Safest Teeth Whiteners
The safest ways to whiten your teeth explained
In this article
At-home teeth whiteners are an effective and convenient way to brighten your smile from the comfort of home. There are many options to choose from, including LED kits, prefilled trays, strips, and pens.
Some whitening products provide quicker and longer-lasting results. Others are less expensive but require more upkeep and regular use. The best treatment for you depends on:
Our team tested more than 30 products. Each product went through an extensive review process. See more on this in the sections below.
Here are the best at-home teeth whiteners available in 2022, according to our testing results and research:
Everything We Recommend
We spent over 100 hours testing products in-house, talking to licensed dental professionals, and reading peer-reviewed studies on at-home whitening. Our testing/approval process is extensive and includes the following:
Our testers used and compared about three dozen teeth whitening products, including kits, LED kits, strips, pens, and toothpaste.
The testers have been using at-home teeth whitening products for a combined period of 10 years. They have also been running the content section of NewMouth’s whitening section for 3 years. One of them has extremely sensitive teeth, so he was the test subject for sensitivity.
The recommendations in this article are based on first-hand use. We only recommend whitening products that were thoroughly tested by our team.
We didn’t ask dental experts to recommend their favorite whitening products. We believe hands-on testing is essential for validity and objective recommendations. However, this article was medically reviewed and directed by multiple licensed dental professionals.
Our testers used each product extensively and compared them based on the following categories:
In addition to our own research, we talked to three dental professionals. They provided insight regarding the safety of at-home whitening, ingredients to look for and avoid, and how to choose the right product for your needs.
We talked to three dental professionals about the key ingredients to look for in at-home whitening products. All agreed hydrogen peroxide tops the list. Many studies have also determined hydrogen peroxide to be a safe and effective whitening agent when used correctly.3, 4
"Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen. It is the most effective teeth whitener because it oxidizes organic structure and changes how light reflects from the surface," according to Dr. Sidhu.
Dr. Aggarwal agrees. To be effective, whitening products must contain either abrasives like hydrated silica and calcium carbonate and/or bleaching agents like perlite, hydrogen peroxide, or carbamide peroxide.
Abrasives work through mechanical action by removing surface stains. Bleaching agents use chemical action to react with the colored compounds in teeth.
Phthalimido peroxy caproic acid (PAP), a new non-hydrogen peroxide bleaching agent, has also shown promising results in being an effective tooth whitener.1, 5
Based on our testing and research, the six best at-home teeth whitening products available in 2022 are:
Ease of use 4.7/5
Value for money 4.2/5
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We chose Hismile as the best overall whitening kit because the product causes zero sensitivity thanks to phthalimido peroxy caproic acid (PAP). PAP is a new non-hydrogen peroxide bleaching agent that has shown to be an effective tooth whitener with minimal to no side effects (like sensitivity).
Dr. Aggarwal and Dr. Sidhu agree that PAP is a promising whitening agent. It is a safe and effective alternative to peroxide that doesn’t release free radicals during whitening. The kit also includes the world’s first at-home VIO405 light, which has 32 LEDs as opposed to the traditional five in most devices.
In addition to PAP, Hismile uses remineralizing ingredients to boost enamel health and provide protection:
One of our testers has extremely sensitive teeth. He’s tested over 20 whitening products, most of which caused some sensitivity. Hismile’s kit doesn’t, so he keeps going back to it. The kit also feels premium, effectively whitens teeth, and doesn't require 30+ minutes of use.
Note: Some dentists believe PAP causes more sensitivity than peroxide. We discovered the opposite during our testing. Results may vary.
|Delivery Method:||Gel and LED light|
|Active Ingredients:||Phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP)|
|Application Time:||10-minute sessions (1 to 2 treatments at a time)|
Add the PAP+ Solution to the front of the mouthpiece's surface, so it touches the front of your teeth, not the bottom.
Ease of use 4.2/5
Value for money 4.6/5
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We recommend Auraglow’s LED kit if you want a fast, affordable, and effective whitening experience. Although the whitening gel has a higher peroxide content (35% carbamide peroxide), Auraglow’s products are designed with sensitivity in mind.
Carbamide peroxide is one of the most commonly used bleaching agents. It breaks down slower than hydrogen peroxide and may cause less sensitivity. One study found that it reduced tooth sensitivity risk from 67% to 89% compared to hydrogen peroxide.
One of our testers used Auraglow’s LED whitening kit three times (three days in a row). Her teeth were noticeably lighter after the first use and about two shades lighter after the third use. The kit caused minor sensitivity after the second use, but these effects were temporary. She also likes that the gel contains xylitol, which has known dental health benefits.
|Delivery Method:||Gel and LED light|
|Active Ingredients:||Carbamide peroxide (35%), which equals about 12% hydrogen peroxide|
|Application Time:||Once daily for 30 minutes (7 to 14 days in a row), repeat every 4 to 6 weeks|
Since Auraglow’s whitening kit has a higher peroxide content, we recommend checking progress after 2 to 3 uses. Take a break or try a lower peroxide product if you have thin and/or sensitive enamel.
Ease of use 4.3/5
Value for money 4.4/5
Crest 3D Whitestrips for Sensitive Teeth is our number one choice for safe teeth whitening. This is because the product has the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. Any products with this seal have been thoroughly tested and studied. They must be proven safe and effective for at-home use via the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs regulations.
Our testers found that Crest Whitestrips (Sensitive) caused minimal to no sensitivity. Results were noticeable after just two to four uses. The strips also have great adhesion, making them easy to put on and take off. Lastly, the compact packaging makes them perfect for on-the-go whitening during vacation.
Crest recommends completing the full treatment course (14 days straight) every 6 months. Depending on your desired results and reaction to the product, you can reduce this time. We recommend checking progress after 3 days of consistent use.
|Delivery Method:||Whitening strips|
|Active Ingredients:||Hydrogen peroxide (5.25%)|
|Application Time:||Once daily for 30 minutes (up to 14 days in a row)|
For better grip, dry off your teeth with a paper towel before applying the strips
Ease of use 4/5
Value for money 4.5/5
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We chose Snow’s At Home Teeth Whitening Kit as the ‘best value for your money’ because each kit contains about 75 treatments. Other kits on the market come with 14 treatments or less, so Snow stands out in this category.
Snow’s whitening gel also includes a mixture of hydrogen and carbamide peroxide. These active ingredients are effective and safe whitening agents.3, 4
Snow offers original and extra-strength whitening serums. Our testers tried both. The extra-strength serum (more peroxide) generally caused more sensitivity. Because of this, we recommend using the original serum with less peroxide. Both were effective tooth whiteners.
|Delivery Method:||Whitening strips|
|Active Ingredients:||Hydrogen and carbamide peroxide|
|Application Time:||10 to 30 minutes (up to 30 days in a row)|
Ease of use 4.5/5
Value for money 4.3/5
Spotlight Oral Care was founded by a team of dentists, Dr. Lisa and Dr. Vanessa. These professional-grade whitening strips are made with the active ingredient hydrogen peroxide. They recommend using the strips for one hour a day for 14 days to achieve a whiter, brighter smile.
Our testers tried more than 10 different whitening strips. Spotlight Oral Care’s strips stood out because they stuck to the teeth well, caused minimal sensitivity after multiple uses, and were easy to apply and take off.
The results were noticeable after just one use, which is rare for whitening strips. The packaging is high-quality and includes a carrying case. The comforting gum oil was also a nice addition (apply for 5 minutes after using the strips to reduce discomfort).
|Delivery Method:||Whitening strips|
|Active Ingredients:||Hydrogen peroxide (10%)|
|Application Time:||Once daily for 1 hour (up to 14 days in a row)|
Ease of use 4.8/5
Value for money 4.1/5
Opalescence Go (10% Peroxide) is our top pick for prefilled whitening trays because they are extremely convenient and easy to use.
Of all the whitening products we tested, these were the most comfortable. The trays adhere to the teeth instantly and cover your entire smile (not just the front six teeth). This provides more even whitening results.
No gel leaked through, and the trays stayed in place throughout the treatment session. Whitening strips often leak midway through treatment, but these trays did not. Overall, the quality of these whitening trays is superior to any whitening strip or tray we tested.
|Delivery Method:||Prefilled trays|
|Active Ingredients:||Hydrogen peroxide (10%)|
|Application Time:||30 to 60 minutes a day (up to 10 days in a row)|
Before getting into specific recommendations, we developed general guidelines based on our experience using various at-home whitening products. Keep in mind that these are opinions. Talk to your dentist if you have any concerns about whitening your teeth.
We tested other products that didn’t make our top recommendations list. However, the products below were easy to use and provided decent results with minimal side effects:
Based on our experience, these products caused unpleasant side effects, lacked convenience, and/or weren’t worth the money:
The primary factors to consider when buying whitening products are the ingredients, bleaching concentration, application time, and delivery method.
At-home whitening products come in a few different delivery methods. Dr. Aggarwal recommends starting with whitening strips or kits without lights (like prefilled trays and gels). But it ultimately depends on your preference and dental health status.
These consist of potent whitening gels that are ‘prefilled’ into universal whitening trays. One of our testers prefers prefilled trays over any other whitening method for comfort and convenience.
Dr. Aggarwal also recommends prefilled trays because the efficacy of LED lights hasn’t been well-studied. A whitening gel containing an active ingredient like peroxide will whiten your teeth.
These trays are similar to prefilled options, except they mold to the shape of your teeth and mouth.
You also have to manually fill the gel into the trays and put them in warm water before use. One of our testers said there isn’t enough room in many of these trays to fit the whitening gel. They can also be a hassle because they require more time.
Most of our recommendations in this article include LED mouthpieces because many brands include them now. Some research shows these lights help speed up the whitening process. Others show the opposite.
The dental experts we interviewed also agreed that more studies are needed to determine their effectiveness. However, the mouthpieces do provide a more comfortable whitening experience.
Whitening strips are the most popular at-home whitening products. You simply peel the strips from the packaging, dry your teeth, and place the strips on your teeth for 10 to 30 minutes. Strips peel off quickly and provide vibrant results with consistent use. They are typically cheaper and contain lower peroxide levels than other at-home products.
Whitening pens are marketed as convenient ways to whiten teeth on the go. They don’t require lights or strips. All you do is ‘paint’ your teeth surfaces a couple of times a day.
We don’t recommend pens in this article because our testers experienced more burning sensations with these products. They are also significantly messier than other options. We only recommend using pens for upkeep between whitening sessions.
Whitening toothpaste is also a good option for maintaining whitening results after using strips or trays. We recommend choosing a product with a low Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) score.
Whitening products generally remove external stains from the outer surfaces of teeth. Bleaching products (in-office) penetrate deep within the tooth structure, changing the internal color of the tooth.
Professional teeth bleaching systems are administered and overseen by dentists and their dental teams.
Depending on the product, treatment times can fall between 10 and 60 minutes per session. Some recommend 7 to 14 days of consistent use, then repeating the process every few months. Others recommend 14+ days of treatment.
Generally, the higher the peroxide level, the shorter the session. If you have sensitive teeth or thin enamel, check your progress after a few days of use. Take a break or try something different if you experience discomfort.
According to experts interviewed in this article and our research, the following active ingredients are effective whitening agents:
We asked licensed dentists to list common ingredients to avoid in whitening products, including potential allergens and irritants. Here’s what they recommend avoiding:
Another factor to consider when choosing a whitening product is the brand’s track record. How old is the company? How many reviews do they have? Where was the product made?
Dr. Sidhu says to be careful with ‘overseas’ whitening products, as the whitening agents can contain contaminants or dangerous levels of peroxide and may not be approved by the FDA.
According to Dr. Aggarwal, “the stronger the peroxide concentration, the more effective the whitening product. However, this also increases the likelihood of developing adverse effects.” The most common effects include tooth sensitivity and gum discomfort, which are usually harmless and short-lived.
Methods with longer application times (whitening strips) will be more effective than those with decreased tooth contact (mouthwash and toothpaste). She recommends avoiding products with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and alcohol, as these can have adverse side effects.
At-home products containing higher levels of peroxide, which is common in whitening kits, should be used cautiously. Follow the instructions carefully.
Also, people with weak or worn-down enamel and sensitive teeth should use products with lower peroxide levels. Talk with your dentist before starting a new whitening regimen.
The dentists we spoke to had mixed opinions on the effectiveness of LED lights in whitening. Research results are also conflicting.
For example, one study reported a larger difference in bleaching with an LED light after the first session than without it.12 Other studies state that using an LED light made no difference with higher hydrogen peroxide concentrations.10
According to Dr. Zoumboukos, LED lights accelerate the bleaching product's reaction on the teeth. The LED light itself will not whiten teeth.
There are also key differences between using at-home LED whitening systems vs. in-office light-based ones, says Dr. Zoumboukos. Typically, office products differ in bleach concentration, the type of bleach, and the light system.
Many in-office bleaching systems use higher concentrations of bleach, resulting in an immediate whitening effect. This is not the case with at-home products; results usually take longer to notice.
Current independent research in support of LED at-home whitening systems is not widely available. More studies are required to determine these products' effectiveness and overall value.
At-home teeth whitening is generally considered safe if you follow the product instructions, don’t overuse it, and choose the right delivery method for your needs. For example, if you have thin enamel, you’ll likely benefit from ‘gentle’ whitening strips or a peroxide-free alternative (like PAP).
“If you overuse the gel, it can cause decalcification of teeth leading to increased wear and cavity susceptibility,” says Dr. Sidhu.
Choosing products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance will ensure you purchase a safe and effective product. Here’s a list of the accepted whitening products:
An oral health product submitted to the ADA must include data from clinical and/or laboratory studies. These tests must demonstrate safety and efficacy according to category requirements developed by the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.
“I always recommend products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance,” says Dr. Zoumboukos. “Currently, none of the at-home LED whitening kits have the ADA Seal of Acceptance. The Seal of Acceptance process takes time, and the products are thoroughly evaluated.”
All of the dentists we spoke to said it’s important to discuss whitening with your dentist before starting at-home whitening or professional bleaching.
“There is a risk that your teeth or gums will become sensitive to the bleach solution,” according to Dr. Zoumboukos. “Teeth bleaching will not alter the color of your existing dental restorations, and discussing with your dentist possible outcomes before starting any treatment will help clarify possible outcomes.”
All of the questions below are answers from the three dental professionals interviewed for this article.
Avoid coffee, tea, dark sauces, dark chocolate, acidic foods, and smoking, and use straws to drink dark liquids. Brush and floss to extend your teeth whitening to the highest levels for 72 hours after whitening.
If you overuse the gel, it can cause decalcification of teeth, leading to increased wear and cavity susceptibility.
The primary differences are the level of peroxide, cost, and depth of whitening. In-office bleaching provides immediate results that last 6 months to a year. This is due to the high peroxide content and intensive bleaching method.
However, professional whitening can cost a couple of hundred dollars per session, whereas most at-home treatments cost under $150.
The main benefit of LED whitening kits is that they often provide faster results than other at-home options. Cons: increased sensitivity and higher costs.
Pros of whitening strips: least expensive and least amount of sensitivity. Cons: weakest strength, meaning weakest results. Usually, only the front six teeth are treated.
Natural options such as baking soda may use abrasives to mechanically remove extrinsic stains.2 Depending on how abrasive these products are, they may cause more harm than peroxide. You can use the relative dentin abrasivity scale to determine how abrasive a substance is.
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