No matter how good your oral hygiene, your teeth can become discolored. And, since your smile is one of the first things people see when they meet you, having clean, white teeth goes a long way in making an excellent first impression.
Teeth whitening gels are safe and highly effective at removing surface stains and stains penetrating the enamel. They're more affordable than professional treatments and often more effective than other at-home whitening treatments. The best is the easy-to-apply Active Wow Teeth Whitening Kit.
Unlike whitening toothpaste, which can gradually lift light surface stains with regular use, teeth-whitening gels are designed to eliminate both intrinsic and extrinsic stains.
Keep in mind that at-home teeth-whitening treatments, including gels, don’t work on dental work, such as crowns or fillings.
Teeth-whitening gels usually contain either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. Both ingredients whiten teeth by lifting superficial and deeper stains without causing excessive sensitivity to the teeth or gums. The key difference between them is that carbamide peroxide contains 33% hydrogen peroxide.
Professional whitening treatments done by a dentist typically use between 15% and 43% peroxide. This is much higher than over-the-counter options, which only contain 3% to 20% peroxide.
Generally, the higher the percentage of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, the whiter the teeth. The higher concentrations used by dentists, combined with heat and ultraviolet light, can lighten teeth up to 10 shades in as little as one session. However, these treatments are much more expensive and may not be necessary for those with mild staining.
Some teeth-whitening products don’t use peroxide, making them ideal for those with greater tooth or gum sensitivity. They often use charcoal or sodium bicarbonate instead.
When using any type of bleaching product, there are a few things to consider. For example, hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide work great in teeth-whitening gels, but must be used as directed. Extended use of teeth-whitening gels can lead to tooth and gum sensitivity, a burning sensation or even blisters. Although these effects typically disappear in a few days, improper use can lead to long-term damage, especially to the enamel.
You should also avoid swallowing teeth-whitening gel. Small amounts won’t cause any problems, but if you ingest too much, it could cause nausea.
There are several ways to apply the whitening gel to your teeth, but the most common methods are a tray, strips, syringe or pen.
Although the ingredients are more important than the mode of application, some formats are easier to use than others. For example, trays that fit perfectly against your teeth without covering your gums may result in a more even whitening. Strips, meanwhile, are great for the more visible front teeth, but they don’t always reach the back molars.
Some teeth-whitening gels are designed to lift intrinsic stains, while others are more effective at removing extrinsic stains. Any teeth-whitening treatment, including professional treatments, is most effective when combined with proper oral care. For surface stains, for example, brushing your teeth regularly and after every meal can keep your teeth whiter for up to six months after treatment.
Most teeth-whitening gels also require regular reapplication, usually over seven to 10 days. It is possible to see results after only a couple of at-home treatments, but for best results, continue using the product as directed on the packaging.
Teeth-whitening gels come in air-tight, waterproof packaging. If the package isn’t sealed or if the expiration date has passed, don’t use the gel. The packaging should have precise instructions on how to use the product. Follow these precisely to achieve the desired results.
Many teeth-whitening gel kits use an LED light to speed up the process of lifting stains from your teeth. Although studies are inconclusive, proponents say LED light boosts the effectiveness of the whitening agents in the gel.
Some brands of teeth-whitening gel come with a money-back guarantee. While this might not be essential to some users, others may be reassured to know a refund is available if they’re not happy with the results.
They vary significantly in price. A simple kit with 10 applications meant for minor stains may cost around $15-$20, while the highest-quality kits usually range from $50-$130.
A. Generally, but hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide may irritate the soft tissues of the mouth in high concentrations. In severe cases or with extended use, this may lead to blistering.
A. Hydrogen peroxide works faster than carbamide peroxide, but both are generally considered safe and effective. When using a teeth-whitening gel, be aware of any sensitivity to your gums or teeth. People with weaker enamel or dentin should use teeth-whitening products with caution. If in doubt, look for a gel with around 22% peroxide and go from there.
Start with clean teeth. Brush for two minutes and floss before applying the gel. If using trays, make sure they fit well in your mouth before adding gel.
Moisture may make whitening gel less efficient, so clean and dry the trays before adding the gel. Use the amount of gel specified on the packaging. If trays are provided, insert them in your mouth and leave them as indicated in the instructions. If any gel touches your gums, wipe it away.
Remove the trays and rinse your mouth with cold water. If you have leftover gel in an open package, refrigerate it until the next day. Keep in mind that products vary, so always follow the instructions on the packaging.
Active Wow Teeth Whitening Premium Kit with LED Light
What you need to know: This comprehensive kit contains whitening gel plus recovery gel for sensitive teeth and gums. It claims to start whitening teeth within three uses.
What you’ll love: The gel is easy to apply, and the kit comes with a LED light for fast results. It includes 30 treatments as well as custom-molded trays. You can apply the gel with a cotton swab for precise stain removal.
What you should consider: The mouth trays don’t always mold well to the teeth and can be a little bulky. The gel is thick.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
SmileDirectClub Teeth Whitening Kit
What you need to know: This affordable gel kit is made by a recognizeable brand in dental care and whitens teeth fast and effectively.
What you’ll love: This affordable gel boasts a patented formula that delivers results quickly. Many users see whiter teeth after one use. The pack includes enough gel for six months of teeth whitening. Each tube has a brush that makes it easy to apply.
What you should consider: Some users complained of faulty tubes that didn't dispense the gel properly.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: While trays are recommended but not included, this gel is likely to produce results you'll love.
What you’ll love: This gel is powerful enough to remove stains caused by many types of foods and beverages. You'll get 10 treatments from each of the three tubes. The gel has a pleasant mint flavor.
What you should consider: It works best with trays, but you'll have to buy them separately. Some users may experience sensitivity.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Angela Watson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.