It’s a fact that our teeth get darker as we get older. Even for the oral hygiene all-stars out there, the longer we live, the more our teeth are exposed to things that will stain them. Genetics do play a part in natural yellowing or greying, along with what we eat (hello, coffee!). But while whitening used to be limited to a service you would receive in the dentist’s chair with complicated molded trays and gels, it is now easier than ever to whiten your teeth quickly, comfortably and affordably from home and on the go.
The home-whitening wave began with strips, but now anything from LED light devices to whitening gels to charcoal powder have become popular ways to brighten your smile. Just like any new health trend, it can be hard to understand:
- Which products are effective at whitening your teeth?
- Which whitening products are safe to use?
Because when we whiten we are technically messing around with the enamel on our teeth, it is important to be careful about product choices. And just like many of the health products that we love and use daily, whiteners are not actually regulated by the FDA.
In this piece, we’ll take a closer look at whitening strips from three of the top brands and compare them detail by detail: Crest Whitestrips, the long-standing market leader, vs Burst vs Zimba, newer products that add a natural health and convenience element to traditional whitening methods.
How do at-home teeth whitening kits work?
We all probably understand the concept of bleaching to clean something, and so using peroxide to remove stains seems like a pretty simple idea as well. But teeth are actually pretty complicated! The first layer on our teeth, or the enamel, is actually a tiny network of tubes. Staining actually happens in the next layer below, or the Dentin. Whitening works by traveling through this tubular superhighway in the enamel to reach the Dentin. In this process, the peroxide breaks up into two other compounds: oxygen and hydroxyl radicals. Now these two chemicals go to work breaking up, or oxidizing, any stains on the teeny tiny pores in Dentin, and releasing them from the tooth.
Here, the peroxide hits the outside of your teeth, or the enamel layer, and then turns into oxygen and something called hydroxyl radicals. These two compounds can then do what’s called oxidation to the stain- breaking up the substance that is causing the stain and releasing it into pieces into the mouth. For bigger and deeper stains, the more times this is done, the better.
Is peroxide safe for teeth whitening?
Hydrogen Peroxide is safe for home health use, just as long as it’s diluted enough. Most teeth whitening products are going to have levels of peroxide between 3% and 15%, with the lower amounts generally considered more safe. (As a point of reference, household peroxide you might keep in your medicine cabinet is usually 3%).
Since tooth enamel is extremely tough- the hardest substance on the body, actually- it is not easy to damage, and so it is not permanently hurt by the whitening process. What does happen is that the enamel gets dehydrated and temporarily unable to do its job of protecting the dentin. During that time your teeth are extra susceptible to new stains, and sensitive to hot and cold since the nerves aren’t protected. About two thirds of whitening kit users report having some level of sensitivity soon after using whitening products.
For some people with weak or previously damaged enamel, the whitening process will make this sensitivity much worse. Those people should work with a dentist to make sure they choose a whitening product that works for them, or choose a product with a lower concentration of peroxide to use over a longer period of time. So if you have sensitive teeth, you should consult your dentist before trying DIY whitening.
Similarly, those who are developing an all-over gray or yellow hue to their teeth that doesn’t seem to be linked to consuming coffee, soda or wine should talk to their dentist. This is likely to be genetic (or some other condition) and might not respond to at-home whiteners like the ones in this article. Your dentist might be able to provide a service that does help, however.
Overall though, the research shows that most people do not have any long term sensitivity or damage from using peroxide based whitening products. The key here is to use them as directed, with time in between to let your enamel recover.
Zimba vs Burst vs Crest Whitestrips: How do these teeth whiteners compare?
Crest has long been a household name, and so it follows that their whitening strips have held the spot for most popular home teeth whitening since day one. But a couple of newer startups like Zimba and Burst have recently gained a following for whitening products, toothbrushes, and floss that use more natural ingredients like charcoal and coconut oil. Which one should you trust? Let’s see how they compare:
Best Whitening Strips: Crest vs Burst vs Zimba
|Time Commitment||Peroxide Strength||Additional health benefits from coconut oil?||ADA Seal of Approval?|
The main differences between these brands are:
- Peroxide strength (the concentration used)
- Time commitment needed to see results
- The addition of coconut oil (and all its benefits)
- Each company’s focus / core competency
At this point you may be asking: what exactly does coconut oil have to do with teeth whitening? We dug a little deeper to see what dentists think.
Why do Burst and Zimba use coconut oil for teeth whitening?
Burst and Zimba include a special ingredient — coconut oil — in their whitening strip formula. But why? Well, coconut oil has been used to boost dental health for literally hundreds of years. As a traditional Indian folk remedy, oils like coconut have always been used in a method called “oil pulling,” or basically using the oil as a mouth wash. This was believed to fend off tooth decay, bad breath, gum disease, dry mouth bleeding gums, dryness of throat, and cracked lips. Since a time long before toothpaste, oil pulling was even believed to strengthen teeth, gums and even the jaw.
But in recent times oil pulling has seen a popular comeback. Research suggests that oil pulling therapy shows a reduction in plaque, healthier gum lines, and lowered bacterial counts for people with gingivitis. The way that it is supposed to work is that oils are able to pull bacteria from all the nooks and crannies of your mouth, which then can be spit out with the oil– hence the term “pulling.” Coconut oil also has the added benefit of lauric acid which is a known antimicrobial, and a recent study found that it may also help prevent tooth decay. So by adding the coconut oil to its strips, Burst may be adding a long list of beneficial effects along with whitening.
What is the cost for Zimba vs Burst vs Crest Whitestrips?
Affordability goes a long way when it comes to choosing a product that you plan on using long term. When we break down the per treatment cost, Zimba does come out a little cheaper by a full dollar or so.
Pricing: Burst vs Zimba vs Crest White Strips
|Starting Price||$19.99 for 1 week supply|
(Full results in 7 days)
|$29.99 for 12-day supply|
(Full results in 10 days)
|$24.99 for 14-day supply|
(Full results in 14 days)
|Discounts?||25% off with subscription||10% off with email signup, 5% off with subscription||50% off your first order, 20% off with subscription|
|Daily cost per whitening treatment||$2.85||$2.49||$1.79|
|Free Cancellation||90 day guarantee||60 day guarantee||90 day guarantee|
However, if we look into what we are getting for the money, there’s more to the story.
Since Crest has almost double the peroxide strength as Burst or Zimba, you would in theory have to use the newcomers for longer to get the same results. In fact, studies do show that using a 5% peroxide product gives you the same amount of whitening as one of a higher strength if used for a longer period of time. Thus Crest Whitestrips might actually be more bang for your buck as far as how many times it has to be purchased and used, and how quickly it works. That said, higher concentrations of peroxide often cause teeth sensitivity, which is uncomfortable enough for many to steer clear of whitening products altogether. At a full dollar cheaper per day, Zimba may indeed be the most economical choice, especially for those curious about coconut oil.
What is it like to use Crest Whitestrips?
Crest Whitestrips are meant to be used for 30 minutes, every day, for a period of 10 days. They work best on clean teeth without plaque, so brushing first is not a bad idea.
They are thin, transparent, and don’t cause excessive salivation, so they can be worn while relaxing as well as during most household activities. They aren’t super visible from a few feet away either, so it’s possible to make errands if need be too.