In-office teeth whitening is anything but cheap — in fact, one session can cost upwards of $500 — but it isn't your only option if you're after a whiter, brighter smile. At-home teeth whitening kits offer a more affordable alternative, and typically, take much less time as well. But obviously, not all teeth whitening kits are created equal, and some don't really make any difference at all. To help narrow down the best at-home teeth whitening kits that actually work, I spoke with Dr. Lawrence Fung, DDS, founder of Silicone Beach Dental.
"Whitening strips do work great for minor whitening needs, and they are really great for at-home maintenance," says Dr. Fung, who explains that these strips work by using either carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. "The peroxide penetrates the enamel, reacting with the discolored molecules in your mouth, breaking the bonds that hold the stains together, leaving just the healthy white parts of your tooth," he says.
Both of these peroxides are safe for to use on your teeth, according to Fung and the Journal of the American Dental Association, and they both provide the exact same results. That said, "hydrogen peroxide may require shorter wear times since it breaks down faster than carbamide peroxide," notes Dr. Fung, so it's important to pay attention to and not exceed the recommended wear time. If you're looking for a more natural route, Dr. Fung says activated charcoal is a good option, because "it provides a safe and mild abrasion to lift stains."
If you have sensitive teeth, Dr. Fung says to pay attention to the ingredients used in the strips. "I would look to see if the strips contain potassium nitrate," Dr. Fung says. This ingredient is a desensitizer, which can help shield your teeth against harsh ingredients. If it doesn't, you could use a toothpaste that's formulated for sensitive teeth after using your white strips.