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White teeth are a sign of good health, good personal hygiene, and even good genes—all things people are attracted to on the most primal level. We'd be lying to you if we said we didn't care about the color of our teeth. As a matter of fact, when someone comments on our pearly whites, we are ecstatic. While this might seem a bit shallow or like we're chasing an unrealistic beauty feat, getting a brighter smile is more accessible than ever.
There's a wide range of at-home whitening products on the market, ranging from fancy and expensive to user-friendly and affordable. Teeth-whitening pens generally fall into the latter camp, offering a pocket-sized dose of whitening agent you can apply anytime, anywhere. Though they can be used to help you work toward a gleaming smile, they're more about maintenance. According to cosmetic dentist Dr. Brian Kantor of Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor in New York City, the benefits of using whitening pens is that it is easy to use and is very convenient. They are easy to carry around, use, and don’t take long to apply.
"Whitening pens are not as effective as the strips or in-office treatments, because the product is not isolated on the tooth long enough. But, if you’ve already whitened your teeth, the pens are great to maintain it," Kantor says. With that being said, while they are a convenient and easy accessory, not everyone should use them. Kantor suggests everyone should consult a dentist before trying any whitening or bleaching products. "You don't want to bleach your teeth if there is decay present, and kids are not candidates for bleaching," he adds.
If you're in the clear, check out our picks for the best teeth-whitening pens below.
Best Overall: AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Pen
AuraGlow makes some really incredible smile-brightening products, and the brand's Teeth Whitening Pen is no exception. Formulated with 35% carbamide peroxide, it works overtime to break down discoloration and remove surface stains from wine, coffee, cola—you name it.
Just twist the bottom to dispense a small amount, and paint it on with the attached brush. One pen contains enough gel for at least 15 treatments. The enamel-safe whitening gel is easy on sensitive teeth and leaves a refreshing mint flavor in your mouth.
Best Budget: Polar Teeth Whitening Polar Teeth Whitening Pen Single
Most whitening pens don't cost a pretty penny, but this little guy is one of the most budget-friendly options you'll find. Containing 35% peroxide, the dental-grade whitening gel delivers noticeably brighter teeth for up to 30 minutes after each treatment.
Best Splurge: Go Smile GLOW on the GO
If you're open to shelling out a little cash to give your teeth the absolute best, reach for the GLOW on the GO. It pairs with Go Smile's Teeth Whitening Pen (and likely any other hydrogen peroxide pen) and uses high-powered blue light to deliver visibly brighter teeth in minutes.
Best With LED: Idoluster Teeth Whitening Kit with Red & Blue LED Light
For a whitening boost, look for something that uses an LED light, like the Idoluster Teeth Whitening Kit with Red & Blue LED Light. It comes with three pens, each containing a 35% carbamide peroxide gel, plus a desensitizing pen and an LED mouth tray that produces brilliantly whiter teeth in just 15 minutes.
Best Set: SmileDirectClub Teeth Whitening Pens
If you like using whitening pens for touch-ups, it's nice to have several on hand. We recommend this eight-pack from SmileDirectClub, which is enough to keep your teeth white for an entire year. Thanks to the brand's time-release hydrogen peroxide formula, the gel keeps working after you apply it.
Best Flavored: Moon Kendall Jenner Teeth Whitening Pen
Without a barrier (like a tray or a strip) between your tongue and the whitening gel, flavor matters with whitening pens. This collab from Moon and Kendall Jenner blends natural oils and extracts from lavender, strawberry, and honeysuckle to bring you an impressively appetizing vanilla-mint taste.
Best for Daily Use: Smilebriter Teeth Whitening Gel Pens
If maintaining dazzling teeth is just as important to you as dental hygiene, reach for Smilebriter Teeth Whitening Gel Pens. You'll get a pack of four pens, each filled with an extra-strength peroxide gel that's tough on surface stains but gentle enough for daily use.
