Home-based chemically-induced whitening (bleaching) of teeth in adults

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Dec 18;12(12):CD006202. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006202.pub2.


Background: With the increased demand for whiter teeth, home-based bleaching products, either dentist-prescribed or over-the-counter products have been exponentially increasing in the past few decades. This is an update of a Cochrane Review first published in 2006.

Objectives: To evaluate the effects of home-based tooth whitening products with chemical bleaching action, dispensed by a dentist or over-the-counter.

Search methods: Cochrane Oral Health's Information Specialist searched the following databases: Cochrane Oral Health's Trials Register (to 12 June 2018), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2018, Issue 6) in the Cochrane Library (searched 12 June 2018), MEDLINE Ovid (1946 to 12 June 2018), and Embase Ovid (1980 to 12 June 2018). The US National Institutes of Health Ongoing Trials Register ClinicalTrials.gov (12 June 2018) and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (12 June 2018) were searched for ongoing trials. No restrictions were placed on the language or date of publication when searching the electronic databases.

Selection criteria: We included in our review randomised controlled trials (RCTs) which involved adults who were 18 years and above, and compared dentist-dispensed or over-the-counter tooth whitening (bleaching) products with placebo or other comparable products.Quasi-randomised trials, combination of in-office and home-based treatments, and home-based products having physical removal of stains were excluded.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently selected trials. Two pairs of review authors independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias. We estimated risk ratios (RRs) for dichotomous data, and mean differences (MDs) or standardised mean difference (SMD) for continuous data, with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). We assessed the certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach.

Main results: We included 71 trials in the review with 26 studies (1398 participants) comparing a bleaching agent to placebo and 51 studies (2382 participants) comparing a bleaching agent to another bleaching agent. Two studies were at low overall risk of bias; two at high overall risk of bias; and the remaining 67 at unclear overall risk of bias.The bleaching agents (carbamide peroxide (CP) gel in tray, hydrogen peroxide (HP) gel in tray, HP strips, CP paint-on gel, HP paint-on gel, sodium hexametaphosphate (SHMP) chewing gum, sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP) chewing gum, and HP mouthwash) at different concentrations with varying application times whitened teeth compared to placebo over a short time period (from 2 weeks to 6 months), however the certainty of the evidence is low to very low.In trials comparing one bleaching agent to another, concentrations, application method and application times, and duration of use varied widely. Most of the comparisons were reported in single trials with small sample sizes and event rates and certainty of the evidence was assessed as low to very low. Therefore the evidence currently available is insufficient to draw reliable conclusions regarding the superiority of home-based bleaching compositions or any particular method of application or concentration or application time or duration of use.Tooth sensitivity and oral irritation were the most common side effects which were more prevalent with higher concentrations of active agents though the effects were mild and transient. Tooth whitening did not have any effect on oral health-related quality of life.

Authors' conclusions: We found low to very low-certainty evidence over short time periods to support the effectiveness of home-based chemically-induced bleaching methods compared to placebo for all the outcomes tested.We were unable to draw any conclusions regarding the superiority of home-based bleaching compositions or any particular method of application or concentration or application time or duration of use, as the overall evidence generated was of very low certainty. Well-planned RCTs need to be conducted by standardising methods of application, concentrations, application times, and duration of treatment.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbamide Peroxide / adverse effects
  • Carbamide Peroxide / therapeutic use
  • Chewing Gum
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / adverse effects
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / therapeutic use
  • Mouthwashes / therapeutic use
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Phosphates / therapeutic use
  • Polyphosphates / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Self Care / methods*
  • Tooth Bleaching / adverse effects
  • Tooth Bleaching / methods*
  • Tooth Bleaching Agents / adverse effects
  • Tooth Bleaching Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Toothpastes / therapeutic use
  • Urea / therapeutic use


  • Chewing Gum
  • Mouthwashes
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Phosphates
  • Polyphosphates
  • Tooth Bleaching Agents
  • Toothpastes
  • Carbamide Peroxide
  • Urea
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • triphosphoric acid
  • sodium polymetaphosphate