Teeth whitening products promise a celebrity-worthy smile, but can they really deliver? Hollywood smiles are carefully crafted by cosmetic dentists not only to make teeth whiter but also straighter and better structured. Veneers, crowns, and professional-strength teeth whitening aren’t always available to us normal folks, but we can rely on at-home teeth whitening strips and gels to make our smile shine a little brighter.
We’ve selected and reviewed the best teeth whiteners you can try at home. We then profile all the different kinds of teeth whitening systems and how they should be used, so you can figure out which one is going to be best for you. We also explain the science behind teeth whiteners and address any concerns you might have about their safety.
In this article:
- Our Picks for the Best Teeth Whitening Products
- What to Look for in the Best Teeth Whiteners?
- Teeth Whitener FAQ
Our Picks for the Best Teeth Whitening Products
You can easily whiten your teeth with the help of teeth whitening strips, teeth whitening pens, or teeth whitening gels and lights. We’ve selected the best of these at-home products so you can learn how to whiten your teeth at home with ease.
1. Glo Science Glo Lit Teeth Whitening Tech Kit
This high-tech teeth whitening kit will give you dramatic results. The kit comes with 7 vials that contain a hydrogen peroxide-based teeth whitening gel and an LED light device attached to a mouthpiece that activates the gel for better results. There is even an app, so you can connect the device to your phone via Bluetooth to time the whole process.
It’s an investment kit, since once you buy the kit you have everything you need to whiten your teeth dramatically over the course of a week, do touch-ups, and then buy replacement vials as necessary. It also comes with a protective lip balm. Buy it at Sephora!
2. Go Smile ‘Touch Up – Fresh Mint’ Smile Perfecting Ampoules
Much like a spot treatment for your teeth, these teeth whitening gel ampoules can be used on the go for a brightening touch-up. These are the best teeth whiteners to choose if you have a series of big events coming up since you can use them soon after you’ve had a glass of red wine to undo the damage. They also help to freshen your breath and polish your teeth a bit. You can get them from Nordstrom.
3. Moon Kendall Jenner Teeth Whitening Pen Vanilla Mint Flavor
There has been a lot of buzz surrounding this teeth whitening pen, due to its association with Kendall Jenner. However, we have got to admit that it’s a great product by its own right, and at a truly affordable price point. The sleek black pen is super easy to use since it dispenses the gel on your teeth without any mess. The flavor is non-intrusive, and it’s a blessing that you only have to let it sit on your teeth with your mouth open for 30 seconds. Most people see results within a few days of regular use. Pick it up at Ulta!
4. Tarte Pearly Girl Vegan Teeth Whitening Pen
If you’re already a fan of the Tarte aesthetic then you’ll love pulling this brightly colored pen out after lunch for a quick teeth whitening session. This simple pen holds an exceptionally gentle whitening formula that doesn’t seem to irritate the gums or make teeth sensitive. The taste is also remarkably tolerable when compared to stronger formulas. With that being said, this is not going to give you the most dramatic results, but it’s still a great boost that you can use for a long time. It is available at Sephora.
5. Apa Beauty White Duo
This intense duo will give you extremely white teeth in just five days. The set features both a teeth whitening pen and teeth whitening strips, which you are meant to use together for a double dose of carbamide peroxide. You leave the strips on for about 90 minutes, which is plenty of time for them to take effect. The final results are stark, but do be aware that these are likelier to irritate than just a simple pen. Order the set online from Net-a-Porter!
6. Blaq Charcoal Teeth Whitening Wand
This teeth whitening wand relies on some buzzy ingredients to whiten the teeth. Bamboo charcoal and coconut oil have both been super popular DIY teeth cleaning and whitening remedies for a while now, so they are a reasonable addition to a whitening gel. However, this formula doesn’t contain any peroxide so it’s not as powerful as other products on this list. If you have super sensitive gums then it’s worth trying, since you’ll still get a mild lightening effect but without any of the irritation. Shop it at Revolve!
7. Popwhite Whitening Toner Oral Rinse
What’s the point of cosmetically whitening your teeth if your oral hygiene isn’t up to par? All the hard work of whitening them goes nowhere if you’re not keeping them healthy in the long term. This dental rinse is especially great because it freshens breath and removes surface stains, while a touch of peppermint and coconut oil fortifies the teeth and gums reducing plaque. You can purchase it from Dermstore.
8. Crest 3D White Whitestrips Classic Vivid – Teeth Whitening Kit
Crest is responsible for the OG teeth whitening strips, which are still great enough to merit a spot on the list. The strips are already imbued with the peroxide formula, so you just fit them over your teeth, wait 30 minutes, and then take them off. The strips adhere beautifully and usually without touching the gums. You can use them a few days in a row for maximum effects, or every once in a while for maintenance. Find them at Ulta.
9. PerioSciences Antioxidant Oral Care System Without Stand – White Care
The teeth whitening process is not separate from the overall care process, so you might want to invest in a full set of teeth whitening toothpaste, mouthwash, and oral gel. This set, which you can use in conjunction with a teeth whitening kit, is infused with antioxidants to protect your mouth.
The toothpaste boosts brightness and helps remove surface stains, the mouthwash is free of alcohol, so it freshens the breath and kills bacteria without causing dryness, and the gel helps to protect and fortify the gums, for an overall healthier mouth. Grab it from Dermstore!
10. Marvis Whitening Mint Toothpaste
This iconic teeth whitening toothpaste is packaged in a charmingly vintage-inspired tube, but its formula is thoroughly modern. It is gentle and mint-flavored, with a texture that helps eliminate stains as well as prevent all kinds of tooth issues. Many people notice a brighter smile after using it regularly, and it can definitely be used in conjunction with a stronger teeth whitening kit. Be aware that it is fluoride-free. Get it at Sephora!
11. Go Smile Teeth Whitening Gel
If you’re looking for the easiest and gentlest of products then this might be the best teeth whitening product for you. It consists of a gel that you squeeze on to your toothbrush, along with your usual toothpaste. Then you just brush your teeth as usual, and the hydrogen peroxide in this formula will lighten your teeth.
Fans of this product report very little irritation and subtle results, though that’s likely because it doesn’t stay in contact with the teeth for very long. We suspect you could get more results by using it the way you would a teeth whitening pen instead. Buy it at Ulta!
12. Lebon Le White Toothpaste
Infused with green tea, this refreshing and whitening toothpaste is also gentle on teeth and gums. The brand claims that the secret to the whitening effects here comes from papaya enzymes, but it might just be the hydrated silica removing pesky stains. Either way, this toothpaste is mild with a delicious and unusual flavor, so give it a try! It is sold via Net-a-Porter.
13. Supersmile Professional Whitening Toothpaste
This is one of the most effective teeth whitening toothpastes around, thanks to the fact that it is actually formulated with a calcium peroxide complex. The formula is non-abrasive, which is important for mitigating the sensitizing effects of peroxide. It’s a great choice if you’d like to prolong the whitening effects of a more intense treatment but without overdoing things. Order it from Ulta!
14. Kopari Coconut Charcoal Toothpaste
Coconut and charcoal make the best teeth whitening combination for those who prefer all-natural ingredients. It is fluoride-free, which some people prefer, and is able to brighten the teeth through the absorbent properties of charcoal and abrasive silica. The addition of coconut oil helps to coat and protect both teeth and gums. You can find it at Sephora.
15. Hello Activated Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste
This is another great fluoride and sulfate-free teeth whitening toothpaste option for all of you who have a preference for all-natural products. It is made with activated charcoal and coconut, and has a very refreshing mint flavor. Be careful with it, though, since it might be a little too abrasive for some. It is available at Ulta.
Here is what to check out before going for the perfect teeth whitener for you!
The Teeth Whitening Product Type
Aside from those high-tech teeth whitening kits, there are so many different products on the market you can use to whiten teeth easily at home. We discuss them all below.
Teeth Whitening Strips
Teeth whitening strips are probably the buzziest teeth whitening option around, with Crest’s products being especially well known. These strips are usually pretty simple: they are made of super-thin plastic that can be placed over the teeth. The part that comes into contact with the teeth is covered in a hydrogen peroxide-based gel or paste.
The plastic usually adheres to the teeth pretty well, ensuring that their surface is totally coated with the gel to prevent it from getting wiped away. Depending on the brand, it might be suggested that you brush and floss before applying the teeth whitening strips, though Crest suggests you don’t since it might increase your risk of sensitivity.
You then leave the teeth whitening strips on for the amount of time the brand suggests (usually 30 minutes), remove them, and brush your teeth again if you like. Most companies suggest that you avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes after using teeth whitening strips.
Teeth Whitening Gels
Teeth whitening gels alone are surprisingly uncommon, but they are the important base of most teeth whitening kits and pens. Teeth whitening gels are usually made of some sort of gentle, hydrating base of glycerin or a similar humectant, combined with either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide for their bleaching effect. Each whitening gel is made a little differently, so it’s important to follow the product instructions when using it.
Teeth Whitening Pens
Teeth whitening pens are plastic tubes filled with teeth whitening gel. The tubes have a brush at their tip, so as you click or twist them at the bottom, the brush gets filled up with whitening gel. This makes applying the teeth whitening gel very easy since the brush gives you full control over the application.
Normally, you must apply the gel to freshly brushed teeth and then keep a wide smile while the gel dries down. After 30 seconds you can relax your lips, but you still want to allow the gel to work for the 30 minutes after you’ve applied it, so avoid eating or drinking.