Best Overnight: Colgate Optic White Overnight Whitening Pen
Looking for something that'll brighten your smile while you get your beauty sleep? Your best bet is Colgate's Overnight Whitening Pen, which is formulated to remove 15 years of surface stains in as little as a week.
Best Clean: Tarte Pearly Girl Vegan Teeth Whitening Pen
If you prefer clean formulas, you can have peace of mind with Pearly Girl. Tarte's take on the teeth-whitening pen is this vegan, formaldehyde-free, and paraben-free mixture, which contains cosmetic-grade hydrogen peroxide and a pH-balancing complex for gentle yet effective brightening.
Best Natural: Cali White Vegan Teeth Whitening Pen
For folks looking for natural treatments, we suggest Cali White. The brand's Vegan Teeth Whitening Pen uses an enamel-safe 35% carbamide peroxide gel to make your teeth up to eight shades whiter in as little as a week.
Best for Quick Results: Crest Whitening Emulsions Leave-on Teeth Whitening with Built-in Applicator
No time to waste? When you apply Crest Whitening Emulsions Leave-on Teeth Whitening with Built-in Applicator a few times a day, you can count on it to deliver whiter teeth in just four days. Containing a high concentration of peroxide droplets, the enamel-safe formula works instantly and stays on longer than most other pens.
Best for Surface Stains: AsaVea Teeth Whitening Pen
According to Roberts, without a tray or a strip keeping the gel in place, "the delivery of the peroxide onto teeth does not cause significant whitening." With this in mind, the AsaVea Whitening Pen uses carbamide peroxide to focus on removing surface stains and preventing discoloration.
If we could pick only one whitening pen, we'd have to go with the AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Pen (view at Amazon) on account of its concentrated formula that effectively removes surface stains and prevents discoloration. Having said that, using a pen with an LED light will offer the fastest and most effective results. With this in mind, you might consider the Go Smile GLOW on the GO (view at Ulta) or the Idoluster Teeth Whitening Kit with Red & Blue LED Light (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in a Teeth Whitening Pen
Most of today's teeth-whitening pens are formulated with carbamide peroxide, a whitening agent consisting of hydrogen peroxide and urea. However, some simply use hydrogen peroxide as an active ingredient. Both are considered safe for humans and are known to be effective at whitening teeth.
Teeth-whitening pens usually have small brushes at the tip, similar to many lip glosses and under-eye concealers you'll see on the market. Unlike whitening trays and strips, this allows you to "paint" the gel formula directly onto your teeth in an even coat.
Number of Uses
When browsing teeth-whitening pens, check how many uses each tube offers. While they're all roughly the same size, some pens come with a bit more gel than others. Additionally, some contain higher concentrations of the active ingredient, so you don't need to use as much. Keep this in mind to get the most bang for your buck.
Are teeth whitening pens safe?
Bleaching your teeth with an at-home treatment, like a whitening pen, is generally safe. As mentioned above, most options on the market contain either carbamide peroxide (a combination of urea and hydrogen peroxide) or just hydrogen peroxide. Depending on the concentration, these active ingredients might cause some sensitivity, but they're generally considered safe for teeth whitening.
How do teeth whitening pens work?
Whitening pens use carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide (the same active ingredients found in whitening strips) to bleach the teeth. "In order for teeth to whiten, the peroxide must maintain direct contact on the surface of the teeth. This is why dental whitening trays, strips, and in-office whitening works best," says Roberts. However, when you apply the gel on dry teeth and leave it on for a period undisturbed, a whitening pen will have a chance to work on brightening your teeth.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer specializing in beauty in wellness. After paying for Invisalign out of pocket in her twenties, she vowed to keep her teeth not only straight but supremely bright for life. In her quest for an always-white smile, she's used AuraGlow, Colgate Optic White, and Crest Whitening Emulsions, often with LED lights. You can check out more of Theresa's work on The Spruce.