Discolored or yellow teeth are embarrassing—fortunately, with modern teeth whitening kits, you don’t have to put up with them. Discolored teeth could be a result of genetics, smoking or drinking coffee or sugary beverages, but whatever the cause, you can restore the color of your pearly whites with a teeth whitening kit. Best of all, you can do it from the comfort of your own home. Our research team ranked the ten best in-home teeth whitening kits—read on for our results.
1. Snow Teeth Whitening Kit
Used by NFL star, Rob Gronkowski, boxing megastar, Floyd Mayweather, and UFC star, Chuck Liddell, Snow is changing the teeth whitening game with LED technology. Created by American dentists and engineers, it has the most advanced serum, and the easiest to use LED activator that whitens your teeth in as little as 9 minutes.
It’s designed to whiten all kinds of teeth stains — smoking, coffee, soda, and even wine stains are noticeably whiter in minutes. It is extremely easy to use. Simply brush your teeth, apply the serum, and hold the applicator in your mouth for 9 minutes. It uses enamel-safe ingredients so that you don’t damage your teeth while whitening them.
It comes in both a wired and wireless version to fit your lifestyle, and each bundle has over 60 whitening treatments. You get dentist level results for a fraction of the price.
It’s no wonder that Snow is so popular with celebrities and everyday people alike.
2. Crest 3D White Vivid Strips
Crest is the pioneer of easy to use, at-home teeth whitening treatments, and they are still the best option on the market. Their adhesive strips make dental trays and syringes a thing of the past. Instead, you just attach the strips to your teeth once per day.
The 30 minute wait time can be a bit of a pain, but the advantage is the lack of messy cleanup and extra equipment that comes with more traditional whitening treatments. If your teeth are extra stained, you might need a more powerful solution, but for many people, this will be the place to start.
3. Active Wow Teeth Whitening Kit
When it comes to a tray-based system, Active Wow has it figured out. This kit comes with two syringes of a potent teeth whitening treatment, a UV light that can boost the rate at which it whitens your teeth, and two syringes of remineralizing gel, which helps keep your tooth enamel in good shape, and reduces sensitivity.
On top of that, it comes with an extra tray in case one in the set of two gets damaged, lost, or warped. The trays even come with a storage case to prevent them from getting dirty when you aren’t using them. If you need the serious whitening power of a full whitening kit, Active Wow is the way to go.
4. Opalescence Mint
Opalescence Mint is a high-concentration teeth whitening product that, as a result of its potent concentration, does not need to be left on for very long. Just 30 minutes is enough to get a strong whitening effect.
Without a remineralization formula, this problem is compounded, making this product good for people with resilient teeth who haven’t seen the whitening they want with other products, but not the right call for everybody.
5. Active Wow Activated Coconut Charcoal Powder
For many people, the harsh, chemical nature of teeth whitening is a major turn off, as is the risk of teeth sensitivity following treatment.
An attractive, natural alternative is using activated charcoal to scrub and absorb the compounds that are staining your teeth.
Active Wow’s coconut charcoal powder is one of the best, thanks to its simple, natural ingredients. Though it will take longer for charcoal based treatments to work, they don’t involve the caustic chemicals that could damage your enamel.
6. Crest 3D White Brilliance Toothpaste
Crest 3D White Brilliance is a toothpaste replacement–unlike charcoal based toothpastes, this two-part kit actually functions as a regular toothpaste as well as a teeth whitening solution.
It’s not as fast-acting or as potent as a tray-based teeth whitening product, but it’s also a lot less likely to cause sensitivity. It may be used in conjunction with whitening strips, too, for extra whitening power.
7. Cool Teeth Whitening Kit
This teeth whitening kid uses a high-strength carbamide peroxide solution to bleach teeth to a much whiter shade, but the main drawback is that there is no remineralization solution provided, so unless you are more resistant to sensitivity that can come along with using peroxide teeth bleaching kits, you might have to slow down the teeth whitening process to allow your enamel to recover more.
8. One Living Earth Black Pearl Teeth Whitening Powder
One Living Earth offers an activated charcoal toothpaste to whiten teeth, but it’s got a lot of ancillary and unnecessary ingredients. It’s not at all a bad product; it’s made with pure and natural ingredients like bentonite clay and peppermint oil, but if you want the teeth whitening power of activated charcoal, you should aim for a toothpaste whose main constituent is actually charcoal.
9. Auraglow On the Go Teeth Whitening Pen
Auraglow’s angle with this product is that it is a more mobile and user-friendly way to whiten your teeth compared to traditional tray systems.
It contains carbamide peroxide at a fairly potent 35% concentration, meaning it could be pretty effective at whitening your teeth. However, the practical implementation and use of the whitening pen is pretty awkward–you have to apply it, then hold a smile for 60 seconds before relaxing.
10. AuraGlow Deluxe Home Teeth Whitening Kit
AuraGlow brings professional whitening to the comfort of your own home, and all at an amazingly reasonable price. It’s safe, effective, and many users see results after their first 10-minute treatment.
It’s designed to work the same way that a dentist’s whitening service works, but for a fraction of the price. It uses a gel composed of hydrogen and oxygen molecules to start the cleaning process along with peroxide and remineralization elements to power the cleaning without harming your teeth. Then the mouth-guard like LED activator accelerates the process of the gel so that you see results even faster.
Best teeth whitening kit overall: Snow Teeth Whitening Kit
Snow takes our top spot thanks to its potent teeth-whitening capabilities and its inclusion of both an ultraviolet LED to enhance whitening and remineralization serum to reduce tooth sensitivity. It doesn’t have messy trays like other competitors, yet it still gives great results.
Best teeth whitening strips: Crest 3D Whitestrips
Crest 3D Whitestrips are still the best option if you want the ease and convenience of whitening strips. These disposable strips can lead to dramatic improvements in whiteness without the hassle of trays, syringes, and LED lights.
Best teeth whitening kit for smokers: Snow Teeth Whitening Kit
Are your teeth stained from years of smoking? The comprehensive whitening and remineralization compounds in Snow are the right choice if you’re looking to remove yellowing and stains from cigarettes. After a professional teeth cleaning, Snow can strip away layers of yellowing without damaging the underlying enamel.
Best teeth whitening kit for tea and coffee stains: Snow Teeth Whitening Kit
Tea and coffee are both great for your health, but not so great for having bright teeth. The good news is that coffee and tea stains are only surface-level blemishes on your teeth, so a powerful whitening kit like Snow, which uses peroxide-based serum and an ultraviolet LED to power through coffee and tea stains on teeth.
Best teeth whitening kit for sensitive teeth: Active Wow Teeth Whitening Premium Kit
Active Wow makes good use of a remineralization solution and ultraviolet light that both enhance the whitening effect of this teeth whitening kit and make it an excellent choice for people with sensitive teeth–the remineralization solution strengthens the enamel of your teeth, avoiding the heat and cold sensitivity that can come after teeth whitening treatment.
Best LED teeth whitening kit: Snow Teeth Whitening Kit
An ultraviolet LED kit can enhance the effectiveness of peroxide-based teeth whitening serums, and since Snow uses both, it rises above competitors that only use one or the other. If you want a whitening kit that uses ultraviolet light to maximize its whitening capabilities, Snow is our recommendation.
Who should buy a teeth whitening kit?
If you have stained or discolored teeth, you’ll notice a huge difference after using a teeth whitening kit.
A wide range of things can cause stained and discolored teeth, including tobacco use, frequent consumption of coffee and tea, or poor oral hygiene.
You may have tried a toothpaste that has whitening agents in it, but the efficacy of these toothpastes is far lower than what you can get from a whitening toothpaste.
Even if you do have good oral health and fairly white teeth to begin with, you might want a teeth whitening kit if you’re in a career where appearance matters.
Television personalities, models, and people in sales often use teeth whitening kits to touch up their appearance and give them a bit of an extra edge. So, whether you have stained and discolored teeth, or if you want to be a bit more memorable on first appearance, a teeth whitening kit might be for you.
How we ranked
From all the teeth whitening products on the market, we sought out the most effective and well-received products.
We immediately culled teeth whitening products that were part of another oral care solution, like a mouthwash or a toothpaste. These products, like Mountain Falls Whitening Mouthwash and Nu Skin AP-24, just don’t pack the whitening power of a dedicated teeth whitening product.
From there, we got rid of anything that was unworkable inconvenient or messy, which included most electronic teeth-whitening kits.
