The Best Ways to Whiten Your Teeth
We all love the look of gleaming white teeth, right? The reasoning seems to be associated with our deep-seated obsession with physical attractiveness — white teeth equal good hygiene, which contributes to overall appearance. Although that’s not technically the case (using too harsh a chemical too often can damage the enamel), people are still constantly in search of a way to whiten their teeth. Read on to learn more about the best ways to do just that.
A trip to the dentist can whiten your teeth in the quickest time possible, thanks to the application of a high-concentration peroxide gel by your dentist or dental technician. Some in-office procedures involve follow-up appointments for patients with especially persistent stains, or they may involve follow-up with whitening trays for home use.
Traditionally, in-office whitening is the most expensive route to go. Many dentist’s offices offer free teeth whitening with a new patient exam, however, which can actually make this the most economical route if you are in search of a new dentist anyway. Some dentists offer free or discounted whitening as a reward for referring other new patients to the practice. Just be sure to read the fine print, and make sure you understand what your insurance will cover before scheduling that new-patient exam. (See also: Will a Dental Discount Plan Save You Money?)
Also note that over-the-counter whitening kits work best when used soon after your regularly scheduled teeth cleanings.
OTC teeth-whitening products are significantly less expensive than whitening procedures at your friendly neighborhood dentist. They’re also more convenient because you can do other activities while wearing whitening strips, trays, or gel.
At-home whitening products are not as strong as those at the dentist’s office, which means teeth will be less white. In a dentist’s office, your teeth would generally be whitened with a hydrogen peroxide formula, while at-home kits usually contain carbamide peroxide. The benefit to this, however, is that the average consumer who follows directions would be less likely to over-whiten or damage her teeth. OTC kits are also more likely to make your teeth and gums sensitive with use.
Two good resources for evaluating which OTC kit might be right for you include Good Housekeeping's Research Institute, which ranked the top four OTC teeth whitening kits, and ConsumerSearch (owned by About.com), which ranks the top-rated products based on expert and user reviews.
Whitening Rinses & Toothpastes
Both whitening mouth rinses and whitening toothpastes are inexpensive and easy to use. Whitening rinses generally contain a relatively small concentration of hydrogen peroxide and can take up to 12 weeks to produce results. Whitening toothpaste, on the other hand, works by removing surface stains only.
Many people report seeing little to no change from whitening rinses and toothpastes. If you regularly drink coffee, tea, or red wine, though, these options could be good investments to maintain white teeth after using another whitening method.
If visiting the dentist or paying for an OTC kit don’t sound attractive (or are out of your budget right now), there are DIY ways to whiten your teeth. The mixtures I’ve seen involve mixing baking soda and hydrogen peroxide (a 2:3 proportion). However, you should be very cautious if attempting a DIY whitening job. Too much hydrogen peroxide and you could over-whiten your teeth or damage the enamel. For this reason, I might choose to forgo a completely DIY method for an ADA-approved whitening product.
What are your thoughts on the best way to get sparkling teeth on a budget? Share your thoughts in the comments!