How To Whiten Your Teeth At Home Safely (2023)

Whitening your teeth can be done effectively and efficiently in the comfort of your own home. However, it’s important to understand the different methods available to you—and how to use them safely.

Here’s everything you need to know about at-home teeth whitening.

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How Does At-Home Teeth Whitening Work?

Teeth can develop two types of stains: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic stains appear in the natural small porosity, ortiny cracks, of your teeth. They affect your dentin, the layer of your tooth directly under the hard, protective enamel layer. Intrinsic stains are caused by certain medications, infections, typical aging, deficient restorations (fillings) and trauma. Whitening agents cannot break down some of the molecules responsible for intrinsic tooth staining, notably heavy, dark gray stains.

Extrinsic stains, as you may have guessed, are stains that appear on the outside layer of your teeth. If you enjoy drinking coffee, tea, soda, and/or red wine regularly, you likely have more extrinsic stains than someone who drinks mostly water. Eating certain bright-colored foods such as blueberries, beets, curries and tomato-based sauces and using tobacco products also darken teeth. At-home whitening products can be helpful in removing these exterior stains from your teeth.

Most teeth whitening products use one of two chemicals—hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide—as the active whitening agent. The oxygen molecules within these chemicals interact with the molecules of your discolored tooth. As the whitening agent molecules infiltrate your teeth, they weaken the bonds of the stained molecules, slowly removing them.

These two chemicals aren’t very different. In fact, hydrogen peroxide is found within carbamide peroxide. The main difference between these two chemicals is that hydrogen peroxide breaks down faster and has a shorter shelf life than carbamide peroxide. A dental professional may recommend carbamide peroxide for an at-home device that you will use over a long period of time.

Toothpastes are the exception to peroxide rule. Most toothpastes advertised to whiten teeth don’t contain a whitening agent, but rather abrasives such as silica that mechanically remove stains from the enamel layer of your teeth.

While teeth whitening procedures are likely offered by your dentist, many people turn to at-home whitening products for convenience and affordability. “If a person has sound, healthy teeth and tooth structure, an over-the-counter product could work,” says Robert DiPilla, a cosmetic dentist in Detroit. “However, for anyone with dental work, gingivitis, tooth sensitivity or decay, over-the-counter products can make those issues worse.”

Best Ways to Whiten Your Teeth at Home

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.

Find the best selling teeth whitening kits onAmazon.

FEATURED PARTNER OFFERHow To Whiten Your Teeth At Home Safely (4)

Partner Offers feature brands who paid Forbes Health to appear at the top of our list. While this may influence where their products or services appear on our site, it in no way affects our ratings, which are based on thorough research, solid methodologies and expert advice. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services

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  • Added mint extract for a refreshing taste

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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.

Find the best selling teeth whitening strips onAmazon.

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.

Find the best selling teeth whitening pens onAmazon.

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 2019reviewof modern concepts in teeth whitening inDentistry 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.

Find the best selling teeth whitening toothpastes onAmazon.

Other Ways to Whiten Your Teeth At Home

There areother ways to whiten your teeth,too, including natural remedies such as:

Baking Soda

Research shows using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can improve the appearance of your teeth. Since it’s an alkaline compound, it works to reduce stains and get rid of bad bacteria.

“The evidence available in the literature indicates that baking soda–based dentifrices are effective and safe for tooth stain removal and consequently whitening,” researchers write in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. “A number of clinical studies have also shown that baking soda–based dentifrices are more effective in stain removal and whitening than some non–baking soda—containing dentifrices with a higher abrasivity.”

Many conventional toothpastes include baking soda but you can also make your own paste by mixing the powder with water. If you do so, it may also be wise to follow up with a fluoride rinse.

Oil Pulling

This technique involves swishing oil in the mouth, often coconut oil, for 15 to 20 minutes up to three times a day—then brushing. This may help dental hygiene by stifling the growth of decay-promoting bacteria and reducing inflammation in the gums—although there is not enough research to support its use for brightening teeth.

How to Choose an At-Home Teeth Whitening Product

If you want to kick up the brightness of your smile, but don’t know where to start, talk to your dentist and consider your habits, budget and desired results.

“We evaluate each patient’s teeth and give them recommendations on the possible effects of whitening,” says John Dyer, a general dentist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

For example, if a patient was exposed to tetracycline antibiotics—a common medication to treat different bacterial infections—as a child and the result is stained teeth, bleaching will be less effective, Dyer says. “In addition, if a patient smokes cigarettes or drinks significant amounts of coffee and red wine, they may get a good initial result but will need to do bleach more often to maintain their level of brightness.”

When considering at-home whiteners, it’s helpful to ask yourself a few questions.

How quickly do you want a whiter smile?How fast at-home whitening products work varies depending on the type of application and the frequency of use. The effects of whitening strips and gels can typically be seen several days after use, while whitening toothpastes may take longer.