These products were just too fussy and too reliant on getting the right intensity and wavelength of light for maximum efficacy in all situations.
The only light-based product that remained on our list was the Auraglow On the Go Teeth Whitening Pen due to its compact and self-contained design, but even so, it still ended up at the bottom of the rankings.
Within the remaining teeth whitening products, we rated based both on whitening ability (dictated largely by the concentration of the whitening agents) as well clean ingredient design and ability to be used by people with sensitive teeth.
This last criteria was important to us, because many times, teeth whitening kits are rated only on how concentrated their whitening agents are. This leaves people with sensitive teeth out in the cold, as the more concentrated blends are also the ones more likely to cause tooth pain.
As such, we rated products like Active Wow Teeth Whitening Premium Kit very highly, thanks to their inclusion of a remineralization solution.
These remineralization solutions help strengthen the enamel of your teeth after the whitening process, and while it’s not mandatory, we made sure to rank and review a number of teeth whitening kits that had high-quality remineralization components as well as a whitening solution.
Finally, since a teeth whitening kit does end up swishing around in your mouth, we cut out products with too many coloring agents and preservatives.
Given that so many teeth whitening products are able to achieve teeth whitening without excessive and unnecessary coloring and flavoring agents, we felt that the top-rated products shouldn’t contain an excessive amount of these ingredients.
We also wanted a balance between powerful whitening agents, products that provide remineralization solution, and whitening strips. Each of these products has their advantages and disadvantages for some users.
We considered the pluses and minuses of each type, and concluded that, for most users, the convenience and ease of use of whitening strips would make them the best choice.
Whiter teeth can boost your confidence. When your teeth are stained and discolored, a teeth whitening treatment can do wonders for your self-confidence and self-esteem. Teeth whitening treatments are one of the secret weapons of public personalities everywhere–you can be virtually certain that all of your favorite movie stars, politicians, and newscasters have had their teeth whitened to help improve their public image.
There are a variety of ways to whiten your teeth. These can range from simple toothpaste upgrades to more complicated teeth whitening systems. Generally, the most effective whitening systems are based on carbamide peroxide, a bleaching compound that has been used in dental offices to whiten teeth.
A 2014 article in the Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice evaluated a range of at-home teeth whitening treatments and highlighted their benefits and potential drawbacks (1).
The authors concluded that at home teeth whitening systems are both safe and effective, with the caveat that there is the potential for sensitivity in the teeth, especially if manufacturer directions are not followed.
More serious adverse effects, like damage to the enamel surface of the teeth, seems to occur when people do not read or do not follow the directions on a teeth whitening treatment.
This is especially salient advice today, given that there are many high-strength teeth whitening treatments available that do not need to be (and indeed, should not be) left on the teeth as long as the lower-concentration formulas that used to be the de facto market standard.
Following the directions that come with your specific product exactly is what is most likely to lead to a positive result.
Teeth whitening kits at home could be equally effective as professional-grade whitening at the dentist’s office. Research published in the journal Operative Dentistry even suggests that at home whitening may be as effective and more preferable to in office treatments (2).
When a group of patients was given either in-office or at home teeth whitening, the results were similar, and patient preference leaned towards recommendations at home treatments over the dental office treatments, likely because of the ease and convenience.
Charcoal might be a good natural alternative for teeth whitening. One potential alternative to harsh chemical treatments that has become more popular recently is activated charcoal toothpaste for teeth whitening. The name is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s not actually a toothpaste at all, nor does it function to reduce cavities like a standard dental toothpaste does.
Instead, the purpose of activated charcoal toothpaste is to gradually and gently wear away the first layer of staining on your teeth, and take advantage of the unique properties of activated charcoal to absorb organic compounds. Since it’s such a new trend, there is a lack of good scientific research on the topic.
Dentists are understandably concerned; a review article in 2017 published in the Journal of the American Dental Association noted that some dentists are worried that patients will use activated charcoal as a replacement for a standard fluoride toothpaste, which could lead to cavities (3).
Still, the authors called for more research, and did not outright recommend avoiding activated charcoal toothpaste. When using activated charcoal to whiten your teeth, it’s important to know that it doesn’t function as a replacement for your regular toothpaste.
You still need the enamel-strengthening and plaque-removing capabilities of a standard dental toothpaste. Compared to peroxide-based whitening systems, which have known side effects, activated charcoal formulas might be an attractive alternative, but even with activated charcoal, you’ll still want to protect and polish your teeth with a normal toothpaste.
The primary side effect of teeth whitening is increased tooth sensitivity. To characterize the chances of getting teeth sensitivity from a teeth whitening treatment, a 2002 article in the Journal of the American Dental Association tested a 15% carbamide peroxide teeth whitening treatment against a placebo treatment that had no teeth whitening compounds in it (4).
The study used fifty adults split into two groups. The authors found that about half of the subjects in the teeth whitening treatment group reported mild sensitivity, but strangely, so did about half of the subjects in the control group!
There were apparent differences in terms of moderate and severe tooth sensitivity, though: 10 percent of the teeth whitening group reported moderate tooth sensitivity, compared to only 4% of controls, and 2% (one person) reported severe tooth sensitivity in the treatment group, and none in the control group.
This suggests that mildly sensitive teeth are not as frequent of a problem as you might think, and that there is a strong placebo effect at play. However, there does seem to be an increased risk of moderate to severe tooth sensitivity in peroxide-based teeth whitening treatments.
One important note about this study is that newer treatments on the market are up to three times stronger than the 15% carbamide peroxide treatment used in this study, so the incidence of sensitive teeth could be higher in these more powerful formulations, especially if they are not used as directed.
As mentioned earlier, overuse of teeth whitening kits can degrade the enamel in your teeth.
Depending on the exact concentration of the products you choose, the duration of each treatment might range from two to four weeks, and you might need to keep the whitening products in contact with your teeth for anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.
More importantly, for maximum efficacy, you should make sure to finish the full whitening routine, unless you are experiencing too much tooth sensitivity.
After finishing a teeth whitening treatment, you can go through another one in about six months—manufacturers and dentists both recommend not doing more than two teeth whitening treatment kits in a year.
Q: Is it bad to whiten your teeth?
A: Typically, whitening your teeth is totally safe. A high-quality teeth whitening kit is safe and effective. Products that are available over the counter have a balanced amount of whitening agents that can penetrate and brighten tooth enamel without causing degradation, as long as they are used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
There are some side effects that can occur as a result of teeth whitening, which include temporary tooth sensitivity and gum inflammation. These side effects subside soon after stopping a teeth whitening treatment.
Q: Who should not whiten their teeth?
A: The most recent position statement of the American Dental Association provides a few cautions for specific groups who should not whiten their teeth (5).
Generally, if a teeth whitening treatment could cause uneven coloration in the teeth, the treatment is not recommended.
The two most common situations that could result in this sort of uneven coloration are in people who have frontal tooth caps (tooth restorations) that have been color-blended to match their teeth, and in children who have not fully developed all of their adult teeth yet.
In both cases, a teeth whitening treatment would eventually result in unevenly-colored teeth: in the first case, it would happen because the synthetic tooth restorations are not affected the same way by the teeth whitening chemicals as your natural teeth.
In children who have not fully developed their adult teeth, once the remaining adult teeth come in, they won’t match the already-whitened teeth.
Q: Can you whiten your teeth at home?
A: There’s a distinction between teeth whitening kits that you can buy over the counter and use at home, and a “homemade” or “natural” teeth whitening strategy, which uses folk remedies or anecdotal claims to support a teeth whitening strategy.
These homemade from-scratch approaches are not effective: a surprising amount of research on popular home remedies for whiter teeth has conclusively found they are ineffective.
These proposed remedies include salt and charcoal, strawberry and baking soda, and oil pulling with coconut oil, which have all been subject to dental research.
Unfortunately, none of these remedies are effective, and some are even harmful: one study found that charcoal and table salt blends actually turned teeth more yellow.
The dentists conducting this study hypothesized this was because the solution had stripped away the enamel from the surface of the teeth and revealed the dentin below.
Fortunately, at-home kits for teeth whitening that can be bought over the counter do effectively whiten your teeth without the risks and uncertainty associated with homebrew treatments.
Q: How do you use a teeth whitening kit?
A: Though the specifics vary from kit to kit, the general process for using a teeth whitening kit is as follows: First, make sure your mouth is fairly clean, but do not brush your teeth—residue from toothpaste can sometimes make it harder for teeth whitening kits from adhering to your teeth.
Then, either apply the teeth whitening solution to the tray and insert it into your mouth, or apply the teeth whitening strips directly to your teeth. You’ll need to wait a prespecified amount of time, usually five to 45 minutes, before removing the trays or strips.
If your kit has a remineralization solution, you’ll need to refill the tray with remineralization solution and insert that for the requisite time as well.
Q: What should you eat after teeth whitening?
A: Immediately following teeth whitening, your teeth are slightly more porous and prone to taking on stains. Soon after using teeth whitening kits, try to stick to what dentists call a “white diet” for your next meal.
This quite literally means avoiding deeply colored foods like red wine, dark chocolate, coffee, and tea. You don’t need to go overboard, but a little care at your next meal can help avoid undoing some of the benefits of your teeth whitening kit.
If these requirements seem onerous, one easy solution is to just use your teeth whitening kit before bed. That way, by the time you wake up in the morning, your teeth won’t be vulnerable to staining or discoloration.
Q: How long does teeth whitening take?
A: Most teeth whitening programs last two to four weeks, and one individual treatment will take you between five and 45 minutes, depending on the products.
Strip-based products, like Crest 3D White Strips, require you to wear the strips for longer, but are easier to use and create less of a mess than a tray based product.
Something like Active Wow Teeth Whitening Premium Kit, which uses a tray delivery system, doesn’t take as much time, but does have a tendency to create more of a mess.
Q: How long does teeth whitening last?
A: If you go through the entire teeth whitening kit as directed, a teeth whitening kit should substantially brighten your teeth for at least six months, if not a full year or more.
The specifics will depend on your daily habits after your teeth whitening routine, as the shade of your teeth will fade more quickly if you smoke or drink a lot of coffee and tea.
This can be tricky to manage, though, because while things like coffee and matcha tea do stain your teeth, they can have substantial health benefits as well.
In many cases, it’s better to maintain a good diet and whiten your teeth more often versus cut out healthy but tooth-staining foods and drinks.
Q: How can you reduce tooth sensitivity from a teeth whitening kit?
A: Because tooth sensitivity is one of the main side effects that users of teeth whitening kits experience, several products have been formulated specifically to combat teeth sensitivity and irritation while allowing you to continue a teeth whitening routine.
By far the best option is to use a teeth whitening kit that has a remineralization gel or solution as a secondary step in the tooth whitening processes.
This does add another step: instead of sitting through one session with trays in your mouth, you’ll need to repeat the process with the remineralization gel in its own tray right after the whitening product.
Despite this minor inconvenience, the remineralization solution makes a huge difference for people with a thin enamel layer on their teeth, or who have generally sensitive teeth to begin with.
Locking in the enamel helps cut down on tooth sensitivity significantly. If all else fails, tooth sensitivity typically resolves rapidly after you stop using teeth whitening products.
Q: Are teeth whitening strips better than teeth whitening trays?
A: In response to the mess, awkwardness, and inconvenience of teeth whitening trays, oral care manufacturers developed teeth whitening strips. In short, strips are easier to use, less messy, and less likely to get in the way of your routine: with a tray of gel in your mouth, you can’t do much but sit around.
With teeth whitening strips, you can fold laundry, go for a walk, and so on. The tradeoff? There isn’t as high of a concentration of whitening compounds in the whitening strips, so you have to leave them on for longer, and the entire whitening program usually takes a few weeks longer.
Whether these pros and cons make them “better” is up to your own interpretation, but our experts found that, for most people, the advantages of whitening strips make them a better choice for most users.
However, if you have sensitive teeth, or if you want a powerful whitening effect, a tray-based product might be a better choice, so we ranked and reviewed plenty of these products too.
If you choose the right teeth whitening treatment, you can get a safe and effective outcome. While there is some risk of moderate to severe tooth sensitivity, the odds are low, and sensitivity tends to improve over the course of treatment.
The most effective route to whiten your teeth involves carbamide peroxide-based whitening solutions, but if you want to limit or avoid your exposure to harsh chemicals, using activated charcoal toothpaste could be a possible alternative.
Just make sure if you go this route that you are still using a normal toothpaste for optimal tooth health and dental hygiene.
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