Teeth Whitening Devices
Teeth whitening devices are usually quite a bit more expensive than gels alone, but they might be able to boost the efficacy of teeth whitening gels and pens. Their other benefit is that they can be used over and over again.
Most teeth whitening devices include an LED light and a mouthpiece, and also some sort of teeth whitening gel with carbamide peroxide. The LED light is supposed to help activate the teeth whitening gel in order to make teeth whiter.
There have been conflicting studies, with some saying that light devices do help brighten teeth and others saying that they don’t make a difference. The main benefit of the devices might just be that they force you to allow the teeth whitening gel to sit on your teeth uninterrupted for enough time so that the peroxide can take its effect.
Teeth Whitening Toothpastes
Toothpastes that advertise themselves as whitening might be great products, but they don’t compare to teeth whitening kits and gels (just like oil pulling for teeth whitening). The reason for this is simple – they don’t stay in contact with the teeth for long enough to make an impact.
Unlike leave-on gels and strips, your toothpaste only stays in contact with your teeth for the few minutes it takes you to brush. Additionally, many toothpastes advertised as whitening don’t actually contain any peroxide, and instead, the whitening effect comes from abrasives like activated charcoal or hydrated silica.
After that, you rinse it away, and that’s it. A whitening toothpaste might be able to slightly boost the effects of teeth whitening kits, and it is certainly vital that you brush your teeth at least twice a day, but if brighter teeth are your main goal then they’re not enough.
Almost all teeth whitening products rely on hydrogen peroxide or its related ingredient carbamide peroxide as their main ingredient. These are basically the same kind of peroxide that will bleach your hair.
The peroxide can penetrate into the enamel of the teeth, where deeper stains are, to bleach them. For maximal results, it’s important that the peroxide gel stays in contact with the teeth for at least 20-30 minutes. Results from shorter contact are not going to be as dramatic.
There are also some non-peroxide-based teeth whiteners, including toothpastes. Those usually rely on abrasive ingredients like charcoal or hydrated silica to abrade at surface stains on the teeth. They are great for removing build-up from the teeth, but they won’t target the deeper stains. Abrasives can actually damage the teeth by wearing away the enamel, so it’s important not to overuse them.
At-home teeth whiteners tend to work best on slightly yellowed or stained teeth, which they are able to brighten a little bit. However, those hoping to achieve gleaming teeth that are so white they are almost blue are probably not going to be satisfied.
At-home teeth whitening products usually give natural-looking results by making the teeth a few shades whiter, so if you’re wanting a Hollywood smile you might have to opt for dental teeth whitening or even veneers.
Teeth Whitener FAQ
So once you have picked up your perfect teeth whitener, you may still have questions regarding its usage, which we answer below.
While teeth whitening products are effective and mostly easy to use, they do have some side effects. The most common side effects are sensitive teeth, irritated gums, or white spots on the teeth. These effects can show up after one use or after repeated use of a teeth whitener.
The higher the percentage of peroxide in the teeth whitening gel and the longer the gel stays in contact with the teeth are also factors that influence the chances of these side effects showing up. Normally, the sensitivity and white spots will both go away after a few hours or days.
If you experience severe sensitivity or irritation, it is best to avoid at-home teeth whitening altogether and to speak to a dentist instead. If you only experience mild sensitivity for a few hours after the treatment, you may do teeth whitening again once the sensitivity dissipates completely.
To avoid irritating the gums, be careful not to let any of the teeth whitening gel come into contact with them. You can even try to apply a layer of Vaseline or a similar barrier to the gums before applying the gel, in order to block it from permeating the skin.
According to AskTheDentist, it is important to only whiten healthy, fully grown adult teeth. In children, baby teeth or partially grown adult teeth are best left alone, though it is very important to teach children about good oral health. Additionally, if your teeth or gums are in bad shape, either due to tooth decay or gum disease, it is best to avoid teeth whitening since the peroxide can only further damage the teeth or irritate the gums.
This is why seeing your dentist at least twice a year is so important. Your dentist can monitor the health of your teeth and ensure they are in top shape, and will also advise you on whether you are a good candidate for cosmetic teeth whitening.
Another thing to keep in mind is your personal dietary requirements, especially if you have any allergies, intolerances or sensitivities. Most teeth whitening products are vegan and gluten-free, and many are even certified kosher! If you do have any dietary restrictions you should definitely have a look at the ingredients list of the teeth whitening product you want to buy, since there is always a risk of ingestion.
Another thing you want to consider before whitening your teeth is any crowns and veneers you might have and their color. Teeth whitening products will lighten your natural teeth, but they won’t have an impact on porcelain surfaces. The only way to deal with stained or discolored crowns is to replace them, unfortunately.
Photos via @klaudiabadura, Sephora, Ulta, Instagram