The strength of the application also plays a role in how long you need to apply a treatment. Usually, the higher potency of a bleaching agent can initially boost whitening. But this can be a double-edged sword, as a higher percentage of whitening chemicals puts you at greater risk of sensitivity and inflammation.

What’s your budget?The cost of at-home whiteners ranges considerably—even within the same product type. But generally, kits and strips cost more than pens and toothpastes.

There are a few ways to stretch your whitening dollar—maintain a strong oral care routine (brush your teeth twice a day, floss and use a mouthwash daily) and avoid staining drinks and foods, such as coffee and red wine.

How To Whiten Sensitive Teeth

The most common adverse side effect of tooth whitening is sensitivity. The duration of treatment and the intensity and chemical makeup of the bleaching agent all contribute.

The ADA notes that further research is needed on sensitivity prevention for teeth bleaching. When you speak with your dental professional, be sure to ask about sensitivity as well. Your dentist can recommend any pre or post-whitening remedies that may have worked for their patients in the past. For example, they may recommend a desensitizing agent or a fluoride treatment to strengthen your enamel.

Treat oral health problems first. Tooth decay, cracked teeth or exposed roots at the gums also can cause tooth sensitivity, which may be made worse by whitening agents. If you have any signs of cavities or gum disease, get treated by a dentist before trying at-home whitening products.

How to Whiten Teeth With Braces

It’s possible to have a pearly white smile, even if youwear braces. Depending on the type of braces you have, some techniques may work better than others, as traditional braces with brackets can make it difficult for some whitening methods. Instead, you may consider trying:

  • Whitening toothpathesthat work to clear tooth stains and discoloration
  • Oral rinsesthat promote whiter teeth

Meanwhile, whitening trays, which can be customized and lock gel onto the teeth to reduce bacteria, might be a good option for those with lingual braces or removable aligners.

Talk further with your dentist if these methods prove difficult or cause tooth or gum irritation. They may be able to suggest a more customized technique that accommodates your braces.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does at-home teeth whitening cost?

At-home teeth whitening costs vary depending on the product. A pack of whitening strips, for example, costs $40 to $60, while an over-the-counter dental tray may run $100.

How long does teeth whitening take?

The amount of time you need to invest in at-home whitening varies, and can range from using an overnight gel to strips for a few weeks. It depends on the specific product instructions, how severe your stains are and how white you want your smile.

Can you whiten your teeth overnight?

There are some at-home whitening products that work while you sleep. One such example is the Colgate Optic White Overnight Whitening Pen, in which you apply a layer to your teeth before bed, and brush off in the morning.

How long does teeth whitening last?

No type of whitening is permanent. But keeping your teeth clean and healthy can help prevent staining. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily, rinse after meals and top off your evening oral care routine with a mouthwash to rinse away any remaining bacteria that can contribute to cavities or stains.

What can I eat after teeth whitening?

When you can eat after using an at-home teeth whitening product will depend on which product you use. After you complete your whitening regimen, consider limiting your intake of the bright-colored, stain-causing foods and liquids you may have ingested prior to your whitening regimen.

Why do my teeth hurt after whitening strips?

Tooth pain can happen when the peroxide whitening agent reaches your dentin, the layer of tooth under your enamel, which irritates your tooth’s nerves. Sensitivity is typically temporary. Taking a break from teeth whitening until it subsides, then resuming, can help.

Your gums can also become sensitive from an ill-fitting tray, which can rub on the gums and cause trauma. Following package directions carefully can reduce your chances of gum and tooth sensitivity.

Can teeth be whitened without damage?

Many teeth-whitening methods can be safe when used appropriately. The more frequently you use them and the more you boost the potency of bleaching agents or other whitening products with chemicals, the higher the risk of sensitivity and possible inflammation of the gums.

Is teeth whitening safe?

Speaking with your dentist is the most important step you’ll take when considering what whitening product is right for you. The American Dental Association’s Policy on Tooth Whitening Administered by Non-Dentists notes its full support in educating the public about seeing a dentist who will determine if whitening is the most appropriate course of treatment.

It’s also essential to understand what ingredients are in your teeth whitening product. If you can, choose a product with theADA Seal of Acceptance. If your desired product doesn’t have the seal, make sure its whitening agent is hydrogen or carbamide peroxide. In a 2019studypublished in the British Dental Journal, researchers concluded that non-hydrogen whitening products (especially those with sodium chlorite) have the potential to damage enamel.

What is the cheapest way to whiten your teeth?

The cost of whiteners ranges and depends on whether you’re using an at-home product or a natural remedy. While gels and strips—which typically cost more than toothpaste—may work faster, swishing coconut oil, baking soda or another natural method may help stretch your dollar.


