As we all know (and hopefully are practicing), you should be brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing. But even if you are practicing your daily oral hygiene to perfection, it only takes a few cups of morning coffee to make your pearly whites ... not so pearly.
If you can’t make it to the doctor’s office for a teeth-whitening session, here's some good news: With the right teeth-whitening kit, you can make your smile sparkle in the comfort of your own home without shelling out the big bucks.
Why Aren’t My Teeth White?
Before we get into the solution, let's consider the root cause. Dr. Jon Marashi, celebrity dentist and Byte's chief cosmetic dentist, says that the issue could be — you guessed it — your oral hygiene.
“White teeth always start with your at-home oral care,” he says. “So if you’re not brushing and flossing properly, you’re not going to get too far with teeth-whitening!”
Marashi also notes that external stains from food and beverages like coffee, tea, red wine, and berries add layers of plaque on the teeth, which cause staining and discoloration. "Also, your teeth naturally darken as they age over time," he adds.
Tips for Whitening Your Teeth at Home
According to Marashi, before using a teeth-whitening kit, you should “mechanically” cleanse your teeth of any plaque buildup by either doing a deep cleanse at home (brushing and flossing) or by getting a professional cleanse. Once your pearly whites are all clean, you're all set to use a teeth-whitening kit, which Marashi says works from the inside out to remove stains.
Though teeth-whitening can be done in a variety of ways, Marashi notes that the most common uses are over-the-counter trays and adhesive strips that contain a peroxide solution.
“The peroxide soaks into the teeth and breaks up the discolorations on the inner aspects of the tooth, thereby whitening it,” he says. However, if you’re expecting instantly brighter teeth, we have news: Marashi says that these options usually take 1 to 2 weeks to see results.
“The peroxide soaks into the teeth and breaks up the discolorations on the inner aspects of the tooth.”
One issue that people run into with teeth whiteners is sensitivity. If you have particularly sensitive teeth, Marashi recommends making a dentist appointment for a professional treatment, where they'll use protective barriers around the gum line to prevent tooth sensitivity. He also notes that people with very thin enamel or those who are sensitive to cold and/or hot foods and beverages don't fare well with at-home whitening kits, so if you fall in this category, it's time to see a dentist.
Also, if you have veneers or crowns, you probably won't see any results from at-home whiteners. Marashi notes that since veneers and crowns are color-stable, the peroxide solution doesn't soak in.
If you're ready for a brighter smile and would rather skip the dentist's chair, these at-home teeth-whitening kits are among the best out there. Below, check out our favorites:
The Best At-Home Teeth-Whitening Kits
Pair With Your Aligners
If you want to skip an extra step in your routine, level up your daily oral care by adding a pump of this whitening formula right into your retainer or aligners. This formula is made with sensitive teeth in mind, so it'll refresh the look of your teeth without causing any pain or sensitivity. Plus, this teeth whitener also freshens breath while killing 99.999% of the bacteria that produce bad breath and tooth decay.
Best Whitening Tray Kit
HiSmile's teeth-whitening kit gives you everything you need for a brighter smile: an LED light and mouth tray, a shade guide, and three gel syringes for a total of six treatments. Plus, they promise no sensitivity or gum irritation, and each whitening session takes as little as 10 minutes. It may be the pricier option on this list, but it's definitely worth every penny.
Tried-and-True Whitening Strips
There's a reason why these whitening strips are so popular: they actually work. Crest Whitestrips take a mere 30 minutes out of your day to polish your pearly whites to perfection. Each box comes with 44 strips in total, and their proprietary Advanced Seal Technology’s no-slip grip stays put so you can talk and drink water while whitening.
Best Teeth-Whitening Pen
If you'd rather skip the spit-filled mess of trays and strips, look no further than this easy-to-use whitening pen from Colgate. Its overnight formula works to instantly lift and remove stains, and they claim to give a visibly whiter finish to your teeth in as little as 1 week. It's as simple as clicking the pen, swiping it on your teeth, and going to bed!
Best Budget Kit
This under-$50 teeth-whitening kit from AuraGlow uses a teeth tray that's equipped with five LED lights to speed up the process. It also has a built-in timer with a beeper, so you can easily keep track of your whitening session time. This budget-friendly pick also has rave reviews from over 36,000 Amazon shoppers, so you know you're getting the most out of your buck.
Best Tray for Sensitive Teeth
Are your teeth sensitive? Then whiten them without irritation or pain by grabbing this kit. It uses heat and blue LED light to give you fast, visible results in as little as 8 minutes, without the pain that other teeth-whitening kits bring. It's a pricier option, but if you have sensitive teeth and don't want to get a costly in-office treatment, this whitening kit is worth the investment.
Fact: Not all oral hygiene products are vegan. If you want clean teeth without any animal byproducts, then try out this whitening kit, which uses only vegan-friendly and certified-organic ingredients to put a sparkle in your smile. Plus, its low-sensitivity whitening power takes a mere 10 minutes to work, but you can leave it on for up to 30 minutes for a more intensive treatment.
On-the-Go Teeth Whitener
On the run and don't have time for a full-on teeth-whitening session? Then grab this teeth-whitening pen, which uses an all-natural and vegan formula (approved and co-crafted by Kendall Jenner, by the way) to spruce up your smile, no matter where you go. It's also vanilla-flavored, so you won't have to deal with a bad taste in your mouth while you're out and about.
Best Strips for Sensitive Teeth
Not into whitening trays? Then try out these whitening strips, which come with a comforting gum gel to keep the pain away while you're whitening your teeth. Plus, each box comes with enough whitening strips to pamper your smile for a full month — 28 strips in total, to be exact.
Want professional results without actually going to the professionals? Enter: this teeth-whitening kit from SNOW, which has one of the most advanced formulas on the market to instantly whiten and brighten your smile. This kit comes with their proprietary teeth-whitening gel and a USB-powdered LED mouthpiece, and their formula is strong enough to remove stains yet gentle on teeth, no matter how sensitive your teeth are. All you need are 9 minutes a day for a full teeth-whitening session, and you're all set!
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