Does At-Home Teeth Whitening Really Whiten Your Teeth?

Does At-Home Teeth Whitening Really Whiten Your Teeth?

At Home Teeth Whitening
©Igor Gratzer/

A few months ago, one of my patients asked me if the whitening products that you can buy from the store actually whiten your teeth.  She wasn’t too excited about the expensive price that our dental school charges for a custom bleaching tray and professional-strength bleach.

She was looking for a cheaper alternative.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to save money (as long as you don’t get caught up in an online teeth whitening scam), but the question remained: Do at-home teeth whitening products really work?

At Home Teeth Whitening: Does It Work?

At the time, I told her that they do work, but they’re not as effective as getting it done at the dental office because we can use a higher-strength gel than the whitening products that are available over the counter.  I hate answering patients questions when I’m not entirely sure what the answer is, so I decided it would be a good idea to research this question.

Does At-Home Teeth Whitening Really Work?

Crest WhiteStips Advanced Seal Professional EffectsI was able to find a systematic review, which is an academic paper that reviews lots of studies, eliminating the poorly designed studies, and tries to state the best-available evidence on a given topic.

The systematic review that I found from the Cochrane Collaboration states that at home teeth whitening products do whiten your teeth.  However, the effectiveness of the whitening varies based on the strength of the peroxide used in the product.  Here’s their explanation using their academically-appropriate big words:

There is evidence that whitening products work when compared with placebo/no treatment. There are differences in efficacy between the products, mainly due to the levels of active ingredients, hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. All trials were however short term and the majority of the studies were judged to be at high risk of bias and were either sponsored or conducted by the manufacturers.  There is a need for pragmatic long-term and independent clinical studies that include participants representing diverse populations. There is also a need to evaluate long-term harms.

So, the verdict is in!  At home teeth whitening products do actually work to get your teeth whiter.

Before you whiten your teeth it is a good idea to visit your dentist (here’s six reasons why) and to be familiar with the two main side effects of teeth whitening.

Do At-Home Teeth Whitening Products Work For You?

I’ve only used over the counter teeth whitening products a handful of times.  The paint-on gel worked the best for me, while I never got very good results with teeth whitening strips.

How about you?  Have you ever tried whitening your teeth?  Did you notice a difference?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!


  1. What happens if you ask a dentist to whiten your teeth and you already have white fillings that are visible (e.g. at the front)?

    Do they need to be drilled out and replaced with a whiter shade before/after a dentist has whitened your teeth?

    • Hi Joe – The best thing to do in this situation is to whiten your teeth and then get them to the shade that you want them to be. After that, wait a couple of weeks for the shade to stabilize, and your dentist can then replace the old fillings to match your new shade.

      I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for your comment, Joe!

  2. Thank you for sharing this post and enlightening your readers about teeth whitening. As a fellow dentist, I believe that there are many whitening products on the market, so much options from strips to toothpastes to rinses that are beyond our control. But the bottom line is the best way would always be working with your dentist to achieve your whitening goals as the formulations people get from the market only works on the surface and not on the hard to reach areas of our teeth.

  3. I’ve tried several teeth whitening strips and whitening toothpaste from Crest, about 20 strips but I see no change, or maybe it’s so minimal that I couldn’t see. The toothpaste makes me feel my teeth is too clean, like it’s bleached. Now I change to another toothpaste bought in drugstore, a medical toothpaste, something like Lacalut white… Still waiting for the result.
    Thank you for sharing the post, it helps me much.

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