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Lighten up! Dentists explain how to buy the best teeth whitening kit for your needs. 

Beauty trends may come and go, but when it comes to your smile, nobody's ever said “Yellow is the new white.” Pearly whites are always preferable, which is why we got in touch with top dentists to learn the top causes of teeth stains—and which teeth whitening kits work best to do away with discoloration for good.

These are the best teeth whitening kits, according to dentists guidelines:

What causes your teeth to stain?

“Stains on the teeth can be a product of extrinsic sources, like foods or drinks that have dark ingredients, or intrinsic sources, such as a yellowing of the inner layer of the tooth,” explains Scott Cayouette, DMD, a Charleston-based dentist and fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry. “Smoking and the natural process of aging can also contribute to discoloration.”

Skipping these foods, drinks, and habits can prevent future tarnishing—but it’s not enough to reverse existing discoloration. That’s where teeth whitening kits come into play: These whitening treatments can be effective on both extrinsic (surface-level) and intrinsic (below-surface) stains, according to the American Dental Association.

While in-office whitening treatments performed by dentists can be faster per the ADA, they can be costly and cause sensitivity. Luckily, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Operative Dentistry found no difference in the efficacy of over-the-counter or in-office treatments. 

What to look for in a teeth whitening kit

Nervous to jump on the bleaching bandwagon? Ask your dentist to evaluate your tooth sensitivity level before you choose a bleaching product to ensure that you’re opting for one with the right strength. “I generally recommend using a product that contains between 10 and 12% hydrogen peroxide, which is the whitening agent,” says Dr. Cayouette.

As for the right products to get your smile to shine bright, there’s no single option that’s best for all. “Choose a product that fits your lifestyle,” says Trey Wilson, DDS, a New York City-based dentist. “And know that there is variability to whitening results, since genetics, diet, oral hygiene habits, and medication all play a part.”

Whether you want to whiten your smile gradually or brighten up in one long sitting, there's a DIY kit out there for you. Read about our top 13 picks ahead.

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