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Home teeth whitening (bleaching)

Home teeth bleaching systems can reverse the natural wear and tear that causes yellowed teeth, resulting in a whiter smile.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: June 26, 2012

Treatment Basics

Regulatory approval: Teeth whiteners, including home bleaching systems, are not considered drugs and don't require FDA approval.

Social habits, like smoking and sipping on dark beverages, can tarnish the surface of teeth, causing them to appear yellow and discolored. Home teeth whitening systems can reverse this natural wear and tear, resulting in a whiter smile.

Home bleaching kits come in the form of strips or trays, containing one of two active ingredients—either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Both are equally prevalent in home whitening products and produce comparable results. Learn about two of the most popular and effective home whitening systems: Crest WhiteStrips and Rembrandt FormFit.

Carbamide peroxide was the first ingredient to be used. A slightly gentler compound, carbamide appears in these products in higher concentrations. On average, home bleaching kits contain 5% hydrogen peroxide or 10% carbamide peroxide (dentists can use more than four times this amount). When exposed to water, peroxides create a chemical reaction that breaks down the pigmented elements responsible for staining.

What It's Good For

Home bleaching systems can help cleanse surface level stains that darken and discolor teeth. They work much better on yellow teeth than on grayed teeth, and are unlikely to have an effect on teeth stained by antibiotics such as tetracycline.

Gray teeth are very difficult to whiten because their hue is caused by dead nerves and the loss of blood circulation. This discolors teeth from the inside, where bleach cannot reach. Some dentists recommend dental veneers as a solution to graying teeth.

Who it works for: Home bleaching systems are especially useful for yellowed teeth.

Younger teeth also tend to be more responsive to bleach. Enamel tends to become more brittle with age, and healthy enamel is more responsive to bleaching agents.

When will I see results?: While some systems promise to whiten teeth in a matter of days, others require several weeks of treatment. The strips or trays typically stay on teeth for about an hour at a time.

How long it lasts: Results can last from six months to a year, depending on a person's dental hygiene after the bleaching regimen is complete.

Key benefits of home teeth whitening (bleaching): Take-home systems provide an alternative to professional teeth bleaching. Though it may take longer to achieve a whiter smile, the results can be just as pleasing.

Find experts who offer home teeth whitening (bleaching) near you