Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Easy Guide to Teeth Whitening at Home

Teeth Whitening at Home.
Whitening your teeth is an easy way to really brighten your smile and it's realistically doable in a number of ways. Here are 4 methods, my favorite method being peroxide gel in a molded tray. Or you can opt for basics that take little to no effort. And then of course there are the whitestrips. It's soooooo easy to get your teeth lighter or really white (not crazy white, just "really white" as we describe normal looking white teeth).

Total cost for in home brightening to whitening, $15 - $100. It is my opinion you can get very close to the same degree of whitening as your dentist can, but for a fraction of the cost. Again, this is my opinion based knowing what science dentists offer and if the science is the same, and the person doing the at home whitening takes care to follow instructions there is no reason they cannot reach typical dental office level whitening.

The fact is, the amount of whitening you can get truly is a function of how much time/effort and even funds you are willing to put into it. So know what you want before choosing your method. 

The Natural Way (wait! it actually seems to work!)
Some people use activated charcoal to remove surface staining. They either mix the powder with water and swish or hold it in their mouth for 5 minutes or put it on their brush and brush for 1-2 minutes. Might not be a bad jump start before the other whitening methods as well (aka, de-stain them, then bleach them). This person has a nice video of it on a toothbrush This person has before after photos. Another testimonial here. No chance of irritation but slightly messy to use I guess. One would also have to take a leap of faith it would work. I have charcoal somewhere in my house but I can't be bothered to find it or switch to it right now. But I like what I've seen online, and I'm not the type of person who always wants to opt for the natural versions of things. Instructions here.

Cheap & Easy: $15 - $35.  Whiter teeth in 2 minutes a day. 

Long story short, use multiple whitening versions of oral care items at one time. A lot of people just think to use one or the other, but in order to make progress with these mild short-contact whitening ingredients you need to use 3 or 4 of them. It's fast and easy adding maybe 1-2 minutes to your normal routine. This method is for returning your teeth closer to a nice color you were happy with in the past and can add quite a bit of brightness to already light teeth.

It is safe for your teeth but you need a *soft* toothbrush. (You should actually use a soft toothbrush anyway, but DEFINITELY if you plan on any sort of teeth whitening).

Get a good whitening toothpaste. There are tons of whitening toothpastes out there. After reading through 100's of reviews of different ones on different sites, I would recommend Arm and Hammer Advance White Extreme Whitening  (the new one with "stain defense" on the front), it's advertised as low abrasion and there's also Plus White Extra Whitening (paste not the gel version).

Grab yourself a whitening booster. It's a gel that you add on top of your regular toothpaste. Both Arm & Hammer and Plus White make them, they basically just add H202 to your toothbrushing.

Pick up a whitening rinse. Rembrandt has a nice one, it's a little pricy when it's not on sale ($8 for 16 oz) but Rembrandt's 'Deeply White' rinse is consistently highest in the ratings, has a bit of fluoride in it, is alcohol-free, and even comes in a super cute bottle. Listerine Restoring has flouride and whitening but I heard it tastes not so great and Listerine Whitening Pre-rinse Original was good for me in the past and both the Listerine's cost a little less than Rembrandt.

Those will get your teeth looking brighter, but you're going to be happier if you pick up either up a paint-on whitener (dry teeth before applying and let dry for 30 seconds after you apply before you close your mouth) or Crest 3D Gentle Whitestrips. Both are quick and easy to use. Cheap whitening pens you see in the drugstore for under $10 all get poor reviews, do not bother with them, but there are a few online under $20 with okay reviews. GoSmile Pen, Luster 2 Minute White, Primetime Smile (single pen is fine) and Finishing Touch pen, all on ebay at good prices. Or shop around online for Crest Gentle Whitestrips; not as powerful as the regular whitestrips but there's no desensitization prep and won't be any shooting pains randomly in the middle of the night. Instructions say 5 mins once a day for 28 days but 10-15mins 1-2x/day is more appropriate, if it's causing a problem, cut back wear time. The Strips will give you more whitening.

