Product Reviews
Updated on March 8, 2023
12 min read

Teeth Whitening Treatment

NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

Teeth whitening is the process of getting whiter teeth either at home or in a dental office. You may get varying results from different treatments as some options may be more suitable for you than others.1

Types of Teeth Whitening Treatments

There are multiple types of teeth-whitening products, kits, and procedures. Most of these products contain one of these three ingredients:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Carbamide peroxide
  • Phthalimido-peroxy-hexanoic acid (PAP)

These ingredients are bleaching agents, removing tooth stains by penetrating tooth enamel. They are safe as long as they're applied correctly and in the proper concentration. That said, phthalimido-peroxy-hexanoic acid (PAP) is considered better for sensitive teeth.1, 2

1. Over-The-Counter (OTC) Teeth Whitening 

Over-the-counter (OTC) whitening methods are ideal if you’re on a budget and have mild teeth staining. They won’t lighten your teeth dramatically or as quickly as professional dental treatments. However, they are much less expensive.

OTC whitening products include:

These often contain peroxide ingredients to produce a whitening effect. However, natural whitening products are also available. These include:

  • Charcoal
  • Coconut oil
  • Peroxide-free toothpaste and whitening strips

These natural products often have mild abrasives to produce a whitening effect, which can be problematic because they can wear away the tooth enamel over time.

Dental professionals recommend using them not more than once a week. You should also check the provided instructions to make sure you’re using them correctly.

Pros Cons
Inexpensive Takes longer than other whitening treatments to see results
Easily accessible — can be bought in drugstores or online Can only lighten teeth one to two shades
Can easily replace your normal toothpaste and mouthwash with whitening alternatives Must be repeated more frequently
Gels can be used for specific problem areas Strips may not stay firmly in place
Less sensitivity

2. LED Teeth Whitening Kits

LED teeth whitening uses a bleaching agent, such as hydrogen peroxide, and blue light from a light-emitting diode (LED). Some kits may use PAP as an alternative to peroxide for people with sensitive teeth.

An at-home LED whitening kit will contain a:

  • Serum or gel that contains the bleaching agent
  • Tray or mouthpiece containing LEDs, which you’ll place after applying the gel

The light from the LED speeds up the chemical reaction of the whitening agent, penetrating the enamel to lift away deeper stains.

According to several studies, these at-home kits can provide comparable or even identical results to professional in-office whitening treatments, even though they may take longer to do so.3, 4, 5

LED teeth whitening kits can save you much money compared to in-office whitening. They are, however, more expensive than over-the-counter toothpaste or whitening strips.

Pros Cons
Inexpensive — most kits cost under $200 Takes longer than in-office treatments
Enamel-safe ingredients Many require a fixed power source, meaning you have to stay in one place during treatment
Specifically designed for at-home use
Gels can be used for specific problem areas
Short treatment time

3. Professional (In-Office) Teeth Whitening

In-office whitening procedures are provided by a dentist. A professional teeth whitening treatment will cost more, but it will also have more dramatic and immediate results.

Before performing the whitening treatment, the dentist will examine your mouth and note any issues that may impact the effectiveness of whitening. They will also check any sensitivities or allergies you may have.

For this kind of treatment, a stronger concentration of carbamide peroxide may be used. Your dentist may apply a protective layer to your gums before adding the bleaching agent.

In-office whitening treatment may also include blue light from LEDs or a laser. However, there is evidence that using high-intensity light may not improve the effects of bleaching. It may contribute to tooth sensitivity and even phototoxic damage.6, 7

Pros Cons
Contain higher concentrations of the bleaching agent Costs between $500 and $1,000 per treatment
Dentists provide gum shields to protect the gums Can result in temporary sensitivity
Brightens teeth more than any other treatment
Only needs to be repeated every 6 to 12 months
Provides instant results

4. Tray-Based Whitening Systems

Some whitening systems use a tray that you place in your mouth and leave in for several hours a day or overnight. Like at-home LED whitening systems, these trays contain a bleaching agent such as carbamide or hydrogen peroxide.

If you use a tray-based system according to the instructions, your teeth may be one to two shades lighter in just a few days.8 You can purchase these systems from grocery stores, pharmacies, or online. Stronger whitening trays can be purchased from your dentist with a prescription. 

Pros Cons
Professional dental advice and instruction Takes longer
Whiten teeth in the comfort of your own home Can result in temporary sensitivity
Whiten teeth at your own pace May cause sensitivity
Less expensive than completely in-office whitening treatments  Non-custom trays can lead to uneven whitening

5. Teeth Whitening Pens

Teeth whitening pens are plastic tubes with brush tips, which dispense a bleaching agent in gel form. The pen’s shape and size help reach places on teeth that might be hard to get to otherwise.

