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We looked at ingredients and claims for whitening products to provide you with this list of great ones. We looked at features such as comfort, cost, and ability to dazzle yellow or stained teeth.
At-home teeth whitening products may not always be as effective as treatments you get at the dentist’s office, but these over-the-counter (OTC) picks may help you come closer to your whitest teeth.
Whitening products come in a variety of forms for you to choose from. Here are four of the best options to consider.
Many users like that these strips stay on teeth easily and come off cleanly. Their no-slip grip design helps the strips stay in place on teeth.
One box provides enough strips for 2 weeks. The strips are meant to be used once daily for 30 minutes. When used as directed, they’ll remove both extrinsic and intrinsic tooth stains.
Each strip contains around 14 percent hydrogen peroxide. Some people find that their teeth become overly sensitive for hours or days after exposure to hydrogen peroxide.
If you have sensitive teeth or are looking for a gentler alternative to products with lots of hydrogen peroxide, this kit may be a good fit for you. It contains around 6 percent hydrogen peroxide per strip.
One kit supplies enough strips for 2 weeks. The strips are meant to be worn once daily.
Since this product is formulated for sensitive teeth, it isn’t as powerful as some other varieties, including Crest 3D White Glamorous White Whitestrips. Even so, users report that this product is effective and comfortable.
Whitening toothpastes are an easy and convenient way to whiten teeth, although they typically lack the dramatic, fast impact of whitening strips.
Tom’s of Maine Simply White Natural Toothpaste uses silica to naturally remove surface stains from teeth, with no added chemicals. It also has fluoride for cavity protection, plus it works effectively as a breath freshener.
It’s available as a cream or gel and comes in two minty flavors. Both the cream and gel have the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
Unlike most other whitening toothpastes, Colgate Optic White Toothpaste removes intrinsic and extrinsic stains. Its active whitening ingredient is hydrogen peroxide. It also contains fluoride to protect against cavities.
Many users report seeing a difference in tooth color in less than 2 weeks.
This toothpaste has a refreshing taste. It also has a slightly gritty texture, which some people like, and others do not.
Whitening strips are easy to use and don’t require a prescription. They’re less expensive than in-office dental procedures for teeth whitening, and they typically produce good results.
Why whitening strips work
Whitening strips contain a thin layer of hydrogen peroxide or other active ingredient, adhered to a pliable, plastic strip. The active ingredients in whitening strips vary, but many use carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide.
Whitening strips bleach off surface stains. They also penetrate tooth enamel and dentin to remove intrinsic stains from deep within the tooth. If not used correctly, they can be harmful to your teeth.
What to look out for
Always check labels for a list of ingredients. Unlike the whitening strips we reviewed for this article, some rely on chlorine dioxide, a chemical oxidizer that can erode tooth enamel and damage teeth.
Whitening strips are typically safe to use, as long as you follow package directions. If you leave them on too long or use them more often than recommended, you may experience side effects.
Keep the following in mind when using whitening strips:
- Avoid chlorine dioxide.
- Don’t use products for longer or more often than directed.
Common side effects
The most common side effects are discomfort caused by tooth sensitivity and gum irritation.
Other potential side effects include:
- changes in tooth enamel, such as increased roughness or softness
- erosion of dental restorations, such as fillings
- damage to braces
In order to use whitening toothpaste effectively, brush your teeth at least twice a day for around 2 minutes.
Why whitening toothpastes work
Whitening toothpastes usually contain abrasives that work to scrub off surface stains. They also contain active ingredients that lighten teeth by several shades.
What to look out for
Keep in mind that whitening toothpastes contain ingredients that might increase tooth sensitivity or gum irritation. Using a soft bristle brush may help mitigate these effects for some people.
You’ll also have to have patience. Whitening toothpastes can be very effective, but they don’t work quickly.
There are many other teeth whitening products you can try. Many don’t have the ADA Seal of Acceptance, but that doesn’t mean they’re not safe or effective.
Products to consider include:
These may be a good option for people with tooth sensitivity. Many whitening mouthwashes contain the same active ingredients as whitening strips. It may take as long as 3 months to see a whitening effect from mouthwashes or rinses, though.
Teeth whitening powders
These work similarly to toothpaste. One
Teeth whitening gels
Teeth whitening gels contain the same active ingredients as whitening strips. They’re available in several forms, including:
- pre-filled trays you leave in your mouth for 30 minutes or longer, based on tooth sensitivity
- brush-on gels, which are different than tooth paint. Tooth paint, which also goes on each tooth with a brush, doesn’t contain whitening ingredients. Tooth paint coats teeth, covering up stains, but not removing them. Brush-on gels contain ingredients designed to lighten teeth.
- teeth whitening pens designed for on-the-go use
Your teeth can have both intrinsic and extrinsic stains.
Extrinsic stains are caused by things in your environment that come into contact with your teeth. These include foods and drinks that contain tannins (such as red wine), beer, coffee, and tea. Colas and cigarette smoke also cause extrinsic stains to occur.
Intrinsic stains occur inside the tooth and can be seen on the outside. This type of staining can be caused by certain types of medications or illnesses. Aging, trauma to the tooth, and infections can also cause intrinsic staining to occur.
Intrinsic stains can also be caused by overexposure to fluoride, although this is most commonly found in children.
Luckily, there are many products that remove stains from teeth, giving you a brighter smile.
Yellow or stained teeth can be made significantly whiter with the use of OTC products. These products include teeth whitening strips and whitening toothpaste.
Teeth whitening products are typically safe to use, as long as you follow package directions. There are even options for people with highly sensitive teeth.
It’s important to note that teeth whitening products aren’t meant for use by children.