Ease into using multiple items. Minor irritation or a tinge of sensitivity is normal to be expected, if at any point you feel more than minor irritation to your mouth cut the extras in the routine to 1x a day but still together. If anything just keep them all in your arsenal and choose what you use that day depending on how everything feels. Cut back a bit on the rinse and booster after week 2 or 3.

Note: Any time I'm doing teeth whitening I make an effort to re-mineralize my teeth with either a fluoride rinse (the Rembrandt has a little in it, or i just leave my toothpaste on a bit longer. This looks interesting), and xylitol mints or gum (Spry makes both, about $7 at Vitamin Shoppe and on amazon) for after meals. I *heart* Spry gum, delicious. Pretty much the same ingredients as Supersmile Whitening Gum by the way, except 1/3rd the price.    

Important: Please read my notes on coffee, and other dark liquids/foods, below

Keep your expectations in check and you might be quite pleased with your results at the end of 2-4 weeks. This method is best if you have somewhat light teeth naturally (upper 7 shades) but they need a proper boost and lightening. But if you're looking for more intense brightening (or have teeth in the lower 9 shades) aka, whitening or bleaching, you'll need to use a peroxide gel for prolonged periods on the teeth.

Before I get to gel teeth bleaching, a word about teeth whitening and damage.
I don't have to tell you, if you are concerned about whether you are a candidate for teeth bleaching ask your dentist. People with gum disease, and who have sensitivity, fluorosis, receding gums or who are pregnant, talk to your dentist about whitening. You can always do the charcoal method mentioned above.

For those with healthy teeth and gums, everything I have read (and I've read a lot) if you have healthy teeth and gums it is safe if you are cautious and are conscientious with your teeth bleaching process. The dangers dentist warn are in regards to excessive or misdirected whitening. Too frequent or misdirected bleaching can lead to injury to the gums and compromise the enamel. Take care while bleaching, keep the gel off your gums and give yourself a rest if your gums become very irritated and you will be fine.

As for enamel wear, when teeth are exposed to bleach (or acidic foods/drinks) the enamel can lose some of their microhardness. (2) and therefore susceptible to thinning or erosion especially when a person brushes their teeth after such an event. If a person takes care to protect their teeth after acidic foods or bleach exposure, to actively remineralize their enamel with fluoride (2) and other methods, and postpone consuming acidic foods directly before and after brushing or bleaching, you will be in good shape. I am absolutely paranoid about compromising my enamel and I still feel totally safe bleaching my teeth.

Somewhere in between the easy whitening and the tray whitening are the Crest Whitestrips. $35-$60.
I *would* call it a happy medium but my personal experience with them was anything but happy. The first time I tried them I was practically in tears on the 3rd or 4th day. Years later the 2nd time I tried it..omg, just never again. But if you are a person who never gets sensitivity AND are willing to start a desensitizing toothpaste for a week or 2 before-hand you can get a nice amount of brightening without too much problem. Some people get a medium amount of brightness, some people can get a lot. Dingy stained teeth, a good amount. Naturally darker yellow teeth, maybe an okay amount but not much, those who have naturally darker teeth need to get a peroxide gel.

The 2 standard formulas are the '3D White Advanced Vivid' (not the non-advanced version) and the '3D White Professional Effects', the formulas are equally as strong, the "professional has 6 more days of strips for the next level of whitening. The strongest whitestrips are Crest Whitestrips Supreme. They're not available in stores, only online and are 50% stronger than the OTC versions. $60. In reviews, similar amounts of people can tolerate these. Start your desensitizing toothpaste 2 weeks before using these.

With a strip the h202 will get on your gums more than if you have a tray that covers only the teeth, and you might not get the evenness that you would with a tray and gel, but if you think you can handle it (and many can), if you're not worried about coverage and you don't want to fuss with a tray, you can whiten your teeth with these for sure. (Don't bother with knockoff strips). Gel + tray will still get lighter results though. (Okay to use a whitening rinse while doing these if you need that extra boost. It's also a good thing to have on hand if you're a coffee drinker. Notes on that below). Take an ibuprofen or Aleve when/if some temporary tooth pain occurs.

Peroxide Gel Teeth Whitening; $15-$125, for maximum whitening at home.
Bleaching with a gel and tray, the closest you will get to in-office lightening, and may be equally as effective as whatever you could achieve in a normal, not deep-bleaching dental bleaching. Price $15-$100 vs. $400+ at the dentist. Time commitment: 20 mins to an hour+ a day up to 2-3 weeks.

Desensitizing Toothpaste. $5-$8.
Molded Tray $3 or $75.
Peroxide Teeth Whitening Gel $8-$25.
Desensitizing gel (optional/recommended), $7-$14.

Pre-bleaching: Assess: Are your teeth not often but occasionally sensitive to the heat or cold, (and it's not because of an unattended to dental matter) if so, mildest gel and opt for the desensitizing gel. If they often are, skip bleaching. If you have fluorosis, skip bleaching, etc, etc. Test your gums for gingivitis if you are not an active flosser. To test, just get some floss and do a good job flossing all your teeth, if there is more than just a tiny bit of blood on the floss, start flossing daily and use a Listerine rinse daily, for a few weeks and don't bleach until you can floss without bleeding. See your dentist if it's pretty bad. Seriously.

Starting 2 weeks before the bleaching process everyone should use sensodyne (or other "sensitivity" toothpaste), it needs that much time to build up. Your results will be better if your process is not interrupted by resting due to sensitivity issues. No need to get a whitening toothpaste during your whitening period if you are using the gel and tray method. Sensodyne does make a gentle whitening one though, it's nice, mild tasting. Do not use abrasive toothpaste while you are going through your bleaching process. Sensodyne is not abrasive, so if for some reason you choose to forgo the Sensodyne, use a low-abrasive toothpaste.

Also, just for fun i took before pictures, in the end I could easily see a nice difference in the photos, which was kinda cool cuz for some reason I was kind of doubtful that it would work. Oh, and with my teeth next to a piece of paper. lol. It's really is fun to see your before after.

I'm not uber sensitive but knowing that I was going to embark on up to 2 weeks of teeth bleaching and didn't want to have to stop, I decided to get a de-sensitizing gel that you use in your tray right right after whitening. So if you're plan is to really go for it, pick some up. They're about $7-10 per syringe, check Amazon and Dentist.net. They also contain fluoride to help remineralize teeth after bleaching.

You will need a molded teeth tray. You have 2 choices of trays. 1 is a $3 moldable mouth guard available at any sporting goods store - I've used them before and they're just fine. They're pretty thick though so you will experience saliva management issues, :p, and they are not as comfortable as custom trays, but if you want to save a large cost of the teeth whitening, just mold the guard and cut away anything that doesn't cover the teeth.

The other is a custom molded tray via mail away service that will get you a tray very close to what you would get in a dentists office but around 1/3 of the cost. Amazingly comfortable (iirc). I ordered mine from this company: And I love it. (NOT AFFILIATED!) I don't remember my turn-around time but the site says 5-6 weeks from your order to receiving completed trays. (UK Version here). I can't remember if they came with extra plastic above the teeth part, if so you can carefully cut that away if you want, do NOT cut too low, be conservative, the gel must cover all of each tooth. These trays with gel kit on Amzn, gets great reviews, and other places online. The better fitting your tray, the longer your peroxide formula will be effective, so the custom molded tray will get you better bleaching results, especially if you are going for several shades of lightening.

The gel:
There are quite a few teeth whitening gels on the market. Some are brands that the dentists carry for you to take home which are widely available on the internet. Some are just no-name gels sold online.

And 1 that you can buy in any drugstore. It is 5 Minute Speed/Bleach Whitening Gel by Plus White, it is 6% h202 (the "sensitive" version is 3%). H202 is not very stable so if in the middle of your treatment you decide to wait another couple of months, toss the tube and start again. (Oh, and, as with all h202 based whitening products, when you buy it, buy the one with the furthest expiration date). Leave the gel on for 20-30 mins, 2x a day, NOT 5 MINUTES. When you reach your desired shade do a few more sessions then stop.

