3 Ways to Get a Whiter Smile (And Which One’s Best for You)

There are lots of different ways to whiten teeth, using everything from small lasers to strawberries to get the results you want. So which one is best for you?


3 different ways to whiten your teeth

Photo by Richard Foster via Flickr.  

Nothing says confidence like a bright, radiant smile. Nowadays, there are a variety of ways to make your teeth whiter, whether you try a home remedy, an over the counter (OTC) treatment, or a professional, in-office treatment. The only question is, which whitening treatment is best for you? Everyone’s teeth are different, so that all depends on the state of your teeth and what you’re able to afford. To help you choose, you can take a look at our breakdown of the different ways to whiten your teeth.

Whitening options:

1. In-office Procedures

To get the fastest and most dramatic results, in-office is the preferred option. At an office, a dental professional is able to use stronger agents that quickly and effectively whiten teeth. You can actually see results within an hour, sometimes 10 shades lighter in a single session.  Still, they keep the gums and the rest of the mouth protected from the bleach and other whitening materials. Only the the front 8 teeth are treated, and your dentist may continue your treatment by recommending a take-home or OTC product as part of a whitening program. Depending on how well you care for you teeth, your treatments could last for one or more years.

Laser Teeth Whitening

First, the dentist will apply a barrier over your gums, protecting them from the whitening materials. Next, the dentist will use a syringe to accurately apply the concentrated whitening solution to your teeth. They will then use a small laser to activate the formula, and the compound will foam as it lifts the stains from your teeth.

Once all the teeth have been whitened, the dentist will let the solution remain for a few minutes before wiping it off with a small vacuum tool. Then, a new layer will be applied, and the steps will be repeated 2-3 times over.

Custom Bleaching Trays
Your dentist will begin this process by creating a customized mold of your teeth to create the trays. Unlike generic teeth trays, these are custom fit so that they provide uniform coverage of the whitening gel. In-office whitening treatments also use a much higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide (home treatments use about 5% whereas professional treatments use up to 43%). Your dentist will then seat the tray firmly against your teeth, wiping off any excess gel. Your dentist will keep the tray on your teeth anywhere from 30-60 minutes before removing it and cleaning your teeth.

2. Over the Counter Treatments

Although OTC whitening treatments may not be as affecting as in-office programs, they are often more affordable and convenient to use. Some common treatments are available at your local drugstore, including whitening strips, special toothpastes, and take-home whitening trays.

Whitening Strips

Whitening strips vary in price and procedure depending on the level of brightening your looking for. They are small, plastic strips that fit and stick to the outer surface of your teeth. The side that sticks to your teeth has a peroxide gel that helps to whiten teeth. Generally, the stips are used for 30 mintutes a day over the course of several days, varying by the type of strip.

Toothpaste and Rinses
To whiten teeth at home, there’s the option of using a whitening toothpaste, mouthrinse, or both to get the results you want. Certain toothpastes contain gentle polishing agents to remove surface stains when you brush. A mouthwash can contain hydrogen peroxide as a bleaching agent to whiten teeth. Using them daily will help to whiten teeth over time.

Take-Home Whitening Tray
An OTC whitening tray kit works very similarly to the in-office procedure. However, because it’s meant to be used without a dental professional's supervision, it contains a much milder formula in the gel. The trays can be used once a day, worn for 30 minutes during each session.

3. Natural Whiteners

Using natural whiteners at home are a cheap and healthy way to brighten your smile. Plus, you can find many of these options in your own pantry. However, they won’t be as effective as professional or OTC treatments, and there isn’t a lot of proof to back up their teeth whitening abilities. But they will at least leave your mouth feeling fresh, and maybe, possibly just a tad whiter.

Baking Soda and Lemon Juice

Mixing baking soda with lemon juice to make tooth whitening paste is an easy home remedy. It’s common knowledge that baking soda is helpful for whitening teeth. It’s a mild abrasive, so it gently scrubs away surface stain. It’s also an alkaline (opposite of acidic) so you can enjoy the natural benefits of lemon juice without having too much acidity in your mouth.

Before you begin, wipe excess saliva off your teeth with a paper towel. You’ll need several teaspoons of baking soda and enough lemon juice (or water, if you don’t want to use lemon) to form a paste. Once mixed, use your toothbrush to apply the paste onto your teeth. Leave the paste on for 1 minute and then rinse with water.

Strawberry, baking soda and salt
Strawberries contain two key ingredients that help whiten teeth: Vitamin C and malic acid. It’s been thought that Vitamin C helps to break down plaque that yellows teeth, and the enzyme malic acid helps to remove surface stains. The baking soda neutralizes the acidity and helps whiten, while the salt helps turn the strawberries into a paste that can scrub away stains.

Mash 2 or 3 large strawberries into a pulp, adding a pinch of salt and half a teaspoon of baking soda. Wipe excess saliva off your teeth with a paper towel, and then use a toothbrush to apply the strawberry paste. After 5 minutes or so, spit and rinse.

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling with coconut oil is an ancient Indian remedy to whiten teeth naturally. The Lauric acid in coconut oil clears out the bacterial plaque that yellow teeth. It also helps keep breath fresh and protect against gingivitis.


Before you brush your teeth, scoop out a tablespoon of olive oil and swish it around in your mouth. (You can also soften it before you put it in your mouth.) Push, pull, and swish the oil around your teeth for 10-15 minutes, then spit out the oil, and brush your teeth.

What is the best way to whiten teeth?

It all depends on your unique situation. Some home treatments may work to brighten teeth a little, but you’re going to get the best results with professional treatment. After all, some stains may be too deep to get rid of with OTC product. On the other hand, if all you want is to make you smile just a little whiter, then a home whitening treatment may be all you need. Either way, it’s good to consult your dentist about what is best for your teeth.

How to get affordable, professional whitening treatments

If you’re looking for the most effective whitening treatment possible, a professional dental procedure is your best option. Many people don’t even consider this option because of the high cost associated with it. However, there are ways to get cheap dental care, including whitening treatments, by joining a discount dental plan. You can find out more about the savings offered by Carefree Dental here.

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