With teeth whitening rapidly becoming an almost routine dental treatment, recent advances in dentistry have provided us with a wide variety of teeth whitening options – many of which can be achieved with great success from the comfort of your own home.
Though the most successful and quickest way of achieving teeth whitening remains an in-office teeth whitening session, below we have listed the 5 most successful teeth whitening methods that you can do at home on your own without having to visit a dentist.
Home teeth whitening methods
Home teeth whitening methods are cheaper than going for a professional teeth whitening session, and the products can be purchased directly online or from a drug store.
But it will take a longer time to reach the desired shade, especially if you don’t follow the whitening instructions carefully as mentioned on the packaging or listed below.
Before using a home teeth whitening kit, it’s very important to make sure that your teeth are healthy and that your gums aren’t swollen or inflamed. Otherwise the whitening may not work properly and it may worsen any existing dental problems or even cause gum inflammation (1).
There are several tips and tricks associated with home teeth whitening kits in order to get the whitest smile in as quickest time possible, so make sure you read that part carefully below.
Why do teeth get yellow?
There are two main types of teeth staining: external staining and internal staining.
External tooth stains
External stains are commonly caused by pigments from foods and drinks and can usually be removed and prevented simply by proper tooth brushing.
Having poor oral hygiene and not brushing your teeth properly or often enough will cause plaque, tartar, and food to accumulate on the surface of your teeth and this can also cause staining and yellow discoloration.
If you smoke and drink a lot of coffee, the stains and calculus in your teeth can only be removed by a professional teeth cleaning done at a dental office. So once again, it’s highly recommend that you do a professional teeth cleaning before home teeth whitening.
Maintaining proper oral hygiene through brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day should be enough to prevent external stains from forming, but teeth whitening may be required to completely remove all the stains and to give you an even whiter smile.
Internal tooth stains
Internal staining is the staining of a tooth beneath it’s outer layer.
External stains can seep through the enamel outer layer of a tooth and become internal stains. Some internal stains can be removed with teeth whitening systems like the home teeth whitening methods mentioned below.
More serious dental problems such as tooth decay, cavities, and infected root canals can all cause internal tooth discoloration, but will need more invasive dental treatment such as fillings, veneers, and crowns to be treated.
Who can do home teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is best utilised by those who haven’t had extensive dental work done on their front teeth. The whitening gel can whiten the external tooth surface but it cannot whiten existing restorations/fillings, crowns, or veneers.
Only natural tooth surface can benefit from whitening gel – anything else will mostly stay the same colour.
So if you have an extensive history of going to the dentist for fillings or crowns and bridges and implants, especially in the front area of your upper teeth, then perhaps going through with a home whitening treatment may not be the best choice.
5 best home teeth whitening methods of 2020
Below is a list of the 5 most successful home teeth whitening methods with proven results, taking into account several factors such as product reviews, the time taken to achieve the desired results, and the minimum amount of undesirable side effects.
The least begins with the least effect and ends with the most effect home teeth whitening method.
1. Teeth whitening toothpaste
Whitening toothpaste is just like regular toothpaste, but also includes several additional properties and ingredients that give it a whitening effect.
The main ingredient responsible for the whitening effect in whitening toothpastes is an abrasive, usually in the form of hydrogen peroxide, activated charcoal, or microbeads.
Whitening toothpastes are still undergoing a lot of development in dentistry and many studies are ongoing about which type is more efficient. According to a recent study conducted on the different types of abrasives in whitening toothpastes, it was found that whitening toothpastes with microbeads and hydrogen peroxide were much more successful in teeth whitening than the activated charcoal toothpaste alternative (3).
Another study (4) ranks the effectiveness of these abrasives for teeth whitening in order starting with the most effective as: microbeads, followed by hydrogen peroxide, and finally by blue covarine. This particular study even questions the legitimacy of activated charcoal toothpastes.
Even though activated charcoal toothpastes have gotten a lot of exposure recently, the amount of research and evidence is simply not enough to prove it’s safety or effectiveness, as stated by the American Dental Association (5).
For this reason if you want to use a whitening toothpaste, I would recommend one that uses hydrogen peroxide instead of activated charcoal for whitening. Make sure that the product you’re using has got the ADA (American Dental Association) Seal of Acceptance (6).
Results with whitening toothpastes are typically visible after two weeks of use. If after two weeks of use you don’t see any results or are unhappy with the shade achieved, then I would suggest that you try an alternative option to whiten your teeth. Continue reading to explore other teeth whitening options.
Recommended Product: Sensodyne Extra Whitening Toothpaste
Sensodyne Extra Whitening toothpaste takes into consideration the high risk of teeth sensitivity involved with using whitening toothpastes.
