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    The Best Teeth Whiteners For Your Pearly Soon-To-Be Whites

    Don't worry, we factored in everything from sensitivity to taste.

    We hope you love the products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

    Yellowing teeth are nothing to smile about. But neither is sinking your hard-earned cash into an ineffective teeth whitener.

    Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, Warner Bros. Television / Via

    So we went on a quest to find which products could actually transform our pearly yellows to pearly whites. There were lots of obstacles: sensitivity, unappealing tastes, bleached gums — and did I mention sensitivity? Yet, at long last, we came back with some shining reviews about our discoveries (and, yes, whiter teeth).

    Editor's Note: We're currently updating these picks! Check back soon for more.

    Tarte Pearly Girl Vegan Teeth Whitening Pen


    Not only is Tarte’s teeth-whitening pen vegan and cruelty-free, it has also proven to be as effective as more traditional methods in the same price range. It only takes 30 seconds to work (applied four times a day, as recommended), and will have you showing off your new pearly whites with just a few swipes of a pen. Sure, you have to grin weirdly with an open mouth for 30 seconds, but what’s half a minute compared to a lifetime of whiter smiles?

    Tooth sensitivity can be a major factor with traditional whitening methods, and the culprit is the main ingredient in most of these treatments: peroxide, which can soak through the enamel of your teeth and temporarily increase dental sensitivity (densitivity?). While Tarte’s formula does contain hydrogen peroxide (as well as amorphous calcium phosphate, a patented vegan-friendly compound that enhances whitening effects), our testers didn’t experience any increased sensitivity while using it — probably because the product only sits on your teeth for 30 seconds, where many other treatments sit for 30 minutes or more. In addition, it contains a “neutralizing complex” that balances pH levels to create a gentler feeling when applied. One of our reviewers noted that her teeth are usually quite sensitive, but she was still able to use the Tarte pen comfortably over a long period.


    An unfortunate fact of life is that — unless you’ve actually been wearing your retainer every night for the past 20 years like your orthodontist told you to (oops!) — you might not have perfectly straight teeth. Those people can find it difficult to use whitening strips, since they come in one size and shape. The Tarte pen is a great solution to that problem, as it lets you paint each individual tooth for an even application, thanks to its soft-bristle brush and gel designed to cling to teeth for “360-degree effects” — a success for straight and uneven teeth alike.

    While you do have to apply it four times a day, the overall time commitment is still less than most strips, which often require you to stay put for 30 minutes to an hour. And reviewers noted that the tube is about the size of a lipstick, making it easy to use on the go. The site even recommends using it “post-coffee,” which is great for people like me who can just see our teeth getting yellower with each sip of coffee.

    Granted, it takes a little longer to see the same level of whitening as with our $$ pick, Crest Whitestrips (hence the multiple times a day), but if you’re looking for a safe bet that’s pain-free and cruelty-free, this treatment is for you.

    Get it from Sephora for $22, from Tarte for $22, or from JCPenney for $22.

    Crest 3D White Luxe Professional


    If you’re looking for a brand that’s well established, widely trusted, and recognizable, few can can top Crest. In fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) announced in 2017 that Crest 3D Whitestrips were the only home-use tooth-bleaching product to receive the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Their reputation is hard-earned: Every tester had visibly whiter smiles at the end of our research. According to ADA spokesperson Dr. Matthew J. Messina, “To apply for the seal, a company has to present at least two critical studies that are independent.” Next, the company submits a safety demonstration and the ADA evaluates the product in a laboratory to ensure that it does not harm tooth enamel.

    So what exactly do these little strips do to make such a big difference? “If you look at tooth enamel under a really powerful microscope, it looks like a chain-link fence. It’s a crystal, and stains or coloring get stuck in the holes of the ‘fence,’” says Dr. Messina. According to the ADA, there are two ways whitening can solve this. There are bleaching products that contain peroxide to help remove both deep and surface stains (like you’d get from years of smoking). Then there are non-bleaching whitening products that use physical or chemical agents to help remove only surface stains (i.e., the aftermath of a particularly dark bottle of pinot noir). Crest 3D Whitestrips are in the former category. Their main ingredient, hydrogen peroxide, works to break down up to “14 years of stains.”


    While there was a general consensus that everyone experienced sensitivity while using these (some more than others), the pros of whiter teeth ultimately outweighed any discomfort. Even after one use, our teeth were already a shade lighter. In fact, the strips were so effective for one tester that she noticed the same bleach spots (spots that are whiter than the rest of the teeth) that she’d seen after a professional whitening (they quickly faded).

    The process is easy enough: Remove the top and bottom strips from their backing and apply. It takes two seconds to smooth them over your teeth, and they stick for the full 30 minutes; it feels like wearing a retainer. While some testers opted to slap these on while watching Netflix or lounging around the house, one reviewer even wore her strips while riding the NYC subway (a daunting enough task in itself).

    Tooth sensitivity does tend to increase the more frequently you wear them, which Dr. Messina says is normal. Most of us decided to wear them about three times a week to avoid consistent pain while still reaping the benefits. Since the results are immediate, this didn’t pose any problem: we still observed continual improvements in our smiles.


    Crest 3D Whitestrips also required less immediate upkeep after eating or drinking staining agents like coffee. The bleaching effects lasted despite our testers’ daily coffee, but did tend to fade (only slightly) if we didn’t use the strips for about a week.

    While the cost (on average $46) is higher than many of us would normally be willing to spend on nonessential products, this box lasts a LONG time. If you spread your usage out like some of our testers did, just one box of Crest 3D Whitestrips could easily last two, even three months. Dr. Messina suggests whitening for seven to ten days and then waiting a month before beginning another session.

    If you want to level up your teeth’s sparkle and you’re prepared for some mild sensitivity along the way, these are definitely the way to go.

    Get it from Amazon for $45 or from Walmart for $45.

    Just Get A Professional Whitening


    Much as it pains us to admit it, there are times when DIY isn’t your best option. If you want top-of-the-line teeth whitening, get thee to a DDS. While dentist-supervised whitening uses the same not-so-secret sauce (hydrogen peroxide) as our $$ pick, Crest 3D White Whitestrips, the treatment you’ll get at a dentist’s office involves a much higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide. The Crest Whitestrips we chose contain 10% hydrogen peroxide, the maximum allowed for over-the-counter treatments, while professional treatments can contain up to 40% hydrogen peroxide. A higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide translates to faster results; it can also lead to increased sensitivity, so make sure to talk to your dentist about that. If you opt for an in-office procedure (more on the other professional options in a minute), you could see results in as little as an hour. So if you’re impatient for gleaming white chompers or you’ve got a big event coming up (wedding, graduation, literally anything where you might run into an ex…), the only safe way to get those results more quickly is to book a professional whitening.

    There are a few different types of in-office whitening. If you’re looking for really fast results or if you simply can’t trust yourself to stick to an at-home routine, the fully in-office procedure is probably the way to go. Prices vary widely, but chances are you’ll be looking at spending $300 to $800. The dentist applies the whitening gel to your teeth (after protecting your lips and gums), and you’re good to go in about an hour. Some dentists also apply a light or laser to your teeth, which may or may not help speed the process along (though the ADA website states that “most studies have reported no additional long-term benefit with light-activated systems”).


    Many dentists also offer at-home whitening options. They’ll make custom molds of your teeth and use them to create trays, which you then take home and use with a whitening gel (which will also have a higher hydrogen-peroxide concentration than over-the-counter whiteners). Because the trays are custom-fitted, they’re more effective at whitening your teeth evenly than a one-size-fits-all option like the Crest 3D Whitestrips. (On the other hand, you’d look a little weird wearing them on the subway.) The process can take as little as a week, and you usually need to wear the trays for an hour a day. The ADA notes that one study found “an OTC (over-the-counter) bleaching technique took 16 days to achieve the whitening level of a seven-day at-home tray system and a one-day in-office procedure.” Take-home whitening is significantly cheaper than in-office, but it will still run you a few hundred bucks on average. When it comes to the take-home option, dentist and ADA spokesperson Dr. Maria Howell says that “Success depends on compliance.” In other words, if you put in the time, you’ll see the results. But if you can’t commit to using the trays every day, it’s probably better to go in-office.

    Something else to consider when you’re deciding between OTC and professional whitening: If you’ve had problems with your teeth or gums in the past, it’s a really good idea to have professional supervision before covering them with bleach.

    Bottom line? If you want the best teeth-whitening money can buy, put your money in the pocket of your local dentist.