As a practicing cosmetic dentist and an oral care product reviewer, I independently research, test and recommend the best dental products.
Unfortunately, many of the most enjoyable things in life can stain your teeth: coffee, tea, wine, even tomato sauce and blueberries. If it can stain a white T-shirt, it can stain your teeth! As far as whitening your smile, a professional in-office whitening treatment is always going to be more effective than any at home option. That being said, it does come at a higher cost. We use the highest percentage of whitening ingredient to get the best results in a matter of 45 mins to 1 hour, which may sometimes come with some sensitivity.
The secret to keeping your teeth white is maintenance, just like anything. It's important to have an at-home whitening regimen to maintain your white smile.
At-home teeth whitening is a good, conservative option for many people. It's cost effective and generally has low or no tooth sensitivity. There are so many different types to choose from: strips, pens, toothpaste, and more.
Try these best at-home teeth whitening products and get ready for the compliments!
Dentist's Choice: Customized teeth whitening trays and Opalescence Teeth Whitening Gel 10%
Type: tray | Session Duration: 8-10 hrs | Active Ingredients: Carbamide peroxide
With 10%, you won't experience any sensitivity and can sleep with your customized trays on. You get your customized trays at your dentist office or the link provided above, where they take a mold of your teeth. With this routine, "slow and steady" wins the race!
Best Overall: Crest 3D Whitestrips with Light
Type: Strips, light | Session Duration: 5 minutes | Active Ingredients: Hydrogen peroxide, sodium hydroxide
Crest is no stranger to the at-home whitening world, but their latest innovation really is a game-changer. It takes the same strips the brand is best known for and amps up their effects with an included blue light.
For 10 days you wear the strips for an hour, then hold up the light to the strips for another 10 minutes (five minutes each on top and bottom). The light boasts the same technology found in dentist’s offices, which helps the hydrogen peroxide in the strips better penetrate the tooth enamel and ultimately leads to whiter teeth—that will stay whiter for up to 36 months.
Best Overall Runner-Up: Crest 3D Whitestrips Glamourous White
Type: Strips | Session Duration: 30 minutes | Active Ingredients: Hydrogen peroxide, sodium hydroxide
Truly a classic, you really can’t go wrong with these easy to use strips. They have the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of approval, which was granted to them in 2017. To drive home how major that is, it's worth mentioning that it's the first product to earn the ADA seal in the Home-Use Tooth Bleaching Products category, according to the ADA. They promise to remove up to 10 years' worth of stains, and this variety features extra grip to ensure they stay in place.
It is affordable and effective. The only issue is your compliance, like with any at home product. You’ll need to use these every day for the two-week treatment cycle to see the best results.
Type: Gel, light | Session Duration: 8 minutes | Active Ingredients: Hydrogen peroxide, sodium hydroxide, potassium nitrate, sodium fluoride
This is the closest you can get to a professional whitening at home. You start by applying the protective lip balm, then brush a thin layer of the whitening gel along the fronts of your teeth. Pop in the mouthpiece and turn it on, either manually or via the app.
The GLO technology—which stands for Guided Light Optics, FYI—uses a combo of both light and heat to activate the hydrogen peroxide-based gel so you get whiter teeth, fast. It shuts off after eight minutes, though you have to repeat the process twice more after that. Do three cycles total for seven days in a row for impressive results; in a consumer study, 100% of the participants had whiter teeth, up to five shades lighter on average, and none reported any sensitivity.
Best Whitening Toothpaste: Crest 3D White Brilliance Toothpaste
Type: Toothpaste | Session Duration: 2 minutes | Active Ingredients: Fluoride
Crest does it again. Using toothpaste is probably the easiest way to work a whitening product into your routine. While whitening toothpastes usually aren’t nearly as powerful as gels and other treatments, this one is actually a pretty solid option. Toothpastes helps to remove surface stains.
Combining the brand’s Fastest Whitening Technology and Advanced Stain Protection, it buffs off surface stains—up to an impressive 95% of them in just three days—and offers protection against further stains, all while strengthening your teeth and fighting off cavities with fluoride.
Best Whitening Mouthwash: Crest 3D White LUXE Mouthwash Glamourous White Alcohol Free
Type: Mouthwash | Session Duration: 60 secs | Active Ingredients: Fluoride, Hydrogen peroxide
Put the finishing touches on your morning smile routine with Crest 3D White Glamorous White Whitening Mouthwash. Crest's exclusive Whitelock Technology acts as a whitening protector that helps prevent new stains from forming. With 3D White Glamorous White whitening mouthwash you'll see a whiter smile in 7 days by swishing morning and night for 60 secs. Combined with the 3D White Brilliance toothpaste is the perfect way to maintain your white smile.
Best for Aligners: EverSmile WhiteFoam Aligner Whitening Cleaner
Type: Whitening Foam | Session Duration: all day | Active Ingredients: Hydrogen peroxide
The wearable aligner cleaner whitens teeth gradually with no sensitivity and freshens your breath and kills bacteria. It also works under aligner buttons & attachments. You can wear it all day long touching up to 6 times per day.
Best Toothpaste for Sensitivity: Sensodyne Rapid Relief Sensitive Fluoride Toothpaste
Type: Desensitizing toothpaste | Session Duration: 2 mins | Active Ingredients: Stannous Fluoride
Some folks may be wary of using teeth whitening products as they’ve been known to cause minor tooth sensitivity. To avoid this, you can avoid this by using a desensitizing toothpaste after you remove your whitening product. Brush with it for at least two times a day. I also recommend to not rinse your mouth. Let the toothpaste saturate on your teeth. If you could wait, 30 mins before eating or brushing that would be even better. I also like to apply it directly to my teeth and rub it into the sensitive areas. Do not rinse it as well.
If you find yourself constantly getting mouth sores or canker sores, you may be allergic to an ingredient in toothpaste called SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate). If so, switch to a product that is SLS Free.
TIPS before using your teeth whitening products
For the best results, make sure your check in with your dentist. Get your dental cleaning. If you have plaque and calculus on your teeth, you will not get the great results you are expecting. You get the best results when your teeth are clean.
The higher the concentration of whitening ingredient (hydrogen peroxide), the shorter the application time. It can also come with more sensitivity than a lower concentration. The safest way to go is 10% for no sensitivity. Make sure you follow the directions as indicated.
When applying the gel to your trays, you do not need a lot of gel. Just a drop of whitening ingredient per tooth is needed. The excess of gel can lead to gum irritation.
The better isolated your tooth is with the whitening gel, the better your results will be. That is why it is better to use some sort of tray: customized or generic, to protect your teeth from your lips and saliva.
There are many different modes of at-home teeth whitening. Depending on your budget and timing, you will have to find out what makes the most sense for you. Just remember, consistency is key and follow the instructions, Make sure to give yourself some time to see results because at-home whitening is effective but takes some time. Smile on!