For this reason it’s list of ingredients also includes potassium nitrate – which helps to immediately relieve teeth sensitivity and discomfort.
You have to use the toothpaste twice a day to see results. As it contains fluoride, you can substitute your normal toothpaste with Sensodyne Extra Whitening toothpaste, and just continue brushing normally.
2. Teeth whitening pens
Teeth whitening has become as simple as colouring in your teeth to give yourself your desired white smile. Thanks to a large number of figures on social media, teeth whitening pens have skyrocketed to fame, with many influencers warmly advocating the results.
The active gel in whitening pens is hydrogen peroxide. Being an abrasive, it’s very important not to overuse the whitening pen as it may damage and wear your teeth causing sensitivity. So make sure you use the product for as long as directed by the manufacturer’s instruction as written on the packaging.
The size and ease of teeth whitening pens makes it a huge advantage. It’s not much bigger than a normal pen, around the size of a marker, it can be carried around in your purse and it can be used almost anywhere.
The brushing/painting technique is also a bonus as you can have great control and accuracy of where you are applying the whitening agent.
Recommended Product: Pearl Teeth Whitening Pen
The pearl whitening pen has been approved by the FDA, and the gel it uses for the purpose of whitening has even received the ADA seal of acceptance.
The Pearl Teeth Whitening Pen is meant to be used for 2 minutes, once a day for a week.
The pen claims that it can whiten your smile by up to 5 shades, but if you don’t see the results, don’t be tempted to use it more than once daily as this can damage your teeth.
How to use a teeth whitening pen:
- Brush your teeth and floss before using teeth whitening pens, this makes sure that your teeth are clean of any debris and can allow the whitening gel to contact the stains directly.
- Squeeze and twist the tube slightly so that gel form the tube is pushed through to the brush on the tip.
- Hold the whitening pen to the front part of the tooth you wish to whiten.
- Paint the gel gently onto each tooth, make sure to brush only your front tooth surface and nothing else, avoid getting the gel in contact with your gums or tongue as it can cause irritation and damage to these soft tissues.
- Depending on the specific type of whitening pen product you have, you will have to wait a small amount of for the gel to dry. This is usually around 60 seconds, but can sometimes last up to 2 minutes.
- After you have finished waiting for the required time, rinse your mouth of any excess gel.
3. Teeth whitening trays and gels
One of the most common home whitening methods, is the teeth whitening tray kit.
This kit usually includes a tube or syringe of whitening gel containing the whitening agent accompanied by an upper and lower “tray” that you fill with the whitening agent and wear over your teeth.
Some brands of home teeth whitening trays also come with an activating light (also called a “laser”). According to some manufacturers, the light helps to speed up the whitening process, but there has been a lot of controversy about whether or not this is actually true (7).
Over-wearing your trays or putting too much whitening gel, or wearing your trays more often than recommended will not speed up your teeth whitening process, and will cause damage to your teeth instead (8).
Recommended Product: Auraglow Teeth Whitening System
With over 7000 reviews on Amazon and a solid 4.3 rating, the Auraglow Teeth Whitening System maintains it’s position as one of the best teeth whitening kits available on the market.
The kit comes with 2 tubes of the whitening gel, a tray attached to it’s complementary LED light. The light claims to activate and speed up the whitening process.
The abrasive and bleaching agent used in Auraglow whitening gel tubes is 35% carbamide peroxide. This is quite a high concentration which means the whitening process will be faster and more effective. But due to this high concentration can also cause teeth sensitivity.
The Auraglow Teeth Whitening System is meant to be used once a day for 30 minutes. The LED light comes with a handy beeper and timer to make sure that you don’t overuse it and risk sensitivity.
How to use home whitening trays:
- Use the whitening trays and gels after you’ve brushed and flossed your teeth. This allows the whitening agent to contact your tooth surface directly without any debris/bacteria/plaque being in the way.
- Apply the whitening gel from the tube/syringe onto the tray. You don’t need to fill the tray, just place a single drop of the whitening agent on the front surface of each tooth slot in the tray.
- Wear the trays and bite down gently, wipe away any excess whitening gel that drips out of the tray.
- If your home whitening kit comes with a light activator, place it between the two trays, bite down, and then switch on the light.
- Keep wearing your trays for the time designated by the packaging. Some kits require that you wear the trays for an hour or two, while other manufacturers recommend you wear their products overnight, but this may increase risk of sensitivity, so make sure you follow the packaging instructions exactly.
- After you’re done, remove the trays, and rinse off your mouth from any remaining whitening gel, don’t brush your teeth after you just wore the trays, as you could damage the outer layer of your teeth, the enamel.
- Rinse off the trays with cold water, and dry them gently, make sure they are dry so they remain clean, and store them away from sunlight.
