Safest Ways to Whiten Teeth

Is Teeth Whitening Safe?

Teeth whitening is the process of removing stains from your teeth and brightening your smile. Teeth whitening treatments include in-office bleaching procedures, dentist-grade products for at-home use, and over-the-counter (OTC) whiteners.

Tooth whitening is safe and effective when the manufacturer’s protocol is followed or performed by a dental professional.

Though whitening is safe, there are still some risks that users should know. Temporary tooth sensitivity and gingival inflammation are the most common adverse effects of teeth whitening.

Why Do Teeth Stain? 

Many factors can cause teeth stains, including:

  • Infections or tooth decay
  • Genetics
  • Too much fluoride
  • High-acidity foods and drinks
  • Tobacco
  • Trauma
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Aging
  • Certain antibiotics (tetracycline, chlorhexidine, etc.)

How to Prevent Tooth Discoloration

To protect your pearly whites from becoming discolored, you should:

  • Brush and floss your teeth twice daily
  • Avoid smoking or using tobacco products
  • Consume tooth-staining foods in moderation
  • Brush and floss after eating dark-colored foods
  • Drink tea or coffee with milk 
  • Drink iced tea, iced coffee, juices, or other colored beverages through a straw
  • Rinse with water after drinking coffee or tea
  • Chew sugarless gum to neutralize the acids in your mouth 
  • Eat high-fiber foods to lower the acid level in your mouth
  • Eat leafy greens, which generate more saliva in the mouth and can “scrub” the teeth clean
  • Attend regular dental cleanings twice annually
  • Try oil pulling with coconut oil to remove toxins
  • Brush your tongue to remove bacteria

For a whiter smile, you should limit your intake of foods that stain the surfaces of your teeth, including:

  • Red wine
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Pomegranates
  • Soda
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Coffee
  • Green tea
  • Black tea
  • Sugary treats
  • Marinara
  • Curry
  • Paprika
  • Balsamic vinegar

Best Overall Whitening Kit — Snow At-Home Teeth Whitening All-in-One Kit

Fastest Results — Glo Brilliant Teeth Whitening Device

Best for Sensitive Teeth — Snow At-Home Teeth Whitening All-in-One Kit

Best on a Budget — AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Kit

Best Whitening Strips — Crest 3D Whitestrips Glamorous White

Best for Travel — AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Pen

Best Whitening Toothpaste — Colgate Optic White Advanced Whitening Toothpaste

Best Non-Peroxide Treatment — Lumineux Oral Essentials Teeth Whitening Kit

How to Safely Whiten Your Teeth

There are a few ways to whiten your teeth safely and effectively from the comfort of home:

  • Use over-the-counter teeth bleaching products that contain baking soda or hydrogen peroxide
  • Look for products with an American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance
  • Avoid high-colored food and drinks
  • Use a tooth whitening pen
  • Use teeth-whitening toothpaste and mouthwashes as maintenance
  • Brush and floss daily
  • Invest in an electric toothbrush
  • Apply lemon and apple cider vinegar which brighten teeth
  • Use a whitening pre-rinse before brushing

You should also eat more foods that brighten your teeth, including:

  • Apples improve gum health and stimulate saliva production, which helps rinse away stains.
  • Cheese, milk, and yogurt strengthen tooth enamel and appearance.
  • Nuts, celery, broccoli, and carrots have an abrasive texture that scrubs off stains.
  • Raw onions contain sulfur, which stops plaque from forming.
  • Strawberries contain malic acid, which removes surface stains lurking on teeth.

Teeth whitening is only safe for patients with good dental hygiene. If you have cavities, gum disease, or other oral health conditions, refrain from using whitening products.

Before using DIY teeth whitening methods, you should first talk to your dentist about what teeth whitening options are best for you. 

Is Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening Safe?

Activated charcoal is not proven to be safe or effective for teeth whitening. The American Dental Association has not given activated charcoal its Seal of Acceptance, which certifies a treatment is safe to use and is recommended by dentists.

Not only has charcoal not been proven safe, but it might also damage your teeth. 

Charcoal is abrasive and can erode enamel, which is irreversible. If the charcoal erodes too much of your enamel, it makes your teeth look more yellow. This is because thinning enamel reveals more of the inner dentin, which is darker.

Enamel loss can lead to increased sensitivity and susceptibility to dental decay.

Can You Use Turmeric for Teeth Whitening?

Turmeric is not recommended for teeth whitening because it has not been certified as a safe or effective method. The American Dental Association has not given turmeric its Seal of Acceptance, which authorizes a treatment as safe for use.

