Q: My teeth aren’t white at all. Which products or procedures do you recommend?
A: Teeth whiteners contain a chemical called hydrogen peroxide. Oxygen hits the stains and breaks them up; then you wipe them off into oral oblivion. The upside is that teeth whiteners are inexpensive and can be purchased at your local pharmacy. The downside is that hydrogen peroxide can cause temporary tooth sensitivity and/or gum irritation. If this occurs, try a desensitizing toothpaste and a soft toothbrush.
For bigger bucks, you can have your teeth whitened in a dentist’s office, where a high-intensity light is used to activate the oxygen. Although over-the-counter methods take longer to deliver the oxygen—a half hour for ten days to two weeks—office treatments are quick and painless. Here’s a rundown on your options.
Fastest method with the strongest effect, reaching up to ten shades lighter. The bad news? It costs $500 to $1,200.
Probably the best over-the-counter method. Results go up to four shades lighter. Great options are Rembrandt Whitening Wand, Britesmile-to-Go pen, and GOSMiLE, but the first two are reusable, so bacteria can build up. GOSMiLE is single use, so there are no hygiene issues, but it is more expensive. Bonus: These brighten the back teeth better than strips do.
Can reach four to six shades lighter, but only on the front six teeth.
Tray and Gels (In-Office or OTC)
This is an older technology and has the potential to cause gum irritation, so it’s best to do with a dentist. At home, the temptation is to abuse it, which can lead to tooth sensitivity.
An everyday experience. These toothpastes remove stains from teeth by polishing or chemical removal.
The Ideal Combo
If you can afford it, use an in-office whitening method, then follow up with brush-ons and toothpastes at home.
Studies have shown that repetitive whitenings using safe, low concentrations of active ingredients produce longer-lasting results. Just do not repeat more than once every two weeks, or you’ll thin your enamel. (Home whitening strips don’t appear to harm enamel, however.)