How Do OTC Teeth Whitening Products Work?

Over-the-counter teeth whitening products work in one of two ways: 

  • Mechanical. Whitening toothpastes use special abrasive ingredients, like silica or baking soda, to physically scrub surface stains from your tooth enamel while you brush. 

  • Chemical. Whitening mouthwashes, strips, pens and tray kits (and some toothpastes) use bleaching agents, like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, to chemically break down stain-causing particles. These bleaches can also whiten the dentin layer underneath your enamel.

What is the Difference Between OTC Teeth Whitening Products and Those From a Dentist?

You can buy products for teeth whitening over the counter in your local drug store. Your dentist may also offer whitening products like take-home bleaching trays, as well as in-office treatments like laser whitening. 

The main difference between OTC teeth whitening products and those you get from your dentist is the concentration of bleach. Your dentist is able to use much stronger bleaching agents than those you’ll find in the store, so the results are faster and more dramatic. However, as you might expect, these professional treatments cost a lot more than OTC whitening.

How Long Does it Take to See Results With Teeth Whitening Products?

That depends on the type of whitening product. As a rough guide, you can expect to start noticing a whitening effect from toothpaste after 1-2 weeks of daily use, or sooner if you combine it with a whitening mouthwash. Toothpastes with abrasives and bleaching agents will generally work faster than those with abrasives only, and the stronger the concentration of bleach, the sooner you’ll see results. For pens and LED kits, you may start to notice improvements in a matter of days. And with professional in-office whitening, you can expect to see noticeable results instantly.

How Do I Choose the Best OTC Teeth Whitening Product For Me?

The best over-the-counter teeth whitening product for you will depend on a couple of factors: 

  • The type of staining. For surface staining from food, drink, or smoking, both abrasive and bleach-based whiteners can help. If your teeth are discolored due to age, medications, oral health problems, or other “intrinsic” factors, though, you’ll need a whitening product with bleaching agents for best results. 

  • The level of staining. The more staining you have, the more work it will take to achieve white teeth. You may need to choose toothpastes with stronger concentrations of bleaching agents, or try more advanced products like LED whitening kits. 

  • Your smile goals. If you’re just looking to freshen up a dull smile, whitening toothpastes or pens will give you the boost you need. But if you want to see a significant color change, go for an LED whitening kit or an in-office treatment. 

  • Your deadline. Got a special event coming up? If you need white teeth fast, an express whitening pen or an LED whitening kit will get you the fastest results outside of your dentist’s office. 

  • Your budget. OTC teeth whitening options are much cheaper than professional whitening. However, if your budget is tight, start with whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes; these are typically very close in price to regular toothpaste and mouthwash. 

  • Your schedule. If you’re struggling to fit whitening around a busy schedule, whitening toothpaste and mouthwash can replace your usual products without adding any extra time to your routine. However, don’t be put off from trying other OTC teeth whitening products; as you’ll see in the next section, there are lots of teeth whitening options that can fit seamlessly into your busy day. 

Unveiling Colgate’s Advanced OTC Teeth Whitening Technology

Whatever your goals, budget and schedule, Colgate has you covered. Read on to discover our full range of advanced, effective OTC teeth whitening products.

Whitening Toothpastes: Simple Daily Whitening at Home

For everyday whitening, Colgate® Optic White® Stain Fighter® Toothpaste uses a gentle micro-polishing effect to safely lift away surface stains. After just two weeks of daily use, it removes up to five times more surface staining than an ordinary toothpaste. The formula also prevents new stains from sticking, keeping your teeth whiter for longer.

Need something a little stronger? Colgate® Optic White® Renewal Toothpaste contains our patented 3% hydrogen peroxide formula for a more pronounced whitening effect. After just four weeks of daily use, it leaves teeth up to 10 times whiter than a normal toothpaste.

For very stubborn stains or strong discoloration, try Colgate® Optic White® Pro Series Toothpaste. With 5% hydrogen peroxide, it contains the highest levels of this powerful bleaching agent available in an over-the-counter whitening toothpaste. When used every day for two weeks, it can remove up to 15 years of stains – while still being gentle on enamel and gums.

Whitening Mouthwashes: The Perfect Addition to Your Whitening Routine

For extra daily whitening power, why not add a whitening mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine? Colgate® Optic White® Whitening Mouthwash uses powerful hydrogen peroxide to safely lift away stains and prevent new stains from forming. While it gently whitens your teeth, the alcohol-free formula freshens your breath without drying out your mouth. When you combine this mouthwash with Colgate’s Optic White Toothpaste, you can enjoy whiter teeth in as little as five days.

Whitening Pens: A Convenient Solution for a Bright Smile

If you’re looking for a little extra whitening power without the time investment, an OTC whitening pen like Colgate® Optic White® Overnight Teeth Whitening Pen may be the solution for you. To remove years of staining in just one week, you simply click the pen, brush the hydrogen peroxide bleaching gel onto your teeth, and let the formula work its magic while you sleep. The enamel-safe gel uses slow-release technology to prevent sensitivity, while the precision pen and fast-drying formula protects your gums from irritation.

For even faster whitening results, try the Colgate® Optic White® Express Teeth Whitening Pen. It offers all the benefits of the overnight pen, protecting against sensitivity and irritation. But it gets to work faster, giving noticeable results in as little as one day. If you’ve got a special event coming up, it’s the perfect way to get a sparkling smile fast.

LED Whitening Kits: Advanced Technology for Rapid Results

If a dramatically whiter smile is your goal, an LED whitening kit is perhaps the most powerful over-the-counter teeth whitening option out there. The Colgate® Optic White® ComfortFit LED Teeth Whitening Kit takes the bleaching power of hydrogen peroxide gel and amplifies it with advanced purple wavelength technology, removing up to 10 years of staining in just three days of daily use. 

The enamel-safe bleaching serum is designed to give maximum whitening without causing sensitivity or irritation, while the soft, flexible LED device molds comfortably to your teeth for even, consistent whitening. And don’t worry about squeezing it into your busy day – you only have to use the kit for 10 minutes a day to get impressive, professional-looking results. 

As always, the foundation of a bright, white smile is good oral hygiene. Brushing twice a day, flossing every day, and getting regular professional cleanings can make a huge difference to the color of your teeth. And if you decide to opt for a whitening treatment, these steps will make sure your newly refreshed smile stays brighter for longer. If ever you’re in doubt about the best OTC teeth whitening product for you, your dentist or hygienist will always be happy to offer advice.


This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.



What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay