3 Best Teeth Whitening Products That Actually Whiten Teeth

in office teeth whitening procedure blue light

If you’ve ever looked into the best teeth whitening products, it might seem like there are a million different teeth whitening options to choose from. For the most part, there are three major ways to whiten your smile in a manner that’s dentist-approved and actually works. Some are kits you use at home; others are completed in a dental office.

Teeth Whitening Options: What You Need To Know

But when it comes down to whitening your teeth with an American Dental Association (ADA) approved method,[1] you typically have one of three choices.

Whitening isn’t for everybody. Before you start using any type of whitening product on your teeth, you need to make sure your smile is healthy.

Teeth whitening isn’t for people with anterior crowns/fillings/veneers, women who are pregnant or nursing, kids, if you have melanoma, cavities, amelogenesis imperfects, cervical abrasion, internal tetracycline stain, fluorosis, or cervical abfractions.

***Disclaimer***

Not everybody qualifies for teeth whitening. There are dozens of situations where strips whitening and products could actually be bad for your teeth. A few examples include gum disease, pregnancy, amelogenesis imperfecta, and having tooth-colored restorations in the front of your smile.

For a comprehensive list and to find out if YOU qualify for teeth whitening, you MUST speak with your personal dentist. 

Time And Hydrogen Peroxide

The two biggest factors that affect teeth whitening are time and hydrogen peroxide concentration. 
Peroxide is the agent inside teeth whitening gel that oxidizes stain particles and whitens tooth enamel. Depending on the blend and brand, it might range from anywhere between 6-36% or so. They usually come in hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.

How strong the whitening gel is determined how much contact time it needs with your teeth. Some methods require 30 minutes, others a few hours.

Stronger concentrations of peroxide whiten in less time, but they also tend to be more expensive. Weaker peroxide gels take longer to whiten teeth, but is more budget-friendly.

Two factors to consider when you’re weighing your teeth whitening options are time and money. How quickly do you want to whiten teeth and how much money do you want to spend? Time is money and money is time!

Higher levels of hydrogen peroxide concentrations are going to be professionally administered, and thus cost more money. But you’ll also see whiter teeth in less time. If you have all the time in the world and want to whiten your teeth on a budget, then you can use lower strengths of peroxide found in over-the-counter kits like Crest White Strips.

Since time is money and money is time, this is going to be a personal choice you’re going to have to make. There’s no right or wrong answer. Except for whitening toothpaste, that is a different story.

Crest White Strips

There’s a reason why Crest White Strips have been around for a long time: they work.

Whitening strips are one of the most affordable and effective ways to whiten your teeth at home. Crest White Strips come in different varieties and strengths, but they tend to be the most affordable.

Whitening strips can take a couple of months to get the results that you want, but it’s still the cheapest and best teeth whitening option available. Plus, they’re known for not causing very much sensitivity (which is one of the biggest side-effects of teeth whitening.)
Simply stick the whitening strips to your teeth and shape them around the curved surfaces with your fingers, then wear them for the recommended amount of time. Depending on the teeth whitening kit, it may be around a half-hour to an hour (the concentration and ingredients vary.) 
Crest White Strips are the most affordable way to whiten your teeth and are more effective than whitening toothpaste. But, they take a little longer (like a few weeks or months) Still, you’ll get great results!

Direct To Consumer Custom Trays

Always consult with your dentist before trying direct-to-consumer oral products!

Direct-to-consumer custom whitening trays are the new thing right now! You take your impressions yourself and mail them in to have your whitening trays made.

Always consult with your dentist before trying direct-to-consumer oral products! 

You can also have trays made directly by your dentist using a mold of your mouth at your next appointment. With the teeth whitening trays, you get a syringe of the gel from your dentist instead of using a disposable product.

Opalescence Trays

Opalescence offers two types of tray teeth whitening kits: the “GO” one-size pre-filled trays, or professional custom whitening trays made by a cosmetic dentist.

Opalescence Go, which is a semi-custom whitening tray that molds to your teeth better than teeth whitening strips (to keep the gel where it needs to be)

They’re moderately priced, use a slightly stronger peroxide concentration, and have the least reported sensitivity from users. When you move on to a more middle of the road teeth whitening option, I usually recommend Opalescence.

Opalescence Go and custom trays can take a few weeks or up to a month for full results. The custom trays have the least reported sensitivity since they keep the gel from spilling onto your gums.
The biggest difference is that GO trays can be bought at your cosmetic dentist’s office or in the store, while the custom trays always require a dental visit and impression taken of your mouth. GO trays already have the gel in them, and custom trays are filled at home with a tube of Opalescence whitening gel. 

Professional Teeth Whitening at the Dentist

Did you procrastinate about a big event? If you need immediately whiter teeth — say, for a blind date or a job interview — then ZOOM! Whitening is a same-day procedure your dentist can complete in about an hour and a half.

In-office teeth whitening options do tend to be the most expensive of all products. They also cause the most sensitivity. But if you need white teeth RIGHT NOW, then all you have to do is call your dentist and set it up.

That being said, ZOOM! can leave your teeth pretty sensitive afterward. It also takes over an hour of sitting there getting your teeth whitened before you’ll see the full results. But hey, if money isn’t an issue and you want white teeth the same day, this is the teeth whitening option for you.

Sensitive Teeth with Whitening

One of the most common side-effects of teeth whitening products is sensitive teeth. 

Fortunately, you can minimize the irritation by using a sensitivity toothpaste during the month(s) that you’re whitening your teeth. For best results, start using it a couple of weeks before you whiten and at least a week or two after. 

If your teeth hurt at any time, stop teeth whitening. Never try to power through tooth pain or severe sensitive teeth. It could be that the gel is too strong, it’s coming into contact with your gums, or something is wrong with a tooth. 

It never hurts to take a day off and only whiten every other day instead of daily. But never use your product for longer than what it says on the packaging. 

The concentration of your peroxide gel will also affect sensitivity. Higher concentrations of peroxide are stronger and can make teeth more sensitive. But don’t confuse carbamide peroxide with hydrogen peroxide, because you’ve got to do math to determine which is stronger (FYI: 36% carbamide peroxide is equal to 12% hydrogen peroxide.)

Teeth Whitening Recap

Always get your teeth and gums screened by a dentist before you whiten your teeth. If you have dental work in the front of your mouth, it won’t whiten along with your teeth (and can make it stand out even more.

Crest White Strips are the cheapest way to whiten your teeth. If you need something a little stronger and don’t mind paying a little bit more, then Opalescence Go or custom trays are your mid-tier option. But when time is of the essence, you want a same day ZOOM! Whitening treatment.

Depending on your budget and timeframe, you can choose Crest White Strips (cheaper, but takes longer,) Opalescence teeth whitening kits (slightly more expensive, less tooth sensitivity, works quicker) or same-day ZOOM! Whitening (the most expensive, but it gives you immediate results.)

Never start a teeth whitening routine without having regular dental checkups and cleanings. Ask your dentist if there’s a specific type of product they think will work best for your smile!