You’re doing everything right: brushing your teeth twice a day for the recommended two minutes, flossing, using mouthwash and scrubbing your tongue. And yet, you might still be searching for solutions to achieve whiter teeth and a brighter smile.
Teeth whitening services are available at many dentist offices, but they can be expensive and time consuming. Professional treatments typically cost over $200 and appointments can last 90 minutes or longer. Thankfully, however, many oral care brands offer more cost-effective, over-the-counter teeth whitening products you can use at home. They aren’t as strong as in-office treatments, experts say, but they can tackle minor discoloration if used correctly and consistently. Below, we talked to dentists about what you can expect from at-home teeth whitening products and how to shop for them.
SKIP AHEAD Best at-home teeth whitening products
How we picked the best at-home teeth whitening treatments
Everyone’s teeth are different, so finding a whitening treatment that works for you will likely involve some trial and error, says Dr. Ilona Casellini, the founder of and a dentist at Swiss Quality Smile in Los Angeles, California. Pay attention to how your teeth react to different products, specifically noting which ones lighten tooth color the best with the least amount of sensitivity.
While shopping for at-home teeth whitening treatments, experts recommend considering the following factors.
- Active ingredients: Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the most common whitening agents products rely on to get rid of tooth stains, according to the ADA. These active ingredients penetrate tooth enamel and break down discoloration without softening or thinning teeth, experts say.
- Strength: Every teeth whitening product is made with a certain percentage of active ingredients, and the higher that percentage is, the stronger its whitening capabilities are. But the most powerful whitener may not be the best option for you, says Dr. Matt Messina, an assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry and the clinic director at Ohio State’s Upper Arlington Dentistry. If you’ve never whitened your teeth before or have a history of tooth sensitivity, he recommends starting with products that contain lower concentrations of active whitening ingredients and gradually increasing if you can tolerate it.
- Product type: At-home teeth whitening treatments are available as toothpastes, whitening pens, whitening trays, mouthwashes and more. Think about which you prefer and which best fits into your lifestyle. How effective at-home teeth whitening products are greatly depends on using them consistently, so choose a product you can see yourself sticking with, says Casellini.
- ADA Seal of Acceptance: The ADA Seal of Acceptance is the “gold standard” for oral care products, experts told us. When you see that seal, it means the brand submitted data and other materials to the ADA and the organization determined that the product meets specified safety and efficacy requirements. This does not mean that whitening products without the ADA Seal are ineffective — it just means brands have not submitted their products for the ADA to review.
The best at-home teeth whitening products of February 2024
With expert guidance in mind, we rounded up a handful of at-home teeth whitening products across type and price point. We included options with the ADA Seal of Acceptance, those NBC Select staff members have tried themselves, Select Wellness Award Winners and other highly-rated treatments we think you should know about.
Best teeth whitening strips and trays
Whitening strips are typically coated with a thin layer of hydrogen peroxide or another bleaching agent, and they come in kits with multiple strips for the upper and lower teeth. As directed by the brand, you use the strips for a few days in a row for a set amount of time to gradually whiten your teeth.
Teeth whitening trays are similar to whitening strips — they adhere to teeth and whiten using active ingredients while you wear them. Some trays come prefilled, and others need to be filled with a whitening agent before you use them. Dental offices also sometimes make custom trays that fit the exact shape of your mouth to use with whitening gel.
Crest 3D Whitestrips are currently the only ADA-approved whitening strips — they also won an NBC Select Wellness Award. The Classic Vivid strips come in a pack of 20, which is enough for 10 treatments. Strips are made with hydrogen peroxide and have a no-slip grip that helps them stick to teeth. Crest also offers other types of whitestrips including Brilliance White, Glamorous White and Sensitive, all of which are ADA-approved.
If you have sensitive teeth, I recommend Lumineux’s whitening strips since they don’t contain peroxides or bleaches that can be painful for those with sensitive teeth, according to the brand. The strips are made with coconut oil, sage oil, lemon peel oil and dead sea salt, natural ingredients that help lift stains off teeth, according to Lumineux. One box contains 42 teeth whitening strips, which is enough for 21 treatments. I notice a difference in the shade of my teeth when I use these whitening strips as directed for 30 minutes a day and I frequently repurchase them.
