a longer strip to take in more teeth. Other than that, though, I've been really impressed with these and think they're a definite improvement on the previous versions.
The bad news for those of you reading in the UK is that these aren't available here yet (although I daresay you'll be able to pick them up on eBay). If you're in the US or Canada, you can buy them now, and can also pick up free samples – there's more information at the Crest Whitestrips website.