Though regular checkups at the dentist’s office can improve the appearance of your teeth as cleanings remove plaque and tartar, many of us have tough stains that need a little extra help. And unfortunately, not everyone can afford professional teeth whitening. Luckily, at-home whitening products have come a long way. Our tests found the best teeth whitening kits that offer easy, effective, and more affordable ways to brighten your smile at home.
For true whitening success, you need to know what type of whitening kit to use and whether or not whitening products are safe for you. Experts recommend avoiding whitening products altogether if you have gum or mouth disease, untreated tooth decay, or significantly worn enamel. If a specialist has given you the green light to begin using at-home whitening products, you can select the right product based on ingredients and price. In addition to having effective ingredients like carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide, the best product for you will fit into your routine and budget.
To help you narrow down the list of whitening kits that will meet your needs, we tested the best options on the market. We tried out dozens of whitening kits, following each brand’s specific instructions. Throughout the test, we paid close attention to how easy it was to use the product, whether we experienced any discomfort or teeth sensitivity, and how effective the product was in whitening our teeth. We then took careful notes on the appearance of our teeth before, during, and after the whitening process. An orthodontist from our Medical Expert Board reviewed the contents of this article for medical accuracy surrounding dental hygiene and the efficacy of active whitening ingredients.
Note: We’re continuing to long-term test the top-performing kits from our tests—and any new offerings that become available—to see how they perform over time to keep this article up to date.
SmileDirectClub Bright On Premium Teeth Whitening Kit
Soft, flexible mouthpiece
Safe for sensitive teeth
Tray plugs into smartphone for portability
The SmileDirectClub Teeth Whitening Kit is everything a whitening product should be, which is why it came in as our best overall pick: it whitened our teeth, was easy to apply and use, and caused zero sensitivity. In fact, we were hard-pressed to find a single downside to using this product. So if you’re looking for an A+ whitening kit, this one is definitely it.
In testing, this gel was easy to put on and caused no discomfort during or after application (including for those of us with sensitive teeth). The mouthpiece fit well and stayed in place, thanks to the fact that it’s soft and flexible, not rigid. We also loved that the tray could be plugged into our smartphones, so we could get up and move around the house while we waited out the whitening time.
In terms of effectiveness, we were shocked to find that the kit whitened our teeth 10 whole shades according to the tooth shade chart we used—and we noticed visibly whiter teeth after just a few days when just looking in the mirror. Overall, this kit offers stunning value for the results it provides. And since it’s hugely effective without causing any discomfort, we can’t think of a product we would recommend more than this one.
Price at time of publication: $67
Type: Gel with tray | Application Time: 5 minutes, twice daily | Active Ingredients: 9% hydrogen peroxide
Crest 3D Whitestrips Sensitive Teeth Whitening Kit
Comfortable to use
Immediately whiter teeth
Safe for sensitive teeth
Whitening strips can be a messy, awkward affair, but the Crest 3D Whitestrips for Sensitive Teeth could not have been easier for us to use. The strips went on and came off without any trouble and didn’t cause any pain, stinging, or sensitivity during or after use. And they worked, too—we were able to see a noticeable difference as soon as we took the first strip off our teeth and felt confident that the results would keep improving from there (with this particular kit, you’re directed to use the strips for 28 days).
In terms of convenience and value, we thought the compact, minimal packaging made the strips easy to store. And while these strips are a little pricey when you take quantity into consideration, we think the convenience of being able to seamlessly integrate the strips into our daily dental routine makes the price worth it. Plus, we thought it delivered real results—our teeth were noticeably whiter after using all 14 strips.
Price at time of publication: $43
Type: Strips | Application Time: 30 minutes, once daily | Active Ingredients: Hydrogen peroxide (percentage not specified)
Best Strips for Sensitive Teeth
Spotlight Oral Care Teeth Whitening Strips Teeth Whitening Strips
Combining comfort with a gentle formulation, the Spotlight Oral Care Dental Teeth Whitening Strips are our pick for the best strips for sensitive teeth. In testing, we found these strips fit our teeth nicely. We felt like the product adhered to both the front and back of our teeth effectively. And the adhesion created a “vacuum-sealed” effect that made them comfortable to wear for the full hour you’re supposed to keep them in place. More importantly, we didn’t feel any discomfort or sensitivity during whitening or after wearing these strips, and they worked quickly, too. After all 14 included strips had been used, we felt like our teeth looked visibly brighter.
Considering how well they work, we found these strips to be a great deal. Plus, Spotlight throws in a few freebies—notably, a convenient on-the-go travel pouch and vitamin E oil for soothing your gums post-treatment, both of which were much appreciated.
Price at time of publication: $50
Type: Strips | Application Time: 60 minutes, once daily | Active Ingredients: 0.01% hydrogen peroxide
iSmile LED Light Activated Teeth Whitening Kit
Many whitening products can leave you with a sloppy mess on your hands (and teeth!), but we found the iSmile Teeth Whitening Kit to be a tidier and more effective alternative to some of the other kits we tested. As we tested, we realized you can apply the gel to the mouthpiece before inserting it, which aids in making sure you’ve got the right amount and that all the whitening solution really covers your teeth.
We did find the whitening process to be slightly less comfortable; the solution was pretty tasteless, and our gums experienced some discomfort. Swallowing was also awkward because the solution can produce excess saliva, but you aren’t supposed to swallow the solution. However, the application time here is only 10 minutes, so we thought this was a totally manageable inconvenience for the amount of time needed to whiten.
Finally, we were surprised how much brighter our teeth became in testing this product—we felt the kit more than earns its place on our list and is well worth its cost. We even think it may have been more effective than previous whitening treatments we’ve done in the past at the dentist’s office.
Price at time of publication: $50
Type: Gel | Application Time: 10 minutes, once daily | Active Ingredients: 35% carbamide peroxide
Opalescence Go Tooth Whitening Prefilled Trays
These prefilled trays by Opalescence won’t be for everyone (people with sensitive teeth, beware!), but they were definitely the easiest and least messy whitening tray option we tested, which is why we’ve placed them here as our best tray pick.
Essentially, you position the upper and lower trays on your teeth, bite down for a few seconds, and then remove the colored outer tray, leaving behind a more snug-fitting inner tray containing the whitening gel. This allows you to get a snug and comfortable fit every time. However, this option isn’t entirely painless. In testing, we found that the upper tray caused some serious gum discomfort (even after we brushed our teeth to remove the gel). We’d describe it as being similar to the feeling of applying an acid facial peel or retinoid for the first time—painful but bearable.
Initially, we couldn’t leave the tray in for the recommended 15 minutes because it was so uncomfortable. But over time, we did get used to it. The best part was that our teeth whitened. Even though we only left it in for about eight minutes, our teeth went up a full shade. It hurt, but the pain was worth it in our eyes. We also started with the highest concentration possible, which we wouldn’t recommend if you have sensitive teeth or have never whitened your teeth before (in that case, you may want to start with the lowest concentration and work your way up from there).
Price at time of publication: $84
Type: Tray | Application Time: 15-20 minutes, once daily | Active Ingredients: 15% hydrogen peroxide
AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Pen
Whitening on the go
Small, convenient pen to paint on gel
Doesn’t cause discomfort
The main reason to opt for a whitening pen and not a more comprehensive kit is convenience, and this pen by AuraGlow is nothing if not convenient. You won’t get mega-white brightening results here—we noted it lightens maybe a shade, at most—but you will get an easy and painless application process and the ability to easily whiten minor stains on the go.
The application process is similar to other gel whiteners in that you paint on the product, but after that, you just have to allow it to dry (without rinsing or swallowing, which we did find to be a bit tricky!). There was a slight tingling upon application that we observed during testing, but nothing that persisted. The big bonus here is the pen’s convenience; we liked that there’s nothing overly complicated about the whitening process here and that the pen can go with you literally anywhere. We think it could be worked easily into a nighttime brushing routine since you can’t eat or drink for an hour after using it.
Price at time of publication: $37
Type: Pen | Application Time: 1 minute, 1 to 2 times daily | Active Ingredients: 35% carbamide peroxide
Auraglow Complete LED Whitening Kit
Awkward to use
No battery indicator
This isn’t the most efficient option on the list, but we were shocked by the whitening results with the Auraglow Deluxe Teeth Whitening Kit. And we felt that, after two weeks of use, it was more than worth its minor annoyances. The setup process is easy—just charge the LED light, fill the tray with gel, then pop it in your mouth—and the tray itself is soft and flexible.
The tricky part is walking around with an LED whitening tray sticking out of your mouth for 30 minutes. We found that actually finding the time to do the whitening treatment was a challenge. Half an hour with this large thing in our mouth that we couldn’t talk around felt like a very long time, especially doing it every single day when we would have to not eat or drink right after. We even kept forgetting to use it and then needed to stay up an extra half hour later at night. We were also a little frustrated by the lack of a low battery notification, but still not enough to turn us off the product.
Overall, the whitening results were significant enough to make us recommend this product as a good choice, especially since it didn’t cause any pain or discomfort and is priced within the average range for a whitening kit. Given how much we know professional whitening costs, and remembering the pain and sensitivity we’ve had with other whitening products in the past, we absolutely think this is worth the price and the inconvenience for a couple of weeks.
Price at time of publication: $100
Type: Light kit | Application Time: 30 minutes, once daily | Active Ingredients: 35% carbamide peroxide
Opalescence Whitening Toothpaste with Fluoride
You shouldn’t head into a whitening toothpaste expecting the same results as whitening strips or a kit with gels and trays. But a whitening toothpaste like this one from Opalescence can help whiten teeth or help maintain a whiter smile over time. We rated it high for convenience and comfort, mostly because it functioned like normal toothpaste. We liked that there was no learning curve to the application process; it was easy to work into our daily routine, and it didn’t cause any initial discomfort.
We did notice some long-term discomfort over time, though, possibly because we felt like it was pretty abrasive. That created something of a catch-22 for us in testing—when we used the toothpaste, it whitened our teeth a couple of shades, but when we stopped using the toothpaste (because of sensitivity), we noticed that our teeth began yellowing and staining again almost immediately. The product felt like we needed to use it every single day to maintain an improved and brighter teeth shade. However, it noticeably caused teeth sensitivity that discouraged us from using it every day.
The bottom line is that this product can work, but only under certain circumstances. We think it’s best used for someone who wants to brighten their teeth for an event and doesn’t mind enduring some temporary abrasiveness or for someone who has pretty white teeth and wants to occasionally touch up their shade.
Price at time of publication: $10
Type: Toothpaste | Application Time: Brush as usual, 1 to 2 times daily | Active Ingredients: 0.25% sodium fluoride, 5% potassium nitrate
Best for Fast Results
Oral Essentials Lumineux Teeth Whitening Strips 21 Treatments Certified Non-Toxic
If you want whiter teeth fast, we recommend the Lumineux Teeth Whitening Strips. Despite not containing any peroxide (and opting instead for a mix of natural ingredients), we still found these strips to be a quick and easy way to whiten our teeth in just a couple of days.
Not only were these strips easy to apply, but we liked how they tasted refreshing (not plasticky) and also how they didn’t interfere with our conversations (yep, we could talk with these on!). In testing, we observed a gradual lightening of about two shades in under three days, which means you can definitely use these to get a super-short turnaround on brighter teeth.
The only downside was that the strips only cover the front six to eight of your teeth, so if you were hoping for sparkling molars, this won’t get you there. Still, you get 21 treatments, which we thought was a great value considering you’ll be seeing results in just three days. We also appreciated that this is an alternative to more chemical-based kits, which makes it a little friendlier for people with sensitive teeth.
Price at time of publication: $50
Type: Strips | Application Time: 30 minutes, once daily | Active Ingredients: N/A
How We Tested the Teeth Whitening Kits
The Verywell Health team tested 21 teeth whitening kits at home to see how well they brightened our teeth while also judging the overall comfort and convenience of the kits. In order to make sure we were getting an accurate read on whether the kits actually had whitening effects, we used a dental color shade chart to find the shade of our teeth before beginning any treatment.
We used the products for the first time in our Verywell Testing Lab and continued to use them at home according to manufacturer instructions. In the Lab and at home, we took note of how easy it was to set up and apply the product or treatment, as well as how our teeth felt before and after the treatment (e.g., if there was any sensitivity or discomfort from the appliance or device itself).
After that, we took our kits home and used them according to the manufacturer’s instructions on how many times per week and how many weeks in total the kit should be used to see progress. During this time, we made note of when we saw any visible difference in the shade of our teeth. Finally, we came back to the Lab and matched our teeth once again with the dental color shade chart, recording our results.
Throughout the testing, we considered whether we were able to apply the product and go about our day as usual, how much whiter our teeth were from start to finish, whether we experienced any sensitivity, and if we thought the kit was an overall good value based on its retail price and the results it delivered.
When compiling our list, we also consulted three dental professionals to learn exactly how teeth whiteners work and get their advice on how to use them. These experts included:
- Rhonda Kalasho, DDS, CEO of TruGlo Modern Dental
- Nina Izhaky, DDS, dentist at Tribeca Dental Studio
- Kendra Zappia, DDS, dentist and member of the New York State Dental Association
Teeth Whitening Kits We Also Tested
In the Lab, we tested 21 different teeth whitening products, but only 10 made our list of recommendations. The following kits often whitened our teeth noticeably but were either too uncomfortable, too inconvenient, or caused too much sensitivity after use, requiring dedicated whitening time or lacking useful features like charging stations and battery life indicators.
- GLO Brilliant® White Smile At Home Teeth Whitening Device: Our teeth were much brighter after using this kit in testing, but the 24 minutes we had to spend walking around with an awkward device in our mouth make this a fairly inconvenient option, especially compared to less bulky competitor trays.
- Crest 3D White Whitestrips: We found these strips to be affordable and convenient, but they definitely made our teeth more sensitive—so much so, in fact, that we had to discontinue testing early.
- SNOW Wireless Teeth Whitening Kit with LED Light: This kit was easy to apply and whitened our teeth well in testing (even when we skipped days due to the battery dying), but it lacks some practicality: Charging it is a pain, as is the fact that there’s no way to know if the battery needs charging, and it doesn’t hold a charge for very long.
- Crest Whitening Emulsions Leave-on Teeth Whitening Gel Kit: This was easy to apply with a pleasant, mild taste, but in testing, we saw zero whitening effects—even with the maximum amount of allowed applications per day.
- Colgate Optic White Pro Series Teeth Whitening Pen and LED Tray: If you’re short on time, this kit only requires 10 minutes per day, but it’s not the most comfortable after application (and it’s more expensive than similar kits).
What to Look for in Teeth Whitening Kits
Type of Whitening Product
According to Rhonda Kalasho, DDS, CEO of TruGlo Modern Dental, every tooth whitening system works differently, with trays and gels generally being the most effective. Here’s a quick breakdown of your options.
- Trays. Similar to a sports mouthguard, a tray is filled with whitening gel and placed in your mouth for a specific amount of time each day before being removed. You usually can’t talk much while it’s in, and you can’t eat or drink. “I always tell my patients to try whitening gel [in trays] over strips,” says Nina Izhaky, DDS, dentist at Tribeca Dental Studio. “Strips virtually glue themselves to your teeth and are not tailored to your gum line, [while] gel molds around the space between your teeth and the tray, covering more space and providing less risk of contact that can burn your gums.”
- Light kits. Kits with an LED or UV activator light also work well, says Dr. Kalasho. With these kits, you’ll typically brush on the whitening gel, then insert a lighted tray into your mouth and sit tight for a short period of time before turning off the kit and removing the tray. For these reasons, we chose the SmileDirectClub Teeth Whitening Kit—which whitened our tester’s smile by 10 shades after just one week of use—as our best overall pick was the easy-to-use LED accelerator light.
- Gels. Teeth whitening gels are applied, usually with a small brush, to your teeth in order to bleach stains using a peroxide-based ingredient. Gels are often used along with trays, but some can just be applied, left on for a period of time, and then rinsed off.
- Pens. Whitening pens allow for easier and more precise whitening on-the-spot, which Dr. Kalasho says are helpful for minor staining—but most of it washes away with your saliva, so more intense stains probably won’t show ultra noticeable results.
- Strips. Similar to how trays work, whitening strips—like the best-selling Crest Whitestrips—infused with gel are placed on your teeth and left there to work their magic for a while. They don’t always stay in place as well as trays, but you can actually talk more easily, and they may be more comfortable than a bulky tray.
Per Dr. Kalasho, common whitening ingredients that work well for at-home use are carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide. For carbamide peroxide, look for a percent of around 35 percent; for hydrogen peroxide, you’ll want something with a 10 to 15 percent concentration.
Both of these ingredients, says Dr. Kalasho, tend to whiten while causing less sensitivity and side effects than other ingredients, such as sodium hydroxide and alcohol, i.e., you’ll experience less of those “zings” that feel like mini electrical shocks in your mouth.
Still, if you know your teeth are particularly sensitive, you can aim for a whitening product with 3 to 10 percent carbamide peroxide, says Dr. Izhaky.
However, if you see PAP (or phthalimido-peroxy-caproic acid) on the ingredient label, steer clear. The dentists we spoke to said this ingredient is not recommended for whitening at all due to reports of lingering sensitivity. Hydrogen peroxide, when used correctly as a whitening agent, shouldn’t cause lingering sensitivity.
Length of Application
Since all types of whitening products are applied differently and have varying concentrations of ingredients, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s directions for the application included with the specific product.
Generally, though, Dr. Izhaky says strips are safe to use twice a day for up to two weeks for a maximum of 30 minutes at a time. Depending on the ingredient percentage, she adds, gels can be used for one to two hours per day for two weeks as well.
Pens deposit much less product onto your teeth, so can be used more frequently, but you should still aim for one to two applications per day (and limit use to one or two weeks at a time or as needed). Trays are commonly recommended for up to 30 minutes, and light kits are usually left in place for shorter periods of time, often less than 10 minutes. The duration for both varies but is usually no more than two or three weeks in total.
“Do your best not to develop a routine of using these products regularly,” says Dr. Izhaky, noting that overuse and misuse of whitening products can lead to dental problems. This may include tooth pain and nerve damage.
The average cost of the teeth whitening kits we tested was between $50 and $60, but there are some cheaper, more budget-friendly options and some splurge-worthy kits here, too.
Dr. Kalasho says you should expect to pay anywhere between $50 and $300 for an effective at-home whitening system and that the price variations will mostly come down to ingredient concentration.
“For disposable trays that are thrown away and have lower concentration-peroxide, you generally will be paying less,” she explains, “and for the more effective and higher-concentration peroxides that are more advanced, you will most likely be spending more.”
Frequently Asked Questions
How do teeth whitening products work?
Teeth whitening products use common ingredients to minimize the appearance of stains and discoloration on your teeth. They do this through a combination of bleaching, lightening the appearance of stains on your teeth, and breaking down and removing the stains.
Typically, in-office whitening procedures are more effective than at-home ones because dentists are able to use stronger, more concentrated ingredients to whiten (but it’s also usually more expensive). But the newer wave of at-home whitening products has stepped up to provide high-quality results, too.
How much do teeth whitening products cost?
Most at-home whitening kits cost around $50 or $60; our best overall pick from Smile Direct Club was $65 on Amazon when we published this list (and is available for $40 when you buy it directly from the Smile Direct Club). There is a lot of variation, however: Some cheaper alternatives may come in closer to $25 or $30, and some luxury kits (like those with UV lighting) may cost well over $100.
As Dr. Kalasho explained, most of what you’re paying for is the ingredient concentration of your product. When you opt for a cheaper whitening product, expect to get a lower concentration of whatever the active ingredient is and a higher concentration with more expensive products.
Is teeth whitening safe?
Yes, it is safe as long as you use a reputable product, according to Kendra Zappia, DDS, dentist and member of the New York State Dental Association. But you want to first check with your dentist to make sure it’s safe for you in particular.
“We want to make sure that your teeth are healthy, that you don’t have any active decay, and that you don’t have any active gum disease, gum loss, or bone loss,” she says. “If we put bleach on top of that, we can do more harm than good, and the patient can be in a lot of pain.”
Additionally, people who are pregnant should avoid whitening. Whitening also only works on natural teeth, so dental work like crowns, bridges, and implants may also diminish the impact of treatments.
How long does teeth whitening last?
“For some people, it only lasts three or four months, and for other people, it can last up to a year or more,” Dr. Zappia says. “It depends on your habits and the health of your teeth.”
So, if you’re someone who drinks a lot of coffee, tea, wine, or soda, which can all stain your teeth, be prepared for this not to last as long.
Do you brush your teeth after whitening strips?
Dr. Zappia recommends that you brush and floss before to clear away any plaque that may interfere with the process but that after whitening, you wait a little bit before brushing again. She explains, “You might want to wait about 1/2 hour before brushing, the reasoning being that teeth have pores like your skin. When you bleach, you open those pores up so you can break the stain down, and it’s going to take a little bit of time for those pores to close back up.”
What foods should you eat after teeth whitening?
There are lots of foods to eat after whitening, as long as they don’t discolor your teeth.
“We kind of call it the white diet,” Dr. Zappia says. “Anything that will not stain.” So, cheese, yogurt, fresh fruits with the exception of berries, vegetables, pasta, and other foods that won’t easily darken your teeth are all great choices.
Why Trust Verywell Health
Sarah Bradley has been writing health content since 2017: everything from product roundups and illness FAQs to nutrition explainers and the dish on diet trends. She knows how important it is to receive trustworthy and expert-approved advice about over-the-counter products that help you manage everyday conditions.
Loren Brutsch, the editor of this article, has personally tested products on this list and has experienced sensitive teeth from whitening products in the past. She knows how uncomfortable teeth sensitivity from whitening products can be, so she only recommends products she knows are either gentle enough for sensitive teeth or whiten teeth so well that they’re worth the discomfort (with a warning from our team, of course).