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“Smile and the whole world smiles with you.” But what if your smile isn’t as sparkling white as you would like?
Whether you’d like a brighter smile for an upcoming event, or your insecurity about your not-so-pearly whites is holding you back, you may want to consider teeth whitening treatment. At-home teeth whitening is easier and faster than ever, but with so many options, it can be difficult to choose the right product. Considerations like type of treatment, strength, impact on teeth sensitivity and safety all play a role in picking the treatment that will work for you.
In this guide, we’ll outline our top picks for the best teeth whitening treatments and discuss how to choose the best teeth whitener in our buying guide. By the end, you’ll be on your way to a brighter, more confident smile.
The AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Kit is one of the most effective teeth whitening treatments you can find outside of a dentist’s office. With 35% carbamide peroxide, the whitening gel is strong while still being gentle on teeth and gums. The kit comes with two 5-mL whitening gel syringes, enough for 20 or more treatments. Simply fill the tray with the specified amount of gel and place in your mouth once a day for 30 minutes.
The kit also comes with an LED light to speed the whitening process and boost effectiveness. The light is attached to the tray, so you don’t have to hold it, and has a built-in timer. Users typically see results after just one treatment, with full results after the full set of treatments.
Crest first introduced their whitening strips nearly 20 years ago. Since that time, the brand has greatly refined the technology, and Crest 3D White Strips are some of the best whitening strips on the market today. The package comes with 40 strips, or 20 treatments. Simply peel each strip’s backing and apply them to your teeth once daily for 30 minutes.
Each strip contains whitening gel with 10 percent hydrogen peroxide, so you know they’re effective. Unlike whitening strips of the past, these are made with “no-slip” technology, meaning you can talk and drink water with them in without worrying about them moving around or falling off. Results typically appear within three days, with full results achieved in twenty.
Most toothpaste brands advertise some whitening, but some are much more effective than others. Our pick for Best Whitening Toothpaste is Colgate Optic White, which can improve brightness and remove surface stains in very little time. The toothpaste contains hydrogen peroxide, a dentist-recommended whitening agent, along with fluoride for added oral health. These components help brighten outer layers, and also target stains and discoloration beneath the outer enamel surface.
Colgate Optic White does not contain any parabens, and is considered enamel-safe for daily or twice-daily use. For best results, Colgate recommends brushing daily for six weeks. Optic White has a reasonable price-point compared to other toothpastes; packs of three tubes are widely available for $11 or less.
Whitening pens are light and portable, making them great accessories for work and other daily tasks – but some involve leaving chunky paste on teeth for an hour or longer. The Smilebriter Whitening Pen, our top pick for this category, is much easier to use. Owners use the pen to apply a foaming gel, then circulate the pen about 20 times. The gel can be washed or spat out immediately, but the pen is highly effective at whitening and eliminating stains. With daily use and application, owners may notice whitening in as little as three days.
The Smilebriter also contains Xylitol, a sugar alcohol that has been linked to less tooth decay and stronger enamel. It can also reduce dry mouth. And because the gel also contains peppermint oil, it will leave the user’s breath smelling fresh. The Smilebriter is widely available for less than $15; it is backed by a lifetime guarantee.
Teeth whitening kits can wreak havoc on users with sensitive teeth and gums, leading to sharp pains and other issues. The Snow Teeth Whitening Kit addresses this concern by including a cooling serum that helps desensitize teeth and gums. Application is straightforward. After brushing their teeth, users apply the serum using a whitening wand; Snow recommends applying like nail polish for best results. The serum has a soothing effect on sore gums and sensitive teeth, making it suitable for users with these issues.
Once the application is finished, users plug an LED light into the plastic mouthpiece and wear the mouthpiece for 10 to 30 minutes. A full rinse concludes the whitening treatment; one use should yield noticeable whitening and stain removal. Snow backs the Teeth Whitening Kit with a five-year warranty.
As with whitening kits, whitening toothpaste can be problematic for people with sensitive teeth and/or gums. Often, the main source of sensitivity is hydrogen peroxide, a common whitener found in toothpaste sold today. Our pick for Best Whitening Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth is the FineVine Activated Charcoal Toothpaste. It does not contain any peroxide, but instead attacks stains and discolorations with other active ingredients such as baking soda, peppermint oil, coconut oil and tea tree oil.
FineVine also contains Xylitol, which can fight tooth decay, strengthen enamel, and reduce dry mouth. The toothpaste fights bad breath very well, and also fights bacteria and removes toxins. FineVine is approved for daily use. The company also offers a full product guarantee and will issue a full refund to unsatisfied customers.
There is no lack of choice when it comes to teeth whitening treatments, which can make it overwhelming to pick the product that will work best for you. In this guide, we seek to simplify that decision by outlining the main types of teeth whiteners, reviewing top considerations and explaining how to fit teeth whitening into your bedtime routine.
