As you’re heading back to the office and getting together with friends again, you may want to brighten up your smile. And at-home teeth whitening products are more popular than ever these days.
Teeth whitening has always been popular with her patients, but dentist Courtney Hain, owner of a general and cosmetic dental practice in San Francisco, said she’s seeing more interest in whitening lately.
“Patients spending time on virtual meetings have noticed things that they would like to correct about their smiles, including the shade of their teeth,” she said. “In addition, many patients missed a cleaning or two during the pandemic, leading to an increased accrual of stain.”
Teeth whitening is also buzzing on social media. On TikTok, for example, #teethwhitening videos have been viewed more than 1 billion times. But not all the whitening advice on the site is good for you.
Some TikTok users have claimed that scrubbing your teeth with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers can whiten them quickly. Dentists strongly discourage this practice, however. The sponges are highly abrasive, which could damage tooth enamel, Hain said. They also contain chemicals not meant to be consumed and that could make you sick.
While you should skip the Magic Eraser, there are lots of safe and affordable at-home teeth whitening options out there. Here’s what the pros say are the best teeth whiteners.
First, here’s what you should know before whitening your teeth at home.
“Tooth whitening is something that we do in a healthy mouth situation, so it’s important to make sure that your teeth are healthy before launching into a whitening program,” said dentist Matthew Messina, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association.
If you have tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, periodontal disease, plaque or tartar buildup, or haven’t had your teeth professionally cleaned in a while, you might not see results from whitening and it could even cause irritation, Messina said. So it’s a good idea to visit your dentist regularly.
Artificial dental restorations, like bonding, crowns, veneers or implants, won’t change color with teeth whitening, said Catrise Austin, a cosmetic dentist in New York City and author of two books about teeth whitening.
Whitening also works better on some stain colors than others. Yellow tints respond best to whitening, but grayish or brownish hues not as much, Austin said. She recommended asking your dentist for a color analysis or purchasing a tooth color shade guide to identify your level of discoloration before you whiten.
The Best Teeth Whitening Products
The active ingredient in whitening products — used by dentists and available over-the-counter — is hydrogen peroxide, or a derivative called carbamide peroxide, said Austin, who recommends looking for hydrogen peroxide products. Dentists use products with a 16 to 40% concentration of hydrogen peroxide, but the ones available OTC usually have a much lower concentration.
“An over-the-counter product is going to work a little slower,” she said. “It will work, though. Read your labels. Find out what type of peroxide is in your product. If you can get a percentage, if it says it on the label, look at that.”
Using higher-concentration products without the supervision of your dentist increases the likelihood of sensitivity. If your teeth or gums become irritated after using a teeth whitening product, Messina suggested talking to your dentist.
Look for an ADA Seal of Acceptance on products, too. Messina said that indicates it has been independently tested and is safe and effective. And always follow a product’s instructions.
Here are the best teeth whitening products, according to dentists:
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.