There is limited data on turmeric’s efficacy as a natural whitening product. However, turmeric is an astringent, which may impact tooth enamel and health. And in one study, turmeric created no difference in teeth color. 

What is the Most Effective Way to Whiten Teeth?

The safest and most effective way to whiten your teeth is with professional teeth whitening treatments. These methods provide instant results and are completed in a dentist's office. However, professional whitening is expensive, making it less desirable for many people.

Instead, NewMouth recommends at-home whitening products that contain safe levels of peroxide. Products containing either hydrogen or carbamide peroxide are safe and effective teeth whitening agents.

At-home teeth bleaching products typically contain 5 to 10 percent hydrogen peroxide or 35 percent carbamide peroxide. They are applied for 10 to 30 minutes for multiple days in a row.

Using at-home whitening products that contain higher levels of peroxide can lead to increased sensitivity and gum irritation.

10 Best Teeth Whitening Products (for Enamel-Safe Whitening)

Here are the best (and safest) at-home whitening products recommended by NewMouth:

snow all in one teeth whitening kit

Snow All-In-One Whitening Kit

Best Overall & Best for Sensitive Teeth

This dentist-approved teeth whitening kit was designed for sensitive teeth and is safe for gums and enamel.

Each whitening application only takes 9 minutes per day. According to Snow’s website, 97 percent of customers see results after just one use (consumer study). 

Cost: $$$

GLO Brilliant Deluxe Teeth Whitening

GLO Brilliant Teeth Whitening Kit

This teeth whitening kit was designed by a top NYC aesthetic dentist, Dr. Jonathan B. Levine DMD, PC. It features ingredients that are vegan, gluten-free, latex-free, andcruelty-free.

GLO Brilliant uses LED lights as well as heat to give you faster results. This kit is for people who want white teeth quickly. Applications only take 8 minutes. They suggest completing four back-to-back applications each day for five straight days, or until you’re pleased with the results. This is a fast and effective whitening process, but it is the most expensive item on our list.

Cost: $$$

AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Kit, LED Light

AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Kit

AuraGlow uses cool LED whitening technology with 5 built-in bulbs, and comes with a built-in timer to keep track of whitening.

AuraGlow’s organicteeth whitening gel is made with gluten-free and vegan-friendly ingredients, and features 35% carbamide peroxideas a bleaching agent for professional-grade results.

This teeth whitening kit allows you to whiten your teeth hands-freewith a comfort-fittray, which makes it easy to whiten your teeth for 30 minutes per day.

Cost: $

Crest  Glamorous White Whitestrips

Crest 3D Whitestrips Glamorous White

The Crest 3D Professional Effects Whitestrips Kit contains 16 full whitening treatments. This includes 14 regular whitening treatments (one upper and one lower strip) and two one-hour express treatments. The one-hour express strips reveal same-day results for a visibly whiter smile.

Crest 3D White Whitestrips have the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, which means they are safe and effective when used correctly.

Cost: $

Honorable Mentions

AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Pen

AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Pen

Best Whitening Option for Travel

The AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Pen will deliver results when you’re traveling or on the go. You can coat your teeth quickly and easily with the ergonomic design. However, we suggest using the AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Kit to increase the whitening effects of this treatment.

Cost: $

Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth Whitening Kit

Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth Whitening Kit

Best Whitestrips for Sensitive Teeth

These Whitestrips were developed to provide a comfortable at-home whitening experience for people who have tooth sensitivity but still want to brighten their pearly whites. These enamel-safe strips get applied for 30 minutes daily.

Cost: $

limuneux teeth whitening kit

Lumineux Oral Essentials Teeth Whitening Kit

Best Non-Peroxide Whitening Kit

Lumineux Oral Essentials were developed utilizing coconut oil, lemon peel oil, sage oil, and dead sea salt to remove stains from your teeth instead of bleach (hydrogen peroxide). They were developed with dental professionals and are non-toxic, SLS-free, preservative-free, sugar-free, and vegan. Apply the strips for 30 minutes every day and see results in 7+ days. 

Lumineux’s Teeth Whitening Kit includes: 

  • 14 natural whitening strips
  • Whitening toothpaste (3.75 oz)
  • Whitening mouthwash (16 oz)
  • Bamboo toothbrush 

Cost: $$

Colgate Optic White

Colgate Optic White Advanced Whitening Toothpaste

Best Whitening Toothpaste

The product contains 2 percent hydrogen peroxide, which dentists recommend for whitening. It also contains fluoride to protect against cavities. 