There are a variety of teeth whitening products on the market, and they all fall within the following categories. They vary when it comes to efficacy, the types of stains they treat, how long they take to work and how much they cost.
There’s a great deal to think about when choosing a teeth whitening treatment that works for you. In this section, we’ll outline top considerations, including strength, sensitivity, safety and time commitment.
When you decide a teeth whitener is right for you, you may think the strongest formula is the best one. The correct strength really depends on your goals, and you’ll want to be sure to pick a product with a safe level of whitening agent.
The two most common—and effective—agents used to whiten teeth are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. A higher percentage of either agent means more whitening power. Both hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide can cause teeth and gum sensitivity, however, so a higher strength is not always better.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends at-home teeth whiteners with a hydrogen peroxide concentration of 10 percent or lower. Hydrogen peroxide is stronger than carbamide peroxide, by a ratio of about 3:1, so a safe level of carbamide peroxide is 35 percent or lower. Higher levels of whitening agents may be used in a dentist’s office where care can be taken to protect gums and tissues.
The right strength correlates to the level of staining you have and what you want to achieve. If you just want to brighten your already fairly white smile, a product with 6 percent hydrogen peroxide will do the trick. If you have years of coffee stains you’d like to get rid of, you might consider something stronger. Just remember that not every type of stain can be removed with even the best teeth whiteners. Yellow teeth respond better to whitening treatment than gray teeth, and stains from medications, like tetracycline, may require longer treatment or another option, like veneers.
The most common side effects associated with teeth whiteners are tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. Gum irritation is usually due to an ill-fitting whitening tray, but tooth sensitivity is likely due to peroxide irritating the nerves in your teeth. Some individuals are more prone to tooth sensitivity than others, especially if they have fillings. If you do experience sensitivity due to whitening, here are some tips to cope:
At-home teeth whitening may be convenient and effective, but is it safe? The short answer is yes, with the caveat that you need to follow your product’s instructions.
Again, higher concentrations of peroxide can cause irritation and sensitivity, and the ADA warns that these higher levels can be “potentially corrosive to mucous membranes or skin.” That’s why it’s so important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, especially if you do choose a product with high peroxide concentration. When kept away from your gums, stronger teeth whiteners can be used safely.
Also remember that, depending on the product, it’s recommended that you only whiten your teeth once or twice a year. Whitening toothpaste can be used daily, but whitening kits are not meant to be used often. Be sure to follow the recommendations laid out for the specific product you choose.
Consistency is one of the most important elements in ensuring teeth whitening treatments are successful. Because time commitments vary by product and type of treatment, you’ll want to be sure to pick one that you know you can stick with.
Whitening toothpaste is the fastest treatment, but it also takes the longest to achieve results. Brush on gels or pens take a bit longer, and strips and trays have the longest time commitment. Consult the table below for a break-down of time commitment associated with different treatments:
|Whitening Toothpaste||Whitening Pens||Whitening Strips||Whitening Gels (Used With Trays)|
|Number of Applications||Twice daily||One to two times daily||Usually twice daily||Usually once daily|
|Application Time||Two minutes||One minute (typically requires user to wait before eating or drinking after)||30 – 60 minutes||30 – 60 minutes|
|Time to See Results||Two weeks||Can be immediate, with full results in a couple weeks||3 days with full results after 20||A few days, with full results in a week|
If you’re looking to whiten your teeth for an upcoming event, like a wedding, you might want to commit the time to whitening strips or gel to see quick results. If you know you won’t stick to a 30-minute session every day, try a toothpaste or pen.
One of the simplest ways to start whitening your teeth is to incorporate it into your bedtime routine. If you choose a whitening toothpaste, the switch will be easy, but even kits requiring more time can become a habit.
Some products specify that you should brush your teeth either before or after use, so be sure to consult the instructions. Then, simply build teeth whitening into your nightly routine. Some products, like whitening strips, allow you to talk and drink water while using them. Others, like those that use an LED light, might require more involvement. Either way, apply your treatment 30 to 60 minutes before bed and spend that time like you always would: read a book, catch up on your favorite show or get ready for the next day. By the time you’re ready for bed, you can remove the treatment and sleep soundly knowing you’re one step closer to a brighter smile.
Teeth whitening shouldn’t interfere at all with your sleep, unless you experience tooth sensitivity. If that’s the case, use a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth or consider switching your teeth whitening regimen to the morning.
If you’re still not sure if at-home teeth whitening is right for you, talk to your dentist. Even if you don’t have concerns, it’s a good idea to check with your dentist before starting a treatment. Your dentist can help determine if you might experience sensitivity to teeth whiteners or if you have any conditions that might prohibit you from achieving desired results.
Your dentist can also let you know if teeth whitening is right for you. You may want to have a good cleaning before determining if whitening is necessary. Or your teeth staining is related to a medical issue that requires another type of lightening procedure, like veneers or crowns.
While at-home treatments are safe if directions are followed, you can always ask your dentist if you have any questions or concerns.