You may need to leave the gel on your teeth for a certain amount of time to get the maximum effect. Some pens dispense a gel that dries in less than one minute, making it easy to leave on.

Like toothpaste, mouthwashes, and other whitening products, whitening pens are available over the counter (OTC). Follow the directions included with the pen. 

Pros Cons
Can easily access hard-to-reach areas of the mouth Can take longer for results to show
Easy to bring around and use daily Gel may need some time to stay on the teeth before rinsing
Accessible over the counter

6. Whitening Foam

Whitening foam is a relatively new method of teeth whitening. It gently whitens teeth while helping to clean your clear aligners, retainers, or night guard.

SNOW makes a clear aligner whitening foam that can be applied to clear aligners, certain types of retainers, and night guards.

You just pump the foam and spread it across your device. Most foams can be left in overnight or used multiple times a day.

Pros Cons
Most can be used overnight Can take longer for results to show
Easy to use and affordable Some customer reviews mention faulty containers
Simultaneously whitens and cleans your device 

What Stains are Best Removed Professionally?

If you have deep extrinsic tooth stains that are more than a year old, you might want to choose professional whitening over at-home treatments. Extrinsic stains are stains on the surface of your teeth.

Some causes include:

  • Tobacco
  • Coffee or tea
  • Red wine
  • Sodas
  • Poor oral hygiene

If your teeth are only slightly yellow or discolored, you may benefit from cheaper at-home treatments like LED whitening kits and whitening strips

What Stains are Resistant to Whitening?

Intrinsic stains develop within teeth rather than on the surface. They can be caused by trauma or exposure to certain chemicals or minerals. They also develop with age.

While professional teeth whitening can be effective for most people, it is not the best option for everyone. For example, your teeth will likely be resistant to whitening treatment if you have:

  • Tooth trauma that causes the dentin (layer under your enamel) to darken
  • Fluorosis, which is caused by excessive fluoride exposure, results in white spots on the teeth
  • Antibiotic-related tooth stains caused by tetracycline antibiotics and similar medications 
  • Thin enamel, leading to dentin exposure (which is naturally yellow and cannot lighten)
  • Other inorganic tooth stains not caused by poor oral hygiene, dark-pigmented foods, natural aging, or tobacco use
  • Developmental defects, which are genetic or environmental lesions that cause the tooth to have a “ditch” or discoloration

If you identify with any of the above, teeth whitening treatment may not be right for you. Alternative options include veneers (the most expensive) or dental bonding (cheaper option).

Be sure to speak with a dentist before whitening if you have:

  • Sensitive teeth
  • Serious tooth discoloration or staining
  • Any dental restorations, such as fillings, crowns, or dentures

These factors can impact the results of whitening treatments. In some cases, they may impose risks that outweigh the benefits of whitening.

Types of In-Office Teeth Whitening Treatments

All of the following professional whitening treatments use a similar active ingredient (hydrogen or carbamide peroxide). Some incorporate the use of an LED light to speed up the whitening process:

Zoom! Chairside

Waterpik Sonic Fusion

Zoom! Chairside whitens teeth quickly and effectively (up to 90% of their maximum brightness). This office whitening treatment is also FDA-approved and takes one hour to complete.

The procedure begins with covering your lips and gums, leaving only your teeth exposed. Then your dentist will apply a whitening gel to your teeth, which is designed to be used with a specially designed light. 

The gel and light work together to penetrate your teeth, removing any surface stains and discoloration. With proper care, Zoom’s whitening effects can last up to a year.  

Zoom! Chairside costs $500 to $1,500 per treatment. It is not covered by dental insurance.

Opalescence Boost™

Waterpik Sonic Fusion

Opalescence Boost is another popular in-office whitening treatment that uses a chemically activated gel to brighten teeth within one hour. This treatment does not involve using light to speed up the whitening process. 

Instead, Boost uses a 38 percent hydrogen peroxide power bleaching gel to whiten your teeth. The gel is very sticky, so it won’t fall off your teeth while in use. 

This treatment also has a slightly lower risk of tooth sensitivity because it contains PF. This is a mix of potassium nitrate that reduces the risk of sensitivity and tooth decay. It also strengthens your enamel. 

KöR Whitening

Waterpik Sonic Fusion

KöR Whitening costs around $500 per treatment. It is not covered by dental insurance.

