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Ask the Expert: Does Whitening Mouthwash Really Help Whiten Teeth?

Everyone knows that brushing and flossing are essential for dental health. But even those habits may not deliver the pearly whites you’re looking for. If that’s the case, a whitening mouthwash could be the next logical step.

We want to be clear: even the best whitening mouthwash isn’t a magic bullet solution to yellowing teeth. However, we’ve always believed that these products are an important tool in our overall oral hygiene. Before we chose the best whitening mouthwash for SPY readers, we wanted to talk to an expert and find out if these products really work.

The good news? The best whitening mouthwash really can help reduce the stains that cause yellow teeth.

How Does Whitening Mouthwash Work?

Whitening mouthwashes work the same way a great whitening toothpaste works: By using ingredients to help break down plaque and remove food residue or by staining the teeth white. For the most part, whitening mouthwashes do the latter, using ingredients with a bleaching effect. Dr. Kate Zoumboukos, a dentist at SW Austin Dental in Texas, says, “Whitening mouthwashes may contribute to extrinsic or outer tooth stain reduction. Active ingredients in cosmetic mouthwashes often include either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide.”

The key to the effectiveness of a whitening mouthwash (or any mouthwash, really) is the foaming and bubbling action; they give the hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide more coverage around your teeth, and if you don’t rinse afterward, more exposure time to whiten.


Do Whitening Mouthwashes Have Any Risks?

First and perhaps most obvious, using mouthwash does not substitute for brushing and flossing, Zoumboukos says. Further, other factors could be at play if you do not see whiter teeth from brushing or other whitening products. “Teeth may have restorations (old fillings or crowns) that will not whiten, and it can be helpful to identify before investing in whitening products,” she explains. “Your dental professional can also identify conditions in your mouth that may restrict, limit or modify your ability to whiten teeth, such as tooth sensitivity, deep staining and other conditions.”

There’s also a small risk over time of increased sensitivity to your teeth if you habitually use whitening mouthwash, but there aren’t long-term studies to support any hard conclusions.

Beyond those concerns, if you have typical oral health and don’t have a history of tooth sensitivity, there aren’t any significant risks to your teeth or downsides to be aware of, as long as you’re not swallowing the whitening mouthwash.

If you’re ever worried about the product you’re buying, Zoumboukos recommends looking for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, which verifies a safe and effective product.


How to Use a Whitening Mouthwash for Best Results

First, read the directions on the bottle. Most mouthwashes follow the same basics: Pour a cap full of your whitening mouthwash of choice, rinse for 30-60 seconds and spit. If you have more sensitive teeth, err on the side of less time. For best results, try not to eat or drink for 15 minutes afterward to give the ingredients time to continue working.

Now, with the basics covered, let’s check out a few of the best whitening mouthwashes. When used after brushing, they can help provide additional whitening on visible teeth and harder-to-reach places. You’ll likely find they also improve your general oral health by supporting enamel through fluoride and helping to kill bacteria.


1. Listerine Healthy White Vibrant Fluoride Mouthwash


The Listerine Healthy White Vibrant Fluoride Mouthwash has everything you need for whiter teeth and improved dental health. The hydrogen peroxide helps brighten surface stains while sodium fluoride supports your enamel, helping to keep teeth strong. If you have more sensitive teeth, a whitening mouthwash with fluoride like this can offer a ton of pain relief.

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Courtesy of Amazon


2. Crest 3D White Glamorous White Whitening Mouthwash


Crest is huge in the tooth game, especially whitening, so it should be no surprise to see the Crest 3D White Glamorous White Whitening Mouthwash here. Just use it twice a day alongside regular brushing to let the hydrogen peroxide work its magic, and Crest guarantees you’ll see a whiter smile (as do numerous reviewers on Amazon).

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3. Colgate Optic White Advanced Whitening Mouthwash


If you’ve heard of two whitening brands, they’re Crest 3D White and Colgate Optic White. The Colgate Optic White Advanced Whitening Mouthwash contains 2% hydrogen peroxide to whiten and brighten surface stains. Plus, Colgate’s Whiteseal technology helps minimize future stains in between brushes.

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4. ACT Whitening + Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash


Fluoride mouthwashes can do a lot for your oral health. Like our top pick, the ACT Whitening + Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash combines the whitening you want with the additional fluoride support you might need. If you’re not keen on some of the other brands, ACT has been around forever, and its mouthwashes have been studied a million times, so it’s about as safe a choice for whitening and improving dental health as there is.

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5. Crest Pro-Health Advanced Anticavity Extra Whitening Mouthwash


With 4.7/5 stars on over 5,800 reviews, the Crest Pro-Health Advanced Anticavity Extra Whitening Mouthwash is one of the most popular and best-reviewed mouthwashes on Amazon. With sodium fluoride for anticavity reasons and hydrogen peroxide for whitening, this mouthwash is a no-brainer for optimal oral health.

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6. Amazon Basics Whitening Mouthwash


It’s hard to argue with the bargain value Amazon brings to the table with its Amazon Basics Whitening Mouthwash. With a similar formula to name-brand whitening mouthwashes, including hydrogen peroxide, this mouthwash brightens teeth and saves you a dollar or two at the same time.

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7. Dr. Brite Whitening Mouthwash


The Dr. Brite Whitening Mouthwash takes a different approach to its formula than others. Instead of using what amounts to water and hydrogen peroxide, this whitening mouthwash leans into natural ingredients, including organic coconut oil, aloe vera, activated charcoal and non-acidic Vitamin C. While this likely won’t achieve the same level of whitening as a mouthwash with hydrogen peroxide, the activated coconut charcoal could help to minimize stains and will leave your mouth feeling cleaner and your breath fresher.

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Courtesy of Amazon


8. Bite Mouthwash Bits


Bite is the maker of the popular no-waste toothpaste bits, which provide a plastic-free alternative to oral hygiene. The Bite Mouthwash Bits are one of the company’s best products, and you may find you actually prefer them to traditional mouthwash (we certainly do). To try out these innovative products, which are formulated with a non-toxic fluoride alternative, sign up for a subscription at the Bite website. Designed to freshen breath and fight cavities, this product is also made to help whiten teeth over time.

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Courtesy of Bite