Opalescence Go Teeth Whitening Trays — which have a 4.5-star average rating from 1,296 reviews on Amazon — come prefilled with a minty gel that contains 10% hydrogen peroxide. The trays are single-use and flexible, allowing them to conform to your teeth and the shape of your mouth, according to the brand. Treatments last 30 to 60 minutes.
Best teeth whitening toothpastes
Whitening toothpaste primarily relies on abrasives to help remove surface stains on teeth, according to the ADA. All toothpaste is mildly abrasive to scrub teeth clean, but whitening toothpaste typically contains ingredients that specifically target surface stains, like sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda.
Whitening toothpaste is a great option to start with if you’ve never used other teeth whitening products since it typically has a lower concentration of active ingredients, experts told us. It typically works best for surface stains and maintenance after you’ve used another form of whitening, says Messina.
Nu Skin’s AP 24 Toothpaste, an NBC Select Wellness Award winner, is formulated with gentle abrasives to remove surface stains from teeth and brighten their appearance, according to the brand. The fluoridated toothpaste comes in a 4-ounce tube and has a neutral vanilla mint flavor. I tried Nu Skin’s toothpaste and prefer its thicker, smoother texture to most thinner, gel-like options. Plus, it doesn’t irritate my sometimes sensitive teeth.
This ADA-approved whitening toothpaste from Burt’s Bees is formulated with hydrated silica to help remove surface stains from teeth, according to the brand. The toothpaste has a minty flavor and comes in a 4.7-ounce tube.
Best teeth whitening mouthwash
Like whitening toothpaste, whitening mouthwash typically has a lower concentration of whitening agents, so its impact is minimal, experts told us. With that being said, whitening mouthwash can be a good option to use after a professional whitening treatment or if you’ve never whitened your teeth at home before.
ACT’s Whitening + Anticavity mouthwash contains hydrogen peroxide to brighten teeth and fluoride to help prevent cavities, according to the brand. The mouthwash is alcohol-free and dye-free, has a mint flavor and comes in a 16.9-fluid-ounce bottle. It has a 4.5-star average rating from 6,061 reviews on Amazon.
LED teeth whitening treatments
Some teeth whitening kits come with devices (kind of like mouth guards) that have built-in LED lights, which help activate the included whitening gel, experts told us. You add the whitening gel to the device or directly to your teeth, and wear it for a set amount of time. Once you own the LED light device, you can buy refills of the brand’s gel to continuously reuse it.
This kit comes with a flexible LED whitening light that molds to the shape of your teeth, providing uniform coverage, according to the brand. It’s powered by your phone — you plug the device’s cable into an Apple or Android smartphone, and you can continue to use your phone during 10 minute treatments. The kit comes with a whitening pen filled with hydrogen peroxide gel that you brush over your teeth before using the light. Colgate recommends using the kit once a day for 10 days to see the best results. When I used the kit as directed, my teeth looked noticeably brighter.
If you’d rather use a rechargeable, wireless whitening light, Auraglow’s kit comes with a battery-powered tray that has built-in LED lights to help activate the included carbamide peroxide whitening gel. You squeeze the gel into the tray before placing it in your mouth and turning the device on to start a 30 minute treatment. The light — which has a 4.1-star average rating from 45,123 reviews on Amazon — comes with a charging case and cable.
Best teeth whitening pens
If you’re looking for a portable teeth whitening option that you can travel with, many brands offer pens filled with a gel formula of whitening ingredients like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. To use a whitening pen, you brush the gel on your teeth, leave it on for the specified amount of time and repeat as directed.
Beyond its whitening strips, Colgate offers a whitening pen filled with hydrogen peroxide gel. You use the applicator tip to brush the gel over clean teeth and leave it on overnight. Each pen can be used up to 35 times and the whitening gel is safe for those with sensitive teeth, according to the brand.
Meet our experts
At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Dr. Matt Messina is an assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry and the clinic director of Ohio State’s Upper Arlington Dentistry.
- Dr. Ilona Casellini is the founder of and a dentist at Swiss Quality Smile in Los Angeles, California.
Why trust NBC Select?
Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor at NBC Select who writes about dental care, including stories on electric toothbrushes, toothpaste, whitening toothpaste, kid’s toothpaste, floss and water flossers. For this article, she interviewed two experts about how to shop for at-home teeth whitening treatments and rounded up products that align with their guidance.