If you’re self-conscious about your smile, you’re not alone. It’s an unfortunate fact that some of the best things in life can stain your teeth. Coffee, red wine, berries, tomato sauce, and even chocolate can leave surface stains on your pearly whites.
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to get a brighter smile. For many years, going to your dentist was the only way to get whiter teeth. Now there are several at-home teeth whiteners. The best part: at-home teeth whitening products work just as well as in-office treatment.1, 2, 3, 4
One to two visits to your dentist will give you whiter teeth faster, but it is more expensive. Each whitening appointment will cost somewhere between $400 and $1,500.
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).
At-home whitening treatments will save you hundreds of dollars. But with so many options on the market, it can be hard to figure out what actually works. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best teeth whitening methods. No matter your age or lifestyle, one of these teeth whitening treatments will be sure to work for you and your budget.
The most important ingredient in any whitening kit is the bleaching agent. Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the safest and most effective teeth whitening compounds available. They are used in both at-home and professional whitening treatments.
Hydrogen peroxide is a common household item (you can find it in most first aid kits). It is a natural bleaching agent, antiseptic, and oxidizer. In its purest form, it is a light blue liquid with the chemical formula H2O2.
Carbamide peroxide is a water-soluble, white crystalline solid compound. It is made of carbamide, also known as urea, and hydrogen peroxide. For every 10 percent of carbamide peroxide, there is 3 percent hydrogen peroxide.
Both hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are safe and effective ingredients to whiten teeth. The two ingredients produce nearly identical results.1, 3, 5
Teeth whitening is generally considered a safe cosmetic procedure. However, side effects may occur. These include:
The risk for adverse effects is greatly increased if you misuse the whitening product. Tooth sensitivity is likely to occur if you leave it on your tooth’s surface for longer than recommended or apply the treatment more frequently than directed. Higher concentrations of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide may also cause increased sensitivity.
You should not be using whitening products if you have gum recession, as it can cause severe irritation. If you are under the age of 14, it can cause severe sensitivity and become unsafe for your developing teeth.
Everyone’s mouth is different, and we all have different sensitivity levels. However, starting with a whitening treatment that contains 10 to 12 percent hydrogen peroxide (30 to 35 percent carbamide peroxide) is generally considered safe. This should give you whiter teeth with minimal sensitivity.
If you experience tooth sensitivity, you can try a solution with a lower concentration of bleaching agent or speak with your dentist.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), products and DIY treatments containing charcoal, acidic fruits, or vinegar have not been proven effective at teeth whitening.6
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the best teeth whitening methods, according to science.
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Every piece of content is heavily reviewed before publication. All content on NewMouth is also medically reviewed by a licensed dentist, specifically any content where we recommend products. Our dentists are specifically instructed to flag any recommendations they don’t agree with. Any products that don’t meet their professional standards are removed.
Many of the products we recommend have the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. These products are proven to be effective in preventing gum disease, cavities, and other oral health conditions.
When we recommend products that do not include this seal of acceptance, we conduct further research to ensure reputability. This may include speaking with company leaders, reading hundreds of customer reviews, and ensuring they provide quality customer service.
You might be surprised to learn that at-home LED teeth whitening kits are just as effective as professional in-office whitening treatments. This has been proven by multiple scientific studies.1, 2, 3, 4
In-office treatment is faster, and having a dentist apply the serum is safer than doing it on your own. But LED kits provide identical after a few extra treatment sessions.
LED whitening kits have two main components:
Professional whitening and LED kits produce virtually identical results. However, these at-home whitening products will cost you a fraction of the price of professional whitening.
Whitening strips and LED kits also produce similar results.7 However, many of the new LED kits require the whitening agent to spend less time on your tooth’s surface. This is key to protecting your tooth enamel and minimizing adverse side effects.
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.
NewMouth recommends LED teeth whitening systems to achieve a brighter smile. They are affordable, easy to use, produce minimal side effects, and highly effective.
Teeth whitening kits are the most cost-effective teeth whitening products. They produce very similar results to both LED teeth whitening kits and professional treatment from your dentist’s office.1, 2, 3, 4, 7
Teeth whitening strips are also generally considered safe to use.7, 8, 9 However, you must leave some whitening strips on your teeth longer than LED treatments. This can increase the risk of side effects and may irritate sensitive teeth.
The Crest 3DWhite Glamorous White Whitestrips Kit contains 16 full whitening treatments. They also have the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, which means they are safe and effective when used correctly.
Professional teeth whitening takes place at your dentist’s office. They use a peroxide-based whitening agent, similar to the one found in LED kits or whitening strips. However, the concentration of hydrogen peroxide is much higher. Because the tooth bleaching agent is much stronger, you’ll see noticeable results after one treatment.
Professional whitening will give you faster results, but it comes with a hefty price tag. Professional whitening typically ranges from $400 to $1500, depending on the practice. You can purchase at-home teeth whitening treatments for $30 to $200.
Whitening toothpastes are not as effective as the first three options. They do have the potential to remove surface stains (extrinsic stains). However, they do not remove intrinsic stains, or stains that occur on the inner layer of your teeth.10
Whitening toothpastes can help remove teeth stains, but do little to actually whiten your teeth. They can help prevent new stains from forming. We recommend using whitening toothpaste in addition to one of the other three options for optimal whitening effects.
According to the ADA, the following “DIY” whitening methods have NOT been proven to work:10
(1) Zekonis, Ruta, et al. “Clinical Evaluation of in-Office and at-Home Bleaching Treatments.” Operative Dentistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003.
(2) Heymann, H O. “Tooth Whitening: Facts and Fallacies.” Nature News, British Dental Journal, 23 Apr. 2005.
(3) 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.
(4) 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.
(5) 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.
(6) Department of Scientific Information, Evidence Synthesis & Translation Research, ADA Science & Research Institute, LLC. “Whitening” Oral Health Topics, American Dental Association, 30 Oct. 2020.
(7) 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.
(8) 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.
(9) 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.
(10) Department of Scientific Information, Evidence Synthesis & Translation Research, ADA Science & Research Institute, LLC. “Whitening” Oral Health Topics, American Dental Association, 30 Oct. 2020.