KöR whitening uses a refrigerated, high-potency gel. This gel is combined with a scientifically designed application system to deliver visibly whiter teeth after just one use. KöR also claims to provide less tooth sensitivity than leading brands like Zoom.

The first treatment is completed in a dental office, and the follow-up treatments are done at home. You will use the whitening trays once a month to maintain results.

KöR costs between $500 and $1,000. It is not covered by dental insurance.

Sapphire Teeth Whitening 

Waterpik Sonic Fusion

Sapphire Teeth Whitening is a quick, easy, and pain-free experience that takes about 15 minutes to set up. The entire whitening process only takes an hour. 

During the treatment, your gums are covered with a protective gel. Then your dentist will apply a hydrogen peroxide formula to your teeth. This whitening gel is activated via a light, which speeds up the bleaching process and reveals dramatically whiter teeth after one use.

After removing the gel, your dentist will create a custom tray from your teeth impressions. You’ll receive the tray and an at-home whitening gel so you can touch up your teeth at home. The effects can last for years with proper care.

Sapphire costs around $500 per treatment. It is not covered by dental insurance.

How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?

How long teeth whitening lasts will depend on the method used, your oral hygiene habits, and your dietary habits.

Type of Whitening Treatment Longevity of Results
Professional whitening treatments 1 year
LED and tray-based treatments 1 year
OTC treatments (toothpaste, pens, trays, strips, etc.) 3 to 4 weeks depending on the product

To get the best and longest-lasting results from teeth whitening:

  • Follow your dentist’s or whitening product’s instructions
  • Brush, floss, and rinse daily
  • Be mindful of foods and drinks that can stain your teeth
  • Avoid smoking and excessive drinking

Tips for Preventing Tooth Discoloration

Your teeth might be more prone to staining right after you whiten them. To prevent them from discoloring again, you can:

  • Give up smoking
  • Limit foods and drinks that stain
  • Use whitening toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association (ADA)6
  • Drink plenty of water7
  • Use reusable straws to prevent dark beverages from leaving stains

How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost?

Teeth whitening treatments vary widely in cost. The following are price ranges for common whitening products and systems:

  • Toothpaste and mouthwashes — $2 to $15
  • Whitening pens and strips — $10 to $50
  • Over-the-counter LED and tray-based systems — $50 to $300
  • In-office treatments — $200 to over $1,000

When to See a Dentist

At-home teeth whitening options may not always provide the same results as professional treatment. Contact a dentist about teeth whitening if:

  • At-home whitening products aren’t creating the desired results
  • You’re concerned about the risks of accidentally misusing at-home products
  • You have specific allergies, sensitivities, or dental restorations
  • Professional in-office whitening is within your budget

A dentist can examine your teeth and explain why some products may work better for you than others. They can also help determine what results to expect for your specific situation.

Potential Risks and Side Effects of Teeth Bleaching

Teeth whitening treatments come with risks and possible side effects, whether they work via abrasion or a bleaching agent. 

Excessive or incorrect use of these treatments may cause:

  • Erosion of enamel
  • Tooth hypersensitivity due to exposed dentin
  • Loss of living cells in your teeth if the bleaching agent is too concentrated9
  • Irritation to your gums and other areas if the bleaching agent reaches beyond your teeth
  • Leftover gray or yellow areas on your teeth due to incomplete coverage with the bleaching agent
  • Allergic reactions in rare cases

To minimize these risks, use whitening products correctly. Don’t apply them more frequently, or for longer periods, than the instructions recommend.

If you’re concerned about the potential adverse effects of whitening treatment, talk to your dentist. They can identify any issues with your oral health that may be risk factors. They can also advise which treatments are best for your situation.

Best Teeth Whitening Treatments

With so many at-home teeth whitening options available, finding what will work best for you might be difficult. If you’re on a budget, you will want to use a whitening product that is cost-effective.

Our experts at NewMouth have compiled a list of the best teeth whitening methods. We’ve tested products, compared reviews, and consulted studies to ensure the products we recommend are safe and effective, whether you:

  • Have sensitive teeth
  • Have a specific method you’d like to try
  • Simply want your money to go as far as possible


  • Teeth whitening is the process of getting a brighter smile at home or a dental office
  • There are different teeth-whitening methods to choose from
  • The effectiveness of teeth whitening will depend on each person's teeth
  • In-office treatments are best for people with deep stains that are more than a year old
  • Some people may be more suited for veneers or dental bonding
Last updated on March 8, 2023
8 Sources Cited
Last updated on March 8, 2023
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram