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Teeth whitening guide + top picks

Learn about your options for a brighter smile and see our top picks for at-home kits.

Teeth whitening can remove stains and lead to a brighter, more attractive smile. Use this guide to find out more about teeth whitening, including why you’ll want to speak with a dentist before taking the plunge with a procedure.

What is teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening is a type of cosmetic dental procedure that removes stains and sometimes even lightens the color of your teeth. There are many ways to help whiten your teeth, from professional cosmetic services to a host of whiteners available to use at home.

Generally, these procedures can be split into two categories.

  • Bleaching. Such treatments use peroxide to remove stains and they change the color of the tooth, usually via a solution that soaks through the top layer of your enamel.
  • Nonbleaching. This process can get rid of surface stains without the use of an oxidizing agent. An example would be charcoal toothpaste, which has an abrasive quality but won’t change the color of the tooth.

Ways to whiten your teeth

There are plenty of products to choose from to transform your teeth to pearly whites.

Professional teeth whitening procedures

These dental cosmetic treatments are delivered ‘in-chair’ at practices. Typically, a bleaching solution is applied to the teeth and is activated by laser, light or heat. While some laser-based procedures can be completed in one session, while others require multiple visits to your dentist.

Pros and cons

  • Considered the safest, most effective treatment
  • Professionals tailor the whitening for your personal needs
  • Results may be instant
  • Considerably more expensive than at-home procedures

Teeth whitening toothpaste, strips or kits

Whitening products for at-home use include whitening toothpaste, mouthwash, gels and strips. They can be bought online or over-the-counter from the supermarket or pharmacy. You’ll need to carefully administer these treatments yourself.

We’d encourage you to speak with your dentist before using any teeth whitening products. You could have a pre-existing problem with your teeth that makes you unsuitable for teeth whitening treatment.

Pros and cons

  • Much cheaper than professionally-rendered procedures
  • Some products offer fast results
  • Can be a lot less effective than professional whitening procedures
  • Risk of incorrectly using the product, which could be unsafe

4 top teeth whitening kits you can buy today

We compared dozens of top-rated lightening kits by using our firsthand knowledge, researching information from the ADA and reading user reviews and expert opinions to come up with this list of four top at-home whitening kits that should help give you a complete set of pearly whites.

Crest 3D White Whitestrips with Light

This popular whitening kit claims to deliver results in just 10 days — much faster than other products on the market — for whitening that lasts up to 36 months. You’ll apply the thin strips to your teeth for an hour a day, shining the light onto your teeth at the end of each treatment to penetrate below the surface of your teeth.

Crest is so sure that this will work, it promises your money back if you don’t notice a difference. However, this may not be the best option for folks with sensitive teeth or gums, as some reviewers mention that the strips exacerbate their sensitivity.

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars from over 7,200 Amazon reviews
  • Crest 3D White Luxe Glamorous Whitestrips

    Wear these strips for 30 minutes every day over a period of four weeks to improve the color of your teeth. Crest 3D White Luxe Glamorous Whitestrips cost less than $50 and are endorsed by the American Dental Association (ADA), meaning they’ve been evaluated and approved for safety.

    I used them today for for the first time and left them on 30 min. I can’t believe how white my teeth look after one use,” says one review on Ulta. “What’s also nice about the strips is they didn’t irritate my teeth making them sensitive. I highly recommend them.”

    • 87% of Ulta users who tried these strips would recommend them to a friend.

    VieBeauti Teeth Whitening Pen

    Use this whitening pen for one minute per day to help remove stains that have built up over a lifetime. This can be a good option for people who don’t want to invest a lot of time or energy into whitening their teeth at home. It claims to be gentle enough for sensitive gums, which user reviews confirm.

    “I keep one pen in my desk at work and one at home,” says a customer on Amazon. “No sensitivity … and I naturally have very sensitive teeth! I could tell a change for sure from darker stains between my teeth in front that are now gone after only a week.”

    • 4.5 out of 5 stars from over 4,400 reviews at Amazon

    Snow All-In-One Teeth Whitening Kit

    This kit contains six months of whitening treatment, so it may be the best option if you’re looking for lasting results. It’s also worth looking into if you have very sensitive teeth, as it’s designed to be gentler on enamel than the Crest kits. Instead of strips, you’ll apply the gel using the pen. Then, you’ll hold the LED light in your mouth to set the whitening treatment.

    The LED mouthpiece is USB-powered, so you can plug it into your computer or into an outlet, whatever’s most convenient. Some reviewers recommend using the light while catching up on TV shows.

    • 4.5 out of 5 stars from over 70 reviews at Target

How to compare teeth whitening products online

Consider the following factors when shopping online for teeth whitening products:

  • Safety considerations. Teeth whitening procedures are usually not recommended if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding or have weak or sensitive teeth or gum problems. Keep in mind there are common side effects of teeth whitening too, such as sensitivity and gum irritation.
  • Cost. Be clear on exactly what’s included in the cost you see advertised. For example, do you have to buy a replacement whitening pen separately once your gel runs out? Also, if you’re ordering from overseas, then you may be forced to pay extra for express delivery.
  • Reviews. What do past users have to say? One negative review may not mean a lot, but regular complaints could mean you may want to stay clear. Generally, you’ll want to be careful with reviews for these products – some paid-for product placements may be presented as unbiased reviews.
  • Signup offers. Teeth whitening is a competitive market and there are often flash sales and other discounts to be found. Check for freebies and special deals that could help you save money.

Bottom line

If you want to get your teeth whitened, you can either head to the dentist or try an at-home kit. Though if you go the DIY route, be careful about applying the product correctly. To help maintain those pearly whites, you could consider investing in an electric toothbrush.

Frequently asked questions

Are there ways I can make my teeth whiter naturally?

Some holistic practitioners recommend swishing coconut oil around in your mouth as a way to care for your teeth naturally. But you should consider consulting your dentist before using any methods not approved by the ADA.

How can I keep my teeth looking white?

Try to limit food or drinks that cause stains. These may include tomato-based sauces, coffee and red wine. Also, floss and brush your teeth regularly and make sure you visit your dental practice every six months.

Can I whiten my teeth with braces?

Generally, it’s recommended to wait until after your braces are removed. Whitening your teeth with braces can result in uneven shading since it’s difficult for whitening agents to reach the areas of your teeth covered by the brackets.

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