How To Whiten Teeth - EPIC Guide
Updated: Nov 24, 2022
The teeth whitening industry comes out with more and more ways to whiten your teeth each year but how to do it is different depending on the product. This guide will explain how to whiten your teeth with every product known to man. We will also give our opinion on how effective they are, the costs, the pros and the cons for each of them.
All the ways on how to whiten your teeth:
How to whiten teeth with toothpaste
One of the most accessible and inexpensive way to whiten your teeth is with some toothpaste and a toothbrush. Just about every toothpaste on the market states that they can make your teeth whiter if you simply brush with it. It requires no additional effort since it is already a part of your oral hygiene routine.
This is how you use whitening toothpaste:
Rinse your mouth with water and spit it back out.
Wet your toothbrush by running it under water.
Apply toothpaste to your toothbrush.
Brush your teeth for a total of 2 minutes.
Rinse out your mouth to get rid of any residue.
Common brands with whitening toothpastes:
Arm and Hammer
How effective is toothpaste for whitening your teeth?
Whitening toothpaste will definitely make your teeth appear whiter after brushing with it. However, the mechanism that it whitens your teeth may not be what you would have expected.
Toothpaste will whiten your teeth but it is through mechanical removal of surface stains only.
What we mean by mechanical removal of surface stains is that it will get rid of food and plaque that may be covering the surface of your enamel. Basically, it will remove all extrinsic surface stains.
The mechanical removal of stains is NOT the same as what you would think of as "whitening your teeth" which involves oxidizing deeply embedded intrinsic stains. The oxidation of deeply embedded stains is what happens with a professional in-office whitening session at the dentist.
An analogy - What the whitening toothpaste does to your teeth is similar to if you had white marble counter tops but you have oreo cookie crumbles littered all over it. When you wipe it away with a sponge and some soap, you have technically "whitened" the marble counter tops. The same can be said for the toothpaste, you are literally cleaning any stains or colored food particles that may be on the surface of your enamel.
Therefore, toothpaste can whiten your teeth but not in the way that you think it does! It is due to this reason that the effectiveness of it is limited and also why most people seek out alternative ways on how to whiten teeth.
The cost of using toothpaste to whiten your teeth
You can find toothpaste at probably every store that you can think of. The best part about it is that it's incredibly inexpensive because you can find a 6 pack for less than $10 on amazon. In fact, if you buy them in bulk at one of the wholesalers like BJ's or Costco, it can be even cheaper.
Due to its ease of availability and low cost, price is definitely not a barrier to using it. Although there are more expensive toothpastes but they're typically marketed as more natural and premium. An example would be David's toothpaste, which costs $10 for one tube. That is literally six times more expensive than the regular Colgate toothpaste.
Nonetheless, even with that price premium, using toothpaste for teeth whitening is still significantly less expensive than an in-office session with your dentist.
What are the Pros and Cons?
There is no whitening product that is perfect and without any flaws and toothpaste is no exception.
These are the pros for using whitening toothpaste:
Already part of oral hygiene armamentarium
Easy to use
Only removes extrinsic stains on the enamel.
If you have deeply embedded intrinsic stains, you're out of luck because it won't remove them.
Exceptions - Toothpastes that do more than mechanical stain removal
The reason toothpastes can only mechanically remove external stains is because they do not contain any actual whitening ingredients. There are only two substances on this planet that can "whiten" your teeth and they are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide.
Unfortunately the vast majority of whitening toothpastes do not contain either of those whitening ingredients. That is why they're relegated to only mechanically removing surface stains.
However, in recent years there were two toothpastes that came onto the market which DO contain whitening ingredients:
This trend marks a shift in the potential for toothpastes to actually whiten your teeth by chemically oxidizing the deeply embedded stains. That certainly does make these two toothpastes with whitening ingredient within them more effective than the rest of the toothpastes. You can read more about these two toothpastes here to find the best one.
However, you should still take into consideration that for whitening, you typically need to have the gel in contact with your teeth for 20-30 minutes for the higher concentration products. For a lower concentration product like toothpaste, you would require significantly more contact time if it is to be effective.
Now if you think about how long people typically brush their teeth, which is 2 minutes. That isn't quite enough time for the whitening gel to make any noticeable effect!
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How to whiten teeth with mouthwash
Another inexpensive way to whiten your teeth is by using mouthwash. In addition to being easily accessible and purchasable at any local market, it also has a low barrier to entry. It is an undisputed fact that most households already have some type of mouthwash in their medicine cabinet.
Most people use a mouthwash as a part of their everyday oral hygiene routine, which includes brushing and flossing. They may not necessarily have a mouthwash that is meant for whitening but they certainly have a type of mouthwash. They can easily swap out their existing mouthwash for a whitening one.
How to use mouthwash to whiten your teeth:
Floss your teeth to remove all food in between.
Brush for at least 2 minutes so that plaque and food don't prevent the mouthwash from working.
Pour 15 mL of whitening mouthwash into a cup.
Swish the mouthwash around for 60 seconds.
Do not swallow. Spit out and do not eat or drink for 30 minutes.
How effective is mouthwash for whitening your teeth?
Regular mouthwash is not very effective for whitening your teeth because they can only remove surface stains like toothpaste. However, mouthwashes which are labeled as whitening can be effective in whitening your teeth. The reason is because they all contain hydrogen peroxide, which is an actual whitening ingredient.
Here are some common whitening mouthwashes that contain hydrogen peroxide:
ACT Whitening mouthwash
Listerine Healthy White
Crest 3D White Brilliance
Colgate Optic White mouthwash
Since these mouth rinses do indeed contain an actual whitening ingredient, they can be effective. Our only concern is that most people will rinse their mouth for about 60 seconds total, which isn't quite long enough for the whitening to make a noticeable difference.
In-office whitening will have the gel in contact with your teeth for about 20-30 minutes. The customized take home trays will have you wearing the gel while you sleep. All of these methods have your yellow teeth in contact with the whitening gel for a significantly longer period of time than you are rinsing your mouth.
Therefore, our opinion is that it may be helpful but you probably won't have any drastic results. You may want to employ additional methods if you want whiter teeth.
The cost of using a whitening mouthwash
Not just whitening mouthwashes but mouth rinses in general are inexpensive. They typically cost between $5-$10 so they are very affordable. There should be no qualms about using it nor any cost barrier to entry. If your teeth aren't as white as you like, there is no reason why you couldn't have a bottle of this rinse in your medicine cabinet.
The pros and cons
Most people already use mouthwash
Contains hydrogen peroxide
Easy to use
Effectiveness may be limited due to short rinsing time.
Can't swallow it
Our opinion is that you should still give the mouthwash a try to see if it can whiten your teeth. There is no harm and very little downside to trying since it doesn't cost very much. If it works then that's great and if it doesn't, you can always explore alternative options.
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How to whiten teeth with chewing gum
Some people may not have been aware of it but there are chewing gum which were made to whiten your teeth. The label on the packaging specifically states that the gum is for whitening. As for how you use it, it is precisely what you imagined it to be, you chew it.
In case you wanted more specifics, here is how to use whitening chewing gum:
Remove whitening gum from packaging.
Place it in your mouth.
Chew the gum for 20 minutes.
Dispose of gum in trash.
How effective can whitening your teeth with gum be?
You may be wondering since you can swallow flavoring from the gum but not the gum itself, does it really contain any whitening material? It turns out that chewing gum can whiten your teeth but mostly via mechanical means. This means that they physically stick to food and plaque on your teeth and pull them off.
Here are the "whitening ingredients" within chewing gum:
Calprox®. This is a patented product which consist of baking soda. It is basically a form of calcium peroxide. The only whitening chewing gum which uses this patented product is Supersmile. The effects are similar to how baking soda works since it is made of the same ingredient.
Titanium dioxide. It may sound scary but is actually an abrasive material. It works by removing external surface stains via abrasion. Most toothpastes also contain this to help whiten teeth by removing surface stains only. You should read your toothpaste's label, you'll most likely find it there!
Sodium bicarbonate. The scientific name of baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which means that you're chewing on baking soda. Not the most pleasant sounding but it is in a lot of toothpastes. The most common one would be the arm and hammer brand.
Research: If you wanted a study which proves that the gum can whiten your teeth... unfortunately there isn't one. However, there was one study which looked at gum but it found that chewing medicated nicotine gum had a greater whitening effect vs regular whitening gum.
Nonetheless, in our opinion we do have reservations for whether or not it is effective because the chewing gum works on the wrong surface. What we mean by that is when we want white teeth, we want to whiten the lip facing surface and NOT the chewing surface.
Since the chewing gum works via mechanical means, it would only affect the chewing surface. That leaves the surface we want whiten, untouched. Therefore it whitens the wrong surface!
The cost of whitening chewing gum
Chewing gum is incredibly inexpensive and widely accessible. They not only sell them at markets but also at your local delis and corner stores.
Supersmile professional whitening gum - $5.00 for 12 pieces
Trident White gum - $16.77 for 240 pieces
Orbit White gum - $13.84 for 160 pieces
Mentos Pure White gum - $15.00 for 150 pieces
Pros and cons of using chewing gum for teeth whitening
Can be purchased anywhere, in store and online
Great for freshening up your mouth after a meal
May not whiten your teeth as you imagined.
Doesn't actually contain the traditional teeth whitening material.
How to whiten teeth with whitening pens
A fairly new teeth whitening option is using teeth whitening pens. These pens contain whitening material within them and you basically just brush the gel onto your teeth with the pen. Then you go to bed and let it get rid of the stains while you sleep. Convenience at its finest.
How to use a teeth whitening pen:
Brush and floss your teeth so that you have a clean surface to whiten.
Remove the cap from the pen.
If it is your first time using the product, you will need to click the back end of the pen up to 20 times or until the first drop of liquid appears.
Dry your teeth.
Use the pen to brush the material on your teeth. There should be enough material for about four teeth.
Click the back end of the pen to saturate the brush.
Brush it on the next four teeth.
Repeat steps 6-7 until you've covered all of your teeth.
Do not rinse and go straight to bed.
When you wake up, brush off the coating that has formed over your teeth.
Here is a video showing how to use the Colgate Optic White overnight whitening pen:
How effective are the pens for whitening your teeth?
Whitening pens can whiten your teeth because they contain hydrogen peroxide which is the same ingredient as the products your dentist uses. The hydrogen peroxide can chemically oxidize deeply embedded stains that are within your enamel. Once the stains are oxidized, your teeth will become less yellow and whiter in appearance.
The gel of every whitening pen lifts stains in the same way, even if the results vary from product to product. But that doesn’t mean whitening pens are all interchangeable—each product has its own unique set of attributes. Some whitening pens focus on their flavor formula—masking the taste of peroxide with different flavor profiles. Other products enhance their results with usage of an LED light. Other whitening pen brands prioritize their ingredients, whether that’s using all natural products, or making their formulas work for people with allergies or dietary restrictions.
However, the effectiveness of these pens will always be inferior to any whitening products that use a tray as well as in-office methods. They are less effective because they don't have any sort of barrier that can protect the whitening gel from saliva. Your saliva contains a lot of enzymes that will break down fats in the food you eat as well as whitening gel.
Since the pen does not come with a barrier, that makes it inherently less effective than the whitening products that come with a tray. The tray helps to protect the gel from your saliva.
The cost for teeth whitening pens
The whitening pens are relatively inexpensive when compared to the in office products or anything that your dentist has in stock. They do however cost more than the whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes. Nonetheless, they're still worth a try since they are more effective than simply brushing and rinsing your mouth.
Here are some common brands of teeth whitening pens and their price:
Colgate optic white - $34.99
Smile direct club - $17
Reach essentials - $7.25
Pharmacy branded whitening pens - $11.99
What are the pros and cons?
Can purchase at most markets and pharmacies
Easy to use