Whitening toothpaste is not as effective at whitening your teeth as LED kits or Whitestrips. But it can help remove and prevent surface stains. Therefore it should be used in addition to one of these other methods.

Cost: $

Colgate Optic White Mouthwash

Colgate Optic White Whitening Mouthwash

Best Whitening Mouthwash

Colgate Optic White Whitening Mouthwash contains 2 percent Hydrogen Peroxide. This can slightly help remove surface stains. However, whitening results from mouth rinse alone will not be as effective as an LED whitening kit or Whitestrips.

Because it does help prevent new stains, whitening mouthwash is best used in addition to another whitening product.

Cost: $

colgate led teeth whitening kit

Colgate Optic White Advanced LED Whitening

Best All-in-One Whitening Brand

This LED whitening kit was designed to reduce sensitivity and uses enamel-safe ingredients. If you're a fan of using the same brand for every step of your oral health routine, you can use Colgate whitening toothpaste, mouthwash, and LED kit.

This kit can be used hands-free, only takes 10 minutes, and doesn’t require a smartphone to use it, making it easy to apply.

Cost: $$$

Possible Side Effects Of LED Teeth Whiteners

Risks commonly reported with teeth whitening include tooth sensitivity and gingival irritation. The severity of these side effects is directly connected to the concentration of peroxide bleach used and the duration of treatment.

While limited data is available on the effects of LED light in dentistry, studies have shown that the light sources have little effect on teeth sensitivity.

Resources

“7 Dentist-Approved Tips to Safely Whiten Your Teeth.” Loma Linda University News, Loma Linda University, https://news.llu.edu/patient-care/7-dentist-approved-tips-safely-whiten-your-teeth

Brucculieri, Julia. “That Trendy Charcoal Toothpaste Might Not Be So Great For Your Teeth.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 17 July 2018, www.huffpost.com/entry/negative-effects-of-charcoal-toothpaste_n_5b460487e4b07aea754647e4#:~:text=The%20potentially%20harmful%20effects%20of,increased%20susceptibility%20to%20dental%20decay 

Carey, Clifton M. “Tooth whitening: what we now know.” The journal of evidence-based dental practice vol. 14 Suppl (2014): 70-6. doi:10.1016/j.jebdp.2014.02.006 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4058574/#:~:text=Risks%20commonly%20reported%20with%20tooth,composition%20of%20the%20product%20used.

Donahue, Kayleigh. “How to Whiten Your Teeth: 17 Ways to Brighten Your Smile.” Allure, Conde Nast, www.allure.com/story/whiten-your-teeth 

“Factors Causing Tooth Discoloration.” Oral Health Care Zone for Grown-Ups, Government of Hong Kong, www.toothclub.gov.hk/en/en_adu_01_05_02_02.html 

“Fluorosis.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 Mar. 2019, www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/faqs/dental_fluorosis/index.htm 

Guglielmetti, Petra. “How to Make Your Teeth Whiter-Fast.” Glamour, Conde Nast, www.glamour.com/story/how-to-whiten-teeth-fast 

Kellogg, Kristi, et al. “How to Get Your Teeth Hollywood White.” GQ, Conde Nast, www.gq.com/story/how-to-whiten-your-teeth 

Rosmarin, Remi. “We Asked an Orthodontist If It's Safe to Use Crest Whitestrips as an at-Home Teeth-Whitening Treatment - Here's What They Said.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 6 July 2020, www.businessinsider.com/are-crest-whitestrips-safe-good-to-use 

Peixoto, Aline Carvalho et al. “High-concentration carbamide peroxide can reduce the sensitivity caused by in-office tooth bleaching: a single-blinded randomized controlled trial.” Journal of applied oral science : revista FOB vol. 26 (2018): e20170573. doi:10.1590/1678-7757-2017-0573 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007969/ 

“Seal Product Shopping List.” American Dental Association, American Dental Association, www.ada.org/en/science-research/ada-seal-of-acceptance/ada-seal-shopping-list 

Siclait, Aryelle. “Dentist-Approved Whitening Mouthwashes That'll Make A Noticeable Difference In Your Smile.” Women's Health, Hearst, 3 Mar. 2021, www.womenshealthmag.com/beauty/g35031835/best-whitening-mouthwash/ 

“Tooth - Abnormal Colors: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003065.htm

“What Causes Discolored Teeth and Is There Any Way to Cure or Prevent Staining?” Tufts Now, Tufts University, 18 Mar. 2016, https://now.tufts.edu/articles/what-causes-discolored-teeth-and-there-any-way-cure-or-prevent-staining

“Whitening.” American Dental Association, American Dental Association, www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/whitening

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