2. Whitening strips
Teeth whitening strips are essentially thin plastic strips that are already coated with hydrogen peroxide, and are inserted in the mouth and pressed against the teeth.
The overall idea is very similar to using home teeth whitening trays and gel, but instead of using a tray this time you are using the strips.
The strips used in teeth whitening strips are made of a special material that allows them to attach and adhere to the surface of teeth, moulding onto them.
Whitening strips are disposable after one-time use, and so are more practical than whitening trays.
The disadvantage of whitening strips is that they also don’t protect your gums and other soft tissues in your mouth. This means that when using whitening strips, the whitening agent may come in contact with your gums and cause irritation (9).
Recommended Product: Crest 3D Whitestrips (Glamorous White)
The Crest 3D White Luxe Glamorous White Whitestrips are the only strips available on the market that have been approved by the ADA.
These Crest 3D Whitestrips are meant to be used daily for 30 minutes, for a 4-week period. The product claims that whitening effect can last for up to 6 months!
The Crest 3D White Luxe Glamorous White Whitestrips uses a 10% concentration of hydrogen peroxide, which means that while relatively safe, it’s still effective.
How to use whitening strips:
- In order to avoid irritation to your gums and allow the strips to attach to your teeth, don’t brush your teeth before using whitenings strips (10).
- Read the instructions on the packaging, the most important is to note how often to use the whitening strips, and for how long to wear them.
- Open the packaging and see the products inside. Each piece of square plastic should contain a strip for the upper teeth, and a strip for the lower teeth.
- Test the size of the strips in your mouth, if they’re too big, use a pair of scissors to trim them down slightly – the strips should end just short of your gumline and should not come in contact with anything other than your teeth.
- Insert the strip in your mouth, and press firmly against your teeth, making sure the strip sticks and moulds to the shape of your teeth, allowing the gel to come in full contact with your teeth. Repeat with the other strip for your lower/upper teeth
- Wear the strips for the required time as instructed by the packaging. Usually brands such as the Crest 3D whitening strips require the strips to be worn for 30 minutes.
- After you’re done, remove the strips and throw them away, rinse your mouth and spit out any excess remaining whitening gel.
- If you want to brush your teeth after using whitening strips, it’s better to wait at least half an hour before doing so. This is because your enamel has been exposed by the abrasive and teeth brushing may cause irritation and abrasion.
1. Teeth whitening trays from the Dentist
Don’t confuse this with an actual professional in-office teeth whitening, instead, in this method, the dentist takes an impression of your mouth and creates custom whitening trays based on the size of your teeth.
This is one of the most successful teeth whitening methods, the exact fit of the tray means that the whitening gel you apply will come into complete contact with your teeth.
If you’ve ever worn a clear retainer (Essix retainer), or had Invisalign, then this is how your whitening tray will look like, and you can imagine how adaptable the whitening gel will be on your teeth.
Most in-office professional teeth whitening procedures will also provide you with complementary home whitening trays, so that you can continue the whitening treatment yourself to make sure your teeth stay white.
The steps are the exact same as in buying a prefabricated whitening tray, but rather than placing the whitening gel in a stock prefabricated and loosely fitting tray, you’re placing it into a tray that fits your teeth exactly, and this is why custom-made whitening trays are the best option to use if you’re considering home teeth whitening.
One big advantage of this method is that it comes straight from your dentist, so that you can get instructions and directions that are very specific to your individual case. Your dentist will tell you how long to wear the whitening trays, and how often to wear them in a day and answer any other questions you may have.
Home teeth whitening – tips and tricks
The single most important thing you can do to get a whiter smile and maintain your oral hygiene is to brush your teeth twice a day and to floss once a day.
In order to prevent sensitivity, make sure you stick to the instructions as listed on the packaging of the product.
Experiencing teeth sensitivity during teeth whitening is completely normal and should be expected, however, if the pain is too much or lasts a long time after the whitening consider visiting your dentist.
After you’re done with your home whitening treatment, you should consider stopping or seriously reducing consuming foods and drinks that cause teeth staining. This will ensure that your flashy smile can last for as long possible.
Home teeth whitening is a slow and gradual process. Don’t expect to get a pearly white smile in a couple of days, be realistic about the results, and understand that to see noticeable results, it’ll take a couple of weeks. Which leads me on to my next point …
… Over-wearing your whitening product will not make your teeth whiter, and will greatly increase the risk of sensitivity.
When drinking coffee, tea or fizzy drinks, try to use a straw, and avoid swirling any of the drinks in your mouth. Take short sips and try to swallow immediately to limit the amount of time the stain-causing drinks come into contact with your teeth as much as possible.