There is one package of this product that comes with a foam tray and it'll work ok, but I vote get at least the moldable sports tray for better results.

If you opt for the professional gels you can buy them online on Dentist.net, Smilox.com and Amazon for the best prices. They come in 2 different forms of peroxides, one is h202 and one is Carbamide Peroxide. Carbamide is 1/3 the strength so take that into account when choosing your percentage. 20% carbamide will be close to 7% H202, etc. Some CP formulas are left on for longer than h202, sometimes up to 4+ hours a day, even overnight while HP is generally 30 mins 2x a day. By the way, higher strengths don't necessarily mean better results, just faster. So no need to get the highest one you can find thinking it will get you whiter teeth. Figure out what works best for your lifestyle. (For difficult cases, overnight gels are best. And if you are exceptionally cautious and dedicated, you can use them for over 3 weeks for maximum benefit. But again, the longer you plan to bleach the more important it is to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy, so check with your dentist that your teeth and gums are healthy enough for extended bleaching. You must be willing to dedicate yourself to perfect compliance).

Professional gels with ratings of at least 4/5 on Amazon, TeethWhiteningReviews and Dentist.net that are under $30 include 'Day White' by ACP, Opalescence 'Whitening', & Lumibrite 'Take Home'. Read directions of the different ones before you purchase so you can see what the contact times are, they can differ widely. Again, if you know you have difficult whitening, choose an overnight gel. (just my opinion, I am not a dentist, but asked a friend of mine who is a dentist and he agrees).

Directions will be in the box, read every word and follow them closely for a successful and enjoyable experience.

Pain and Sensitivity: 
If you are whitening you are most likely going to experience pain and sensitivity. Some tips.
During your first few whitening treatments take Aleve before-hand.
If you experience pain during, use your desensitizing gel before bleaching, otherwise use it afterwards.

Coffee/Tea: You really want to stay away from dark foods and drinks while bleaching, your teeth are more porous during your bleaching and very susceptible to staining, so inxay on the coffee (tea, soda and wine, even red pasta sauce). If cutting out coffee/tea during your whitening period proves to be problematic do the following: Add milk to diffuse the staining power, (the fattier the better, and has to be real milk) and rinse/swish your mouth with water when you're done. I keep a bottle of water at my desk/nearby for this reason), sometimes I rinse with h202 afterwards. Many recommend drinking it through a straw but never found it particularly helpful. Either way, drink it fast and get it off your teeth, and this goes for after whitening as well, but especially during and it's really important that you also avoid coffee/etc stains through the 2 weeks following your whitening as well.

For reference, these are some whitening systems I have personally used in the past, usually years apart.
-Rembrandt 2 Hour Kit. (twice)  It's basically a peroxide gel that you use repeatedly for 15 mins as many times as you can with 20 min breaks in between. Not a bad way to go if you only have 1 day to bleach before an event or date. You could just do the same with any other tray + gel. I actually really liked it my first time, but I find using teeth whitener over time works MUCH better.
-Crest Whitestrips: Dear lord, the pain!!..and i've tried it twice! omg, ouch.
-Go Smile B1 whitening ampules. So lame. Didn't do much if anything at all.
-Colgate paint-on gel. Pretty lame.
-Custom tray with Professional Perfecta Rev gel, i think it was 14% h202 gel, but for some reason not very effective even though it's supposed to be quite powerful. Reviews say the same. Didn't bother finishing moved on to Plus White 5 minute gel that I bought at the drugstore.
-Custom tray and Plus White 5 Original (6% H202). Not painful and very effective for me.

Other notes:
-In the 2 weeks following your bleaching your teeth will gain luster because any roughness of your teeth will become smoother as they experience re-mineralization. That's where the xylitol gum comes in handy. And careful of staining drinks during this time. It's easy to get lax on that, but that's a really bad idea, you will see quick regression and be unsatisfied with your whitening.
-For people with sensitive teeth not related to an unattended dental issue, just buy all the desensitizing stuff and use the gentle version of the plus white or whatever. If you dedicate the time you can achieve whitening, it just takes longer with a lower strength formula.
-This site, Teethwhiteningreviews.com, has reviews of all teeth whitening products! Excellent resource. Great place to help you choose your gel.

Difficult cases
I'm going to try keep this to a minimum because  diffiult cases are by definition, not easy so that falls out of the realm of what this post is about. But i still want to include this limited information so you know easy whitening is not for you and that you don't waste your time or money.  It can be hard to decipher whether you are a difficult case or not and how difficult a case you are. If you suspect you are, then you probably are. If you are someone who has naturally yellow colored teeth and whose teeth are not yellowed due to staining, you are a difficult case. You still have a number of options, even extended bleaching at home, which i won't get into. Ask your dentist about extended bleaching. If you have medicine stained staining, you might be a very difficult case but not necessarily an impossible case, and need to inquire about deep bleaching, like KOR or Aquabright or even extended regular dentist-supervised bleaching, which might be all you need. People with tetracycline stained teeth can certainly whiten their teeth with a good cosmetic dentist.

If you have flourosis you not only are a difficult case but do NOT do your own whitening, period.

THE END. :). Happy Teeth Whitening!! Let me know how goes, I'll have to live vicariously through others because my teeth don't need anymore whitening. :(

More teeth whitening resources:
'Teeth Whitening at Home' 
ADA: Teeth Whitening Considerations, a good read.

Update 7 days later: Okay, I just wanna say, after writing all that I find this. lol. Says a lot of the same thing. Either way, here ya go.


  1. Hello, just popping by to say great blog and I love your tips on teeth whitening and hair removal very interesting I also want to leave a reply to your question on my blog just to say that the Blueberry water booster contains 15mg of Grape Seed Extract but does not contain Nelumbo Nucifera from what I can see on the ingredients list on the box however the Maquiberry and Original water booster does contain Nelumbo Nucifera so if this is a key ingredient your looking for in the product then I recommend not to buy the Blueberry booster :) if you have further questions please do contact back and thanks for commenting :D x


  2. oh, duh, nn is actually lotus flower, lol. grapeseed is vitus something. Hmmm. 15mg. Probably won't do it for me, so i guess i'm okay to get the mojimaqui or whatever. thanks!

  3. I've been brushing my teeth twice a day with an optic white toothpaste and its working pretty well. I think I'll see how far this goes and then try some other teeth whitening ideas in Edmonton.

  4. Sad to say but, activated charcoal doesn’t work well for me. I also tried some other natural remedies like lemon and strawberries. Works well at first but the succeeding days…. the result is not clearly visible anymore and stains are still there. Good thing my classmate recommended a cosmetic dentist in Beverly Hills. He takes good care of my teeth!

  5. The stuff in this blog is in not only incredible but also providing the great knowledge to the people. Great post thanks!

  6. I really find your tips amazing and easy to follow in order to whiten teeth.

  7. I will have to ask my dentist about activated charcoal. I keep hearing people recommend it for teeth whitening. This is something that might be fun to try if it is safe.

  8. Short and precise but very essential tips which people easily tend to forget. Well, i get my teeth whitening done from dentist Mumbai and I haven’t face any side-effects till date. I am happy with my healthy teeth.

  9. Short and precise but very essential tips about teeth whitening. Well, i get my teeth whitening done from dentist Mumbai and I haven’t face any side-effects till date. I am happy with my healthy teeth.

  10. activated charcoal is like regular charcoal turned up to 11. It starts out as regular charcoal. Then it’s processed with oxygen to make it very porous (full of tiny holes) and give it a huge surface area. charcoal powder

  11. Thanks for share this useful information with us. I used natural teeth whitener. You can try.

  12. I find the combination of oil pulling with coconut oil in the morning for 10minutes and then dry charcoal brushing have the best results. Obviously there are other things that help, like lemon water and not drinking coffee. Thanks for sharing!

    Theresa N | Lisle Dental Center

  13. Really its a amazing article i had ever read. I hope it will help a lot for all. Thank you so much for this amazing posts and please keep update like this excellent article.

  14. I like your post!!

    Thank you for sharing this informative article about Teeth Whitening