Perhaps you’re a tea drinker, or you love red wine — you might even smoke. Whatever the case may be, maintaining a bright white smile can be challenging, even with the healthiest of habits. The good news is that there are many teeth whitening methods that can help you flash those pearly whites instead of those dingy yellows.
Although all toothpastes contain mild abrasives that eliminate certain stains, whitening toothpaste also contains a polishing or lightening agent that can brighten teeth by about one shade, according to Web MD. Because they are sold over the counter, they are safe for most people — but that also limits their effectiveness. If you only need the mildest of whitening, an over-the-counter whitening toothpaste might be powerful enough for you.
If you’ve tried whitening toothpaste and it isn’t quite strong enough for your needs, consider using an over-the-counter whitening kit. Some kits contain bleach-free strips that you’ll apply to your teeth for 30 minutes twice daily for about two weeks. If you’re consistent about the application of the strips, you’ll notice a change after several days. How long the results last depend on your diet and whether or not you smoke. After about four months, you’ll probably need to start the process over again.
If hydrogen peroxide-enhanced whitening strips don’t appeal, try a whitening gel. You’ll apply the gel directly to your teeth with a small wand, also twice daily for two weeks. Like whitening strips, the results will become apparent after a few days and will last up to four months. Alternatively, whitening rinses operate like mouthwash — you’ll swish twice a day for a minute, but the added convenience means it will take several times as long to notice an improvement. With strips and the gel, you’ll get whiter teeth after only a few days; with the rinse, seeing results could take as long as three months.
Some people choose to use a tray-based whitener that can be purchased either at the local pharmacy or at the dentist. A tray whitener uses a peroxide-based whitening agent to whiten teeth, just as the other methods. However, unlike strips, gels and rinses, you can wear trays for as long as a couple of hours a day for up to four weeks.
If you want dramatic results and you want them in a hurry, there is no substitution for in-office whitening. During in-office whitening, the dentist will apply a bleach-based product directly to your teeth while enhancing the treatment with heat. Your teeth will be much brighter after only one visit, which can last as long as one hour. For those people with heavily-stained teeth, more than one visit may be required. If you’re concerned about the potential health risks of tooth whitening, make sure to check out our other blog post, “Is Whitening Bad?“.
There is not one best teeth whitening method, so examine your options and decide which one is right for your teeth and your schedule.