Safest Ways to Whiten Teeth

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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 Whitening ToothpasteCrest Pro-Health Active Defense (Deep Clean)

Best Whitening Strips Lumineux Oral Essentials Whitening Strips

Best Whitening Mouthwash Colgate Optic White Whitening Mouthwash

Best LED Whitening KitGLO Brilliant 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 the 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. 

Safest Over-The-Counter Whitening Products

Crest pro health toothpaste

Crest Pro-Health Active Defense (Deep Clean)

This whitening toothpaste has the ADA Seal of Acceptance and is proven to help prevent cavities, plaque, and gingivitis. It is also effective at preventing or reducing enamel erosion from dietary acids and reducing sensitivity. 

Colgate optic White Advanced

Colgate Optic White Toothpaste (Sparkling White)

This whitening toothpaste is made with enamel-safe whitening ingredients. It promises whiter teeth within one week and also has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. 

Toms of Maine Natural Simply

Tom's of Maine Simply White Clean Mint Toothpaste

Tom’s of Maine’s White Clean Mint Toothpaste is the only natural whitening toothpaste to earn the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This whitening toothpaste is made with naturally-derived silicas and contains no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.

Burts Bees Toothpaste

Burt’s Bees Extra White Fluoride Toothpaste

This toothpaste is free from sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), triclosan, parabens, and artificial flavors and sweeteners. This whitening toothpaste has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. 

hello Naturally toothpaste

Hello Naturally Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste

Hello Naturally’s Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste is made with natural ingredients like farm-grown peppermint, tea tree oil, and coconut oil. This vegan and gluten-free toothpaste whitens naturally and gently, prevents cavities, and strengthens enamel. It is also cruelty-free and has the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

Sensodyne Extra Whitening 1

Sensodyne Extra Whitening Toothpaste for Sensitivity

Sensodyne's Extra Whitening toothpaste is the best-selling toothpaste for sensitive teeth in the United States. It contains potassium nitrate to quickly help relieve sensitivity, and prevents pain for 24 hours.

Whitening Strips

Lumineux Oral Essentials Teeth Whitening Strips

Lumineux Oral Essentials Whitening Strips

These whitening strips are dentist-formulated and certified non-toxic. Lumineux’s Oral Essentials contain coconut oil, sage oil, and lemon peel oil. They are also free from sulfates, artificial colors, and artificial flavors.

Sheer White Whitening

Sheer White Professional Teeth Whitening Strips

These white strips use carbamide peroxide as an alternative active ingredient. They are a good choice for those who don’t want to use hydrogen peroxide for tooth sensitivity reasons. These strips promise to whiten teeth in just five days, and are comfortable on both teeth and gums.

Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth Whitening Kit

Crest 3D White Whitestrips Procter & Gamble Co.

Crest Whitestrips are the only whitening strips with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. None of the listed ingredients in Crest Whitestrips have been shown to be unhealthy or dangerous to tooth enamel.

Whitening Mouthwashes

Colgate Optic White Advanced Mouthwash

Colgate Optic White Whitening Mouthwash

This mouthwash is effective at lifting stains due to its 2% hydrogen peroxide content, which is well within what dentists recommend as a safe amount.

Crest 3D White Luxe Glamorous White Multi Care Whitening

Crest 3D White Glamorous White Whitening Mouthwash

This mouthwash is safe for whitening teeth, protecting against future stains, and killing the germs that cause bad breath. Crest’s 3D White Glamorous White Whitening Mouthwash is alcohol-free and won’t cause any uncomfortable burning or dryness during or after use.

ACT Whitening Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash

ACT Whitening + Anticavity Rinse

ACT Fluoride Mouthwash is the #1 dentist recommended fluoride brand. This mouthwash is alcohol-free and helps whiten while protecting against tooth decay.

Dr. Brite Natural Whitening Vitamin C Mouthwash

Dr. Brite Whitening Mouthwash

This natural mouthwash incorporates vitamin C to help soothe and nourish the gums. It’s also alcohol-free and the majority of the natural ingredients it contains (aloe and mint leaf oil) are organic.

Lumineux Oral Essentials Mouthwash

Oral Essentials Lumineux Whitening Mouthwash

Lumineux products are the first on the market that have been clinically proven to enhance and protect the oral microbiome, leading to better whole body health, improved digestion, and a beautiful, brighter smile. 

This natural, hydrogen peroxide-free mouthwash is made with sea salt, coconut, lemon peel, and xylitol, which help prevent tooth decay. This mouthwash was tested in the strictest lab in the world for toxicity, and was the first in the U.S. to receive a non-toxic seal. This means that Lumineux can improve your oral health without the potential side-effects of harsh chemicals.

Safest LED Teeth Whitening Kits

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.

This teeth whitening kit is hands-free, made in the USA, and comes with a mouthpiece and storage case. GLO claims to accelerate the whitening process with the use of an LED and heat light.

Cost: $199.99

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: $59.99

snow all in one teeth whitening kit

Snow All-In-One Whitening Kit

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, and 90% of customers see results after just one use.

Cost: $149.00

colgate led teeth whitening kit

Colgate ® Optic White Advanced LED Whitening

This LED whitening kit was designed to reduce sensitivity and uses enamel-safe ingredients. 

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

Colgate Optic White Advanced LED Whitening only takes 10 minutes a day for 10 daysto see results. It is clinically proven to deliver brighter teeth up to 6 shades whiter.

Cost: $150

cali white teeth whitening kit

Cali White Vegan Teeth Whitening Kit

This teeth whitening kit is designed for sensitive teeth and uses an organic botanical gel that is peroxide-free.

Cost: $34.99

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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