Home‐based chemically‐induced whitening (bleaching) of teeth in adults.Cochrane Library. Accessed 03/15/2021.

Epple M, Meyer F, Enax J.A Critical Review of Modern Concepts for Teeth Whitening.Dentistry Journal.2019;7(3):79.

Oral Health Topics.American Dental Association. Accessed 03/15/2021.


What is the safest way to whiten your teeth at home? ›

Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach that can help to whiten stained teeth . For optimal whitening, a person can try brushing with a mix of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide for 1–2 minutes twice a day for a week.

How can I whiten my teeth without harm? ›

Methods for At-Home Teeth Whitening

Baking Soda: As long as you are careful to brush gently, baking soda can eliminate stains from the surface of your teeth without damaging them. Whitening Strips: Whitening strips mold to the shape of your teeth to whiten them. Whitening strips are both safe and effective.

Is it OK to brush your teeth with hydrogen peroxide? ›

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Safe for Your Teeth? Hydrogen peroxide can be damaging to your gums, your tongue, and your tooth enamel, leading to painful decay that could be costly to repair. Like many chemicals, hydrogen peroxide is only safe in small doses.

Can yellow teeth be white again? ›

There are a number of ways that you can whiten your teeth if they are or have already yellowed; these are a mix of over-the-counter toothpastes, home whitening products or, in some cases, mechanical plaque removal by a dentist or hygienist.

What is the healthiest and fastest way to whiten teeth? ›

At-Home Custom Tray Whitening

For the safest and most effective at-home teeth whitening method, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) recommends you use custom-fitted trays supplied by your dentist. Ill-fitting teeth whitening trays can cause the gel to ooze out and irritate your gums.

How long does it take for hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth? ›

Generally at this concentration you would need to have your teeth in contact with the 3% hydrogen peroxide for about 5 hours a day for about 2-3 weeks to have meaningful tooth whitening, which is very difficult to do with a watery liquid.

How fast does baking soda whiten teeth? ›

Because baking soda removes discoloration from the surface of your teeth, it won't remove deeper stains. According to the Mayo Clinic, toothpaste containing baking soda can help coffee and smoking stains, and it could take between two to six weeks for you to notice a difference.

What whitens teeth naturally and fast? ›

Seven Ways to Naturally Whiten Teeth
  • Eat Strawberries. One of the simplest ways to naturally whiten your teeth is just by eating strawberries. ...
  • Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables. ...
  • Brush After You Eat or Drink. ...
  • Rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar. ...
  • Apply Coconut Oil. ...
  • Brush Your Tongue. ...
  • Use Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide.

What is the easiest fastest way to whiten teeth? ›

The 12 Best (and Safest) Ways to Whiten Teeth
  1. Use whitening toothpaste+
  2. Switch to an electric toothbrush.
  3. Get a professional tooth whitening treatment.
  4. Get a custom whitening gel tray.
  5. Apply whitening strips.
  6. Use baking soda toothpaste.
  7. Try oil pulling.
  8. Practice good oral hygiene.
Jun 29, 2023

How do you get rid of yellow teeth at home overnight? ›

What Are the Tips for Whitening Your Teeth At Home?
  1. Use at least one teaspoon of baking soda mixed with your regular toothpaste. ...
  2. Rinse with hydrogen peroxide, which is a natural bleaching agent. ...
  3. Chewing on crunchy fruits and vegetables can also help remove plaques from the teeth and gums, which leaves your teeth bright.
Mar 1, 2022

How do I get rid of yellow teeth in 5 minutes? ›


Take some teaspoons of baking soda in a small plate. Now squeeze some fresh lemon juice into it. Keep adding the lemon juice until you have a fine paste. Now wipe your mouth to get rid of the extra saliva from your teeth.

How do you get rid of yellow teeth overnight? ›

Use Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda

Using this mixture removes bacteria and buildup of plaque to get rid of surface stains. Create a hydrogen peroxide and baking soda paste and use it to brush your teeth. After that, use water to rinse the mouth. You can also create a mouthwash using equal amounts of each ingredient.

What is the fastest natural way to whiten teeth? ›

Seven Ways to Naturally Whiten Teeth
  1. Eat Strawberries. One of the simplest ways to naturally whiten your teeth is just by eating strawberries. ...
  2. Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables. ...
  3. Brush After You Eat or Drink. ...
  4. Rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar. ...
  5. Apply Coconut Oil. ...
  6. Brush Your Tongue. ...
  7. Use Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide.

Is it OK to brush your teeth with just baking soda? ›

Baking soda toothpaste is a safe and effective way to clean and whiten teeth. However, brushing with baking soda alone is not approved by the ADA because baking soda lacks fluoride, an essential cavity-fighting ingredient. An alternative is to purchase a commercial toothpaste that includes baking soda and fluoride.


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