We've said it before, but taking care of your teeth really does provide important health benefits, such as stopping plaque and gingivitis early — which in turn can help lower your chances of contracting respiratory diseases, heart diseases and even cancer.
There are also less serious but still important reasons to take care of your teeth. If you want to take your smile to the next level, but don't want to spring for the full cost of Invisalign, there are teeth whitening products available that won't break the bank but will improve your self-confidence, as plenty of dentists will attest to.
As ever, a bit of prevention pre-gaming will make the actual treatment even more effective. If you want shiny teeth, the best possible thing you can do is to not smoke. Beyond that, here are a few habits to start practicing before you decide which whitening treatment is for you, courtesy of Dr. Rhonda Kalasho, a Los Angeles-based dentist.
- "Keep your oral hygiene up. Teeth become more yellow when plaque rests on the teeth for too long. Making sure you limit how much staining foods you eat, like wine, teas, and even colored juices will minimize staining. However, I believe the best prevention against staining is proper brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist for regular cleanings."
- "I like to brush, Waterpik, and floss twice a day. I also use a mouth rinse twice a day that has fluoride and a whitening agent. I combine the at-home whitening procedures with a good professional whitening at least once a year."
- "After eating or consuming red wine, or coffee, make sure you rinse with water or get to a sink to brush your teeth with a fluoride-based toothpaste. Many find that staining in between teeth is common especially in between dental cleanings. Flossing, along with water flossing is the best way of minimizing dental staining in between teeth."
With all of that in mind, as part of our on-going series of recommendations, here are the best teeth whitening products, as recommended by dental professionals.
Best Teeth Whitening Kits
Dr. Kalasho calls the GLO Pro Whitening Kit her "hands down favorite. This is the techiest and most effective take-home whitening system I have ever used. It uses both light and heat, combined with high concentration peroxide to whiten the teeth without sensitivity. It is not messy, easy to use, and it actually works," she says. "Most of the take-home whitening gels are a carbamide peroxide, instead of a hydrogen peroxide because they cause less sensitivity, but generally, carbamide peroxide has to be worn longer to be effective. GLO actually uses hydrogen peroxide so it works fast."
AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Kit: $48.95
Some products feature strips you apply directly to your teeth, while kits like AuroGlow have a "whitening solution that comes with trays and an LED light to comfortably whiten both your top and bottom sets of teeth," says Dr. Pia Lieb, founder of Cosmetic Dentistry Center NYC. "This kit also features 35% carbamide peroxide (most dental offices use a 40% peroxide formula), which is a testament to the great, professional results this product produces."
As Dr. Lieb admits, you can't go wrong with a classic, and there's a reason why Crest 3D Whitestrips Arctic Mint has been a budget-friendly staple for many.
"I love this whitening kit because it's a drugstore favorite and works super well. This new version in particular gives a burst of mint flavor to make whitening more enjoyable," Dr. Lieb says. "I always caution users to put the strips slightly below the gum line to ease with sensitivity."
Best Teeth Whitening Strips, Pens, and Other Treatments
There are a lot of high-tech, LED-light powered teeth cleaners on the market, but if you're looking to keep it simple, then New York-based cosmetic dentist Dr. Lana Rozenberg likes the Crest 3D Whitestrips. "It's very easy to use," she says, "and you only need to wear them for 1/2 to 1 hour a day and wear them for 2 weeks to see amazing results."
On the other hand, if you're interested in trying something that is a bit more high-tech, then Dr. Rozenberg says the Colgate Optic White with LED lights ($129) could be a solid entry-point.
"I love the product as it combines LED whitening light with blue light technology to activate the stain-removing hydrogen peroxide gel that's applied to the teeth via its rechargeable tray," she says. "After using it for just 10 minutes a day for 10 days, your smile should look significantly whiter. It's also enamel-safe and was specifically designed to whiten teeth without causing sensitivity."
Aura Glow Teeth Whitening Pen: $19.99
If you're looking for a way to brighten up your smile before your next meeting, then Alessandra Kessler, a Miami-based Certified Holistic Health Coach, founder of Healthy Body Healthy Mind and author of How To Age With Good Health: The Healthy Living Guide, recommends the Aura Glow Teeth Whitening Pen.
