Do you wish your smile was brighter? You’re not alone. 80% of Americans aged 18 to 49 want whiter teeth.1 And they’re willing to pay for it. Collectively, they spend over 1 billion dollars on whitening each year.1
There are several options for teeth whitening treatments. But for those of you in a rush for whiter teeth, you’ll want to know which ones are the fastest (and safest).
Professional whitening treatment from your dentist will give you the fastest, safest results in one or two sessions. However, it will cost you around $400 to $1,500 per treatment session.
For those who want to whiten their teeth at home, your options include over-the-counter whitening products and DIY home remedies.
Over-the-counter whitening products include LED whitening kits, whitening strips, whitening toothpaste, and whitening mouth rinses.
Several DIY whitening ingredients are being shared around the web and on social media. These include:
At-home teeth whitening kits can give you the same results as professional whitening treatment in less than two weeks. (Be sure to follow instructions carefully).
But do any of these treatments deliver same day results? That depends on what kind of stains you’re trying to remove.
There are three types of stains that cause tooth discoloration:
Extrinsic stains are on the surface of your tooth. They are caused by substances coming in contact with your teeth. Often, plaque will build up on your teeth, giving these substances a sticky surface to stick to.
The most common causes of extrinsic stains are certain foods and drinks high in sugar, simple carbohydrates, acid, or tannins. This include:
This is not a complete list. Smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco are also common causes of extrinsic stains.
Extrinsic stains are easier to remove than intrinsic stains. They can be removed via mechanical whitening (i.e. brushing and cleaning your teeth) or chemical whitening.
Intrinsic staining happens inside your tooth. It can be caused by:
Intrinsic staining is harder to get rid of. Chemical whitening is the only way to get rid of this discoloration.
As you age, the outer layer of enamel on your teeth wears down. This exposes the second layer of your teeth, called dentin. Dentin has a yellowish tint and gives your teeth a discolored appearance.
Unfortunately, dentin cannot be whitened. If the cause of your discolored teeth is worn enamel, neither mechanical or chemical whitening will help. You’ll need to explore other cosmetic treatments, such as veneers.
Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the best tooth bleaching agents. They are natural, safe, and effective. The two substances produce virtually identical results.2, 3, 4
Hydrogen peroxide is the main whitening component. It is a common household bleaching agent, antiseptic, and oxidizer. Carbamide peroxide is a mixture of carbamide (urea) and hydrogen peroxide. For every 10 percent of carbamide peroxide, there is 3 percent hydrogen peroxide in the compound.
Nearly every in-office professional whitening treatment uses one of these peroxide-based ingredients. Most over-the-counter products use them as well. In-office treatment typically uses a high concentration of 30 to 40 percent hydrogen peroxide. Over-the-counter products typically contain 5 to 15 percent hydrogen peroxide.
High and low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide will produce virtually identical results.2, 3, 6, 8 The main difference is that in-office treatment works faster. You can expect a brighter smile in one or two sessions. Plus, having a dentist apply the whitening serum is usually safer. However, over-the-counter whitening products are a safe and effective alternative that will give you results in one to two weeks.
The majority of DIY whitening home remedies lack any scientific backing. Most of the “evidence” is anecdotal, meaning someone has shared their personal experience. This is an opinion, which is not the same as scientific evidence.
Scientific evidence comes from studies that employ a large number of test subjects, a control group, and carefully monitored progress to produce data. This data then helps to support or counter a hypothesis.
DIY home whitening remedies that do not have any scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness include:
Baking soda is one of the only DIY whitening methods that has undergone scientific research. It has been shown to have whitening properties.8 However, the whitening effects are drastically increased when hydrogen peroxide is added to the solution.9, 10
Baking soda can remove surface stains. However, it is not as effective as hydrogen peroxide.
NewMouth does not recommend using at-home DIY whitening treatments. A baking soda and hydrogen peroxide paste will give you whitening results, but the chances for side effects such as tooth sensitivity and gum irritation are high. We recommend using over-the-counter whitening products or in-office treatment with a hydrogen or carbamide peroxide-based serum for safe, effective, and lasting results.
If you want to change the appearance of your teeth at home, there are four main types of over-the-counter whitening products:
At-home whitening kits are surging in popularity. They are affordable, easy to use, and produce great results in less than two weeks.
These kits include a mouthpiece with LED lights in it and a whitening gel. Be sure to choose one with a hydrogen or carbamide peroxide-based serum.
NewMouth recommends LED teeth whitening systems to achieve a brighter smile. They are affordable, easy to use, produce minimal side effects, and highly effective.
If your teeth are prone to sensitivity, use a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide (5 percent hydrogen peroxide or 20 percent carbamide peroxide). If you do not experience sensitivity, or want faster results, use a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide (up to 15 percent hydrogen peroxide or 45 percent carbamide peroxide.
Teeth whitening strips are another affordable and effective at-home whitening treatment. If used correctly, they are safe and produce minimal side effects.11, 12, 13
Whitestrips are made from a thin, flexible plastic coated with a tooth bleaching agent. They are less expensive than LED whitening kits. However, we recommend LED kits because whitening strips are difficult to place on your teeth. They cannot cover the tight spaces between your teeth. This can result in uneven whitening results.
Whitening toothpastes with an ADA Seal of Acceptance can help remove extrinsic (surface) stains from your teeth.14 However, they do not remove intrinsic stains and are much less effective than LED kits, whitestrips, and in-office treatment.
Whitening mouthwashes containing hydrogen peroxide can also help remove or prevent extrinsic stains. However, they are not as effective as LED kits, whitestrips, and in-office treatment.14, 15
Whitening toothpastes are best used in addition to another whitening method such as an LED whitening kit, whitening strips, or in-office treatment in order to help prevent new stains on your teeth. Read our review of the 9 Best Teeth Whitening Products.
In-office whitening treatments, such as Zoom, are the only way to see significantly whiter teeth results in one day.
At-home teeth whitening treatments may give you instant results, but they will be slight. However, many of these products will give you noticeable, lasting results in less than two weeks.
NewMouth does not recommend using DIY home remedies to try to produce instant whitening results. These methods are not proven by science to give you white teeth. They may even be dangerous and cause damage to your teeth, gums, and mouth.
Takesh, Thair, et al. “Effects of a Novel Whitening Formulation on Dental Enamel.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2017.
Zekonis, Ruta, et al. “Clinical Evaluation of in-Office and at-Home Bleaching Treatments.” Operative Dentistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003.
Basting, RT, et al. “Clinical Comparative Study of the Effectiveness of and Tooth Sensitivity to 10% and 20% Carbamide Peroxide Home-Use and 35% and 38% Hydrogen Peroxide In-Office Bleaching Materials Containing Desensitizing Agents.” Operative Dentistry, Allen Press, 1 Sept. 2012.
Mokhlis, G R, et al. “A Clinical Evaluation of Carbamide Peroxide and Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Agents during Daytime Use.” Journal of the American Dental Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2000.
Féliz-Matos, Leandro, et al. “Dental Bleaching Techniques; Hydrogen-Carbamide Peroxides and Light Sources for Activation, an Update. Mini Review Article.” The Open Dentistry Journal, Bentham Open, 6 Jan. 2015.
Heymann, H O. “Tooth Whitening: Facts and Fallacies.” Nature News, British Dental Journal, 23 Apr. 2005.
Gerlach, RW, et al. “A Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing a Novel 5.3% Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Strip to 10%, 15%, and 20% Carbamide Peroxide Tray-Based Bleaching Systems.” Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, Europe PMC.
Li, Yiming. “Stain Removal and Whitening by Baking Soda Dentifrice: A Review of Literature.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, Elsevier, 19 Oct. 2017.
Ghassemi, A, et al. “Effectiveness of a New Dentifrice with Baking Soda and Peroxide in Removing Extrinsic Stain and Whitening Teeth.” Europe PMC, The Journal of Clinical Dentistry, 1 Jan. 2012.
Kleber, CJ, et al. “In Vitro Tooth Whitening by a Sodium Bicarbonate/Peroxide Dentifrice.” Europe PMC, The Journal of Clinical Dentistry, 1 Jan. 1998.
Gerlach, Robert W., and Paul A. Sagel. “Vital Bleaching with a Thin Peroxide Gel: The Safety and Efficacy of a Professional-Strength Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Strip.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, Elsevier, 30 Dec. 2014.
Oliveira, Gustavo M., et al. “Safety and Efficacy of a High-Adhesion Whitening Strip under Extended Wear Regimen.” Journal of Dentistry, Elsevier, 7 Dec. 2012.
Kugel, G, and S Kastali. “Tooth-Whitening Efficacy and Safety: a Randomized and Controlled Clinical Trial.” Europe PMC, Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, Jan. 2000.
Department of Scientific Information, Evidence Synthesis & Translation Research, ADA Science & Research Institute, LLC. “Whitening” Oral Health Topics, American Dental Association, 30 Oct. 2020.
Karadas, Muhammet, and Omer Hatipoglu. “Efficacy of Mouthwashes Containing Hydrogen Peroxide on Tooth Whitening.” The Scientific World Journal, Hindawi, 30 July 2015.