Teeth Whitening Trays Vs. Strips

White teeth do make a difference in the appearance of your smile and face. Babies and young children truly do have pearly whites. As people age, however, teeth tend to become yellowed or grey and your teeth can become stained from wine, coffee, tea or tobacco.

Luckily there are multiple options for teeth whitening these days. In addition to professional whitening treatments at the dentist's office, a multitude of gels, toothpastes and other treatments are readily available. The various products differ in terms of how they are used, what they cost and how effective they are. Two effective treatments are teeth whitening strips and teeth whitening trays. Here's some information that can help you choose between them.

Pros and Cons of Teeth Whitening Strips

  • Teeth whitening strips are one of the least expensive options.
  • Available over the counter and various brands are also available.
  • Disposable – once you take them off, you throw the used strip away.
  • Immediately available; just go down to the drugstore or order online.
  • Worn for about 20-60 minutes once per day for up to two weeks, sometimes longer.
  • Patient must be careful in fitting to assure they cover all tooth surfaces but not the gums
  • The bleaching solution can irritate the gums in those with sensitive teeth, depending on the concentration.

Pros & Cons of Teeth Whitening Trays

  • Trays are custom-fitted to the patient, so all surfaces of the teeth are fully exposed to the bleaching solutions.
  • The dentist can give you a custom bleaching solution that may be up to two times as strong as those used in strips; this ensures you get the right amount of whitening.
  • Available from both dentists and the drug store, but the dentist's version is custom-fitted and less likely to leak.
  • One of the more expensive whitening options.
  • Can't eat or drink when wearing a tray.
  • Patients must fill the tray with the proper amount of bleaching gel.
  • Must be worn one to two hours a day for one to two weeks.
  • It may take a couple of days or more for the dentist to make the custom tray after your office visit.
  • Teeth sensitivities can occur as well from the strong concentration of peroxide.

Comparing the Two Treatments - Teeth Whitening Trays Vs. Strips

Both teeth whitening trays and strips use a form of peroxide (either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide) to whiten the teeth. Both require direct contact with the teeth to be effective. The strips come in a package with a liner that must be removed before the strip can be placed on the teeth.

Trays are just what they sound like – a plastic tray that fits over the teeth. You fill the tray with tooth whitening gel or solution and place the tray over the teeth.

Strips come in different strengths, but the gel used in trays is available in a wider range of strengths and at the upper concentrations, is considerably stronger than the solution in the strips. Whitening strips are more effective on yellowed teeth rather than those with a greyish cast. Trays are very effective; since they can be used with stronger bleaching solutions, they may whiten teeth that don't respond to whitening strips.

A box of teeth whitening strips costs about $20 to $40 a box, which is usually enough for one treatment (daily wear for about a week). A drugstore teeth whitening tray is likely to cost in the neighborhood of $40 to $70. A teeth whitening tray from the dentist will probably cost about $400 to $500.

Considerations in Making A Choice

Depending on the person, either strips or trays may be the better choice for them and so careful consideration is required before finalizing a decision.


When it comes to trays, they can be custom-fitted, so you can be assured that all teeth will be treated. You can also use a much stronger bleaching solution. Strips will need to be placed manually on your teeth. It doesn't have to be perfect, but you may need to spend a bit more time aligning the strips with your gum line and making sure the entire surface of each tooth is in contact with the gel of the strip.

The advantage that strips have over the trays when it comes to fitting, is there are strips on the market, such as Crest Professional Effects, that allow you to continue to talk and drink water during the treatment. This is not so for the trays.

Teeth Sensitivity

While both over-the-counter products and dental office whitening may get the job done, you do have some slight risks such as gum irritation. This is true of all whitening treatments, but whitening strips usually have lower concentrations of peroxide than at the dental office.

Because trays use a strength anywhere from 15% to 43%, it may be best for those with sensitive teeth to stick to the strips that are less concentrated with peroxide. There are over-the-counter white strips designed for those with sensitive teeth such as Crest Gentle Routine Whitening Strips.

Speaking to the Dentist

One advantage offered by speaking with your dentist prior to making a choice about whitening is that he or she may recommend the kind of treatment that will be more effective for your specific needs. When you work with a dentist you will have a professional assessment and monitoring.


Dental insurance rarely covers teeth whitening, as it is considered a cosmetic procedure, so no matter what procedure you choose, expect to pay out of pocket. You could spend a lot of money at the dental office with trays or other forms of whitening and have some advantages as previously mentioned, or you could grab a reasonably priced box of whitening strips and whiten your teeth in the comfort of your own home.


Whiter teeth really can do a lot for your smile. Do consider your options carefully before making a decision. Teeth whitening strips and trays may both be effective, although you may not know until you actually use one or the other which one is right for you. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Only you can decide which whitening treatment best fits your needs, available time and financial situation.





Aurora is the lead editor here at pearlywhytes.com. She is one of those people who actually likes going to the dentist. She loves to write about anything health related, but oral health is her most passionate topic. Her free time is spent partaking in family activities and experimenting in the kitchen.

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