"Perfect for on the go, you can take this pen along with you anywhere by tossing it in your bags or your pockets. It contains Carbamide Peroxide and the whitening gel that removes every type of stain and plaque. It can be used for almost 20 whitening treatments and is quite easy to use," she says. "As you twist from the below, a gel will come out, and you can easily apply that on your teeth. You can use it twice a day to maximize the results."
If you're willing to spend extra to get a great smile, then Dr. Lieb likes the rechargeable and hands-free Colgate Advanced LED Whitening Treatment, which you put on your teeth for 10 minutes, 10 days in a row.
"This Colgate Optic White Teeth Whitening Device features a reusable whitening mouthpiece that utilizes ionic technology to help maximize the performance of the professional 9% hydrogen peroxide whitening gel. Usually, a pack includes one whitening device with a holding case and 20 gels."
Best Teeth Whitening Products for Sensitive Teeth
A lot of teeth-whitening products use hydrogen peroxide, which Dr. Kourosh Maddahi, DDS, the Beverly Hills-based author of The Toxic Overload: The Truth About Your Body’s Natural Defenses and How to Experience Whole-Body Health points out, can sometimes cause issues if it overused. "Over time, the repeated use of hydrogen peroxide on one’s teeth can cause enamel break down and gum damage, which can lead to tooth sensitivity and inflammation," he says.
If you are looking for a more natural alternative, Dr. Maddahi recommends the Lumineux Oral Essentials’ Whitening Strips "for a safer, more long term approach to teeth whitening without the sensitivity," he says. "In lieu of harsh chemicals like bleach and hydrogen peroxide, Lumineux Oral Essentials’ Whitening Strips, which have been clinically tested and proven to be just as effective as Crest, are made with coconut, sage, lemon peel oil, and, the key ingredient, Dead Sea salt.
"The Dead Sea salt in the formula contains minerals such as calcium, phosphate and manganese that bind together on the surfaces of teeth to reduce sensitivity – no more cringing after drinking a cold glass of water post-whitening!," he adds. "On top of being effective, Luminuex Oral Essentials is the only certified non-toxic brand of oral care products on the market, making it a better option for overall oral health."
Some of us have naturally sensitive teeth that can feel a bit tingly or sore after a cleaning. If that sounds like you, or if you just really like mint, then Dr. Lieb recommends the Zimba Mint Teeth Whitening Strips, which she says "are made with natural coconut and mint oil and are a great option for sensitive teeth." The strips are designed to whiten your teeth quickly in just 30 minutes, but they can be left on for up to 60 minutes if desired.
Use a Good Whitening Toothpaste (and Polish)
All the teeth-whitening products in the world won't do a thing if you're not regularly brushing your teeth, and many toothpastes are designed to enhance whitening. Dr Yale Cho is a Chicago-based prosthodontist, which is a restorative dental specialist, and also an avid TikTok user, and he explains that these whitening toothpastes "work primarily by removing stains with abrasive ingredients like bicarbonate or silica, kind of like using a very fine sandpaper.” That said, don’t overdo it, he cautions.
"Any brightness you see mainly comes from the removal of surface stains which can be really effective. Prolonged use for more than three months can contribute to tooth wear, which can contribute to sensitivity," he adds. "These toothpastes do a good job brightening smiles a bit, but I would use them occasionally, perhaps two weeks at a time."
Chrom Tooth Polish: $19.50
If your teeth are just too sensitive for even the most gentle of treatments, take heart, as Dr. Cho has a suggestion for you. "Chrom Tooth Polish is a temporary, non-toxic 'tooth polish' that can be applied on multiple teeth in order to brighten a smile," he says. "This is reversible and does not brighten the teeth itself. The polish can be painted on with the provided brush, then once it dries, it is easily removed by using your fingernail or toothpick, then brushing with normal toothpaste. This is a great alternative for those who have severe sensitivity and cannot whiten their teeth."