There are plenty of options to choose from when considering what at-home whitening product is right for you. Narrowing down your budget, desired length of treatment and whitening goals will help you choose. Speak with your dental professional about what OTC products they would recommend given your unique oral health.
Teeth Whitening Kits
An over-the-counter whitening kit can involve a mouthguard-like tray filled with a gel or paste made of a peroxide solution. The tray sits over your teeth for a few minutes to a few hours a day, for up to a month, until you’ve achieved your ideal shade of white.
“In the old days, people used to sleep with whitening trays in for eight hours at a time,” says Joe G. Willardsen, a cosmetic dentist in Las Vegas. “Now, people wear them for 15 or 20 minutes at a time but do so more frequently.”
Kits with trays vary widely in price, from “boil and bite” kits for $25 that you boil in hot water at home and mold to your mouth when the tray becomes malleable, to combo kits that include an LED light mouthpiece (designed to speed the whitening process, although research on light activation effectiveness is mixed) and a whitening pen, starting at $150.
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Teeth Whitening Strips
Teeth whitening strips are a popular form of at-home whitening because of their price point, ease of use and noteworthy results. When you apply the gel side of these plastic strips to your teeth, the peroxide-based solution penetrates your enamel for results that can last up to several months.
Like trays, strips give your teeth prolonged exposure to a whitening chemical. The instructions that come with your dental strip will indicate how long each day, and for how many days, you should wear the strips for optimal results. Typically, you wear them twice a day for a short period of about 10 to 30 minutes. You will do this regimen daily for about two weeks. Strips range in price from $10 to $70.
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Teeth Whitening Pens
Whitening pens can be helpful on-the-go tools for touch-ups and maintenance. But they’re less efficient at whitening and often not recommended as a standalone whitener. “Without a guard or bumper to keep lips away from the gel, it’s going to be quickly diluted by saliva,” says Willardsen.
Compliance is often high, however, thanks to pens’ price point (which can be as affordable as just a few dollars per pen) and the simple instruction to apply twice daily for two weeks. Whitening pens typically use either a hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide base.
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Teeth Whitening Toothpaste
Abrasives such as hydrated silica, perlite and alumina are the most essential toothpaste ingredients when it comes to stain removal, according to a 2019 review of modern concepts in teeth whitening in Dentistry Journal.
However, it’s important to choose a toothpaste with the appropriate amount of abrasives. A toothpaste with a higher abrasivity could damage your enamel with long-term use. While this is a tradeoff for less abrasivity and a greater chance of developing stains, the removal of an enamel to expose the inner layer of dentin would cause more harm. Therefore, we recommend that you look for a stain removing toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. If you choose a toothpaste without the ADA Seal of Acceptance, consult your dentist as to how often you should use it.
The American Dental Association ensures that with proper use, your enamel will not be weakened or damaged by their approved toothpastes. Some whitening toothpastes also contain low levels of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide, which, as noted above, brighten your smile too.
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