Which teeth whitening gel is best?

No matter how good your oral hygiene is, your teeth can become discolored over time. And, since your smile is one of the first things people see when they meet you, having clean, white teeth goes a long way in making an excellent first impression.

Teeth whitening gels like the Active Wow Teeth Whitening Kit are safe and highly effective at removing surface stains and stains penetrating the enamel. They are more affordable than professional treatments and, in many cases, more effective than other at-home whitening treatments.

What to know before you buy teeth whitening gel

Stain types

Unlike whitening toothpaste, which can gradually lift light surface stains with regular use, teeth-whitening gels are designed to eliminate intrinsic and extrinsic stains.

  • Intrinsic staining. These are stains that lie beneath the tooth’s surface in the dentin, a part-mineral, part-organic material that strengthens the tooth’s enamel. Things like age and medication can cause these stains. Intrinsic stains are more permanent than extrinsic stains and are very difficult to remove.
  • Extrinsic staining. Extrinsic stains are superficial and only affect the tooth’s outermost layer. Coffee, wine, black tea and tobacco are common causes of these stains. Toothpaste may help with some discoloration, but teeth-whitening gels and strips are more effective.

Keep in mind, at-home teeth-whitening treatments, including gels, don’t work on dental work, such as crowns or fillings.

Active ingredients

Teeth-whitening gels usually contain either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. Both ingredients whiten teeth by lifting superficial and deeper stains without causing excessive sensitivity to the teeth or gums. The key difference between them is that carbamide peroxide contains 33% hydrogen peroxide.

Professional whitening treatments done by a dentist typically use between 15% and 43% peroxide. This is much higher than over-the-counter options, which only contain 3% to 20% peroxide.

Generally, the higher the percentage of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, the whiter the teeth. The higher concentrations of peroxide used by dentists, combined with heat and ultraviolet light, can lighten teeth by up to 10 shades in as little as one session. However, these treatments are much more expensive and may not be necessary for those with mild staining.

Some teeth-whitening products don’t use peroxide, making them ideal for those with greater tooth or gum sensitivity. Instead of peroxide, these products often use charcoal or sodium bicarbonate to fight stains.

Risks and concerns

When using any type of bleaching product, there are a few things to consider. For example, hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide work great in teeth-whitening gels, but they should only be used as directed. Extended use of teeth-whitening gels can lead to tooth and gum sensitivity, a burning sensation or even blisters. Although these effects typically disappear in a few days, improper use of the gel can lead to long-term damage, especially to the enamel.

You should also avoid swallowing teeth-whitening gel. Small amounts of peroxide-based gel won’t cause any problems, but if you ingest too much of it, it could cause nausea.

What to look for in quality teeth whitening gels

Mode of application

There are several ways to apply the whitening gel to your teeth, but the most common methods are a tray, strips, syringe or pen.

  • Syringe. These contain gel and can be used to refill custom or molded trays. Some kits come with syringes.
  • Pen. Pens come in handy for spot treatments or precision whitening because you can use them directly on your teeth.
  • Tray. Many trays can be customized to fit the shape of your mouth for all-over whitening. Trays are filled with gel and then gently pressed into place.
  • Strips. Saturated with teeth-whitening gel, strips are typically adhesive and placed against the teeth you want to whiten.

Although the ingredients are more important than the mode of application, some formats are easier to use than others. For example, trays that fit perfectly against your teeth without covering your gums may result in a more even whitening. Strips, meanwhile, are great for the more visible front teeth, but they don’t always reach the back molars.

Duration and effectiveness

Some teeth-whitening gels are designed to lift intrinsic stains, while others are more effective at removing extrinsic stains. Any teeth-whitening treatment, including professional treatments, is most effective when combined with proper oral care. For surface stains, for example, brushing your teeth regularly and after every meal can keep your teeth whiter for up to six months after treatment.

Most teeth-whitening gels also require regular reapplication, usually over seven to 10 days. It is possible to see results after only a couple of at-home treatments, but for best results, continue using the product as directed on the packaging.


Teeth-whitening gels come in air-tight, waterproof packaging. If the package isn’t sealed or if the expiration date has passed, don’t use the gel. The packaging should also have precise instructions on how to use the product. Make sure you follow these instructions precisely to achieve the desired results.

LED light

Many teeth-whitening gel kits use a LED light to speed up the process of lifting stains from your teeth. Research has shown that a LED light boosts the effectiveness of the whitening agents in the gel.


Some brands of teeth-whitening gel come with a money-back guarantee. While this might not be essential to some users, others may be reassured to know a refund is available if they’re not happy with the results.

How much you can expect to spend on the teeth whitening gel

Teeth-whitening gels vary significantly in price. A simple kit with 10 applications meant for minor stains may cost around $15-$20, while the highest-quality kits usually range from $50-$130.

Teeth whitening gel FAQ

Is teeth whitening gel safe on gums?

A. Teeth-whitening gel is generally safe for the gums, but hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide may irritate the soft tissues of the mouth in high concentrations. In severe cases or with extended use, these ingredients may lead to blistering in these areas.

Is hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide better?

A. Hydrogen peroxide works faster than carbamide peroxide, but both ingredients are generally considered safe and effective. When using a teeth-whitening gel, be aware of any sensitivity to your gums or teeth. People with weaker enamel or dentin should use teeth-whitening products with caution. If in doubt, look for a gel with around 22% peroxide and go from there.

How to use teeth whitening gel

Start with clean teeth. Brush for two minutes and floss before applying the gel. If using trays, make sure they fit well in your mouth before adding gel.

Moisture may make whitening gel less efficient, so clean and dry the trays before adding the gel. Use the amount of gel specified on the packaging. Insert the trays in your mouth and leave them as indicated in the instructions. If any gel touches your gums, wipe it away.

Remove the trays and rinse your mouth with cold water. If you have leftover gel in an open package, refrigerate it until the next day. Products may vary, so always follow the instructions on the packaging when using teeth-whitening gel.

Which teeth whitening gel should you buy?

Top teeth whitening gel

Active Wow Teeth Whitening Premium Kit with LED Light

Active Wow Teeth Whitening Premium Kit with LED Light

What you need to know: This kit contains whitening gel plus recovery gel for sensitive teeth and gums. It claims to start whitening teeth within three uses.

What you’ll love: The gel is easy to apply, and the kid comes with a LED light for fast results. It includes 30 treatments as well as custom-molded trays. You can apply the gel with a cotton swab for precise stain removal.

What you should consider: The mouth trays don’t always mold well to the teeth and can be a little bulky. The gel is thick.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top teeth whitening gel for the money

Cali White Smile Vegan Teeth Whitening Kit with LED Light

Cali White Smile Vegan Teeth Whitening Kit with LED Light

What you need to know: It’s a fast-acting gel that lightens teeth by two to eight shades within a week.

What you’ll love: Gluten-free and organic, this easy-to-use gel with 35% carbamide peroxide results in professional-looking results. There are no harsh chemicals or parabens, so it’s safe for sensitive teeth. Trays fit even the back molars, and it comes with a money-back guarantee.

What you should consider: The LED light and tray are a little tricky to use at first. Ideal for extrinsic stains but doesn’t remove age-related stains well.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

SenAllis Cosmetics Syringes and Teeth Whitening Gel

SenAllis Cosmetics Syringes and Teeth Whitening Gel

What you need to know: It’s a potent, sticky gel that works like strips but with better results.

What you’ll love: This smooth, easy-apply gel offers both quick and long-term whitening. It comes with four syringes and can be directly applied to teeth.

What you should consider: It’s not recommended for highly sensitive gums, and trays are not included.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Angela Watson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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