You brush. You Floss. You visit your dentist regularly. You take great care of your teeth, but you still want that white movie-star smile. Here’s how to whiten your teeth and keep them bright between cleanings.
The Truth About Tooth Whitening Products
What’s more scary: your yellow teeth, or the price of getting a laser whitening treatment from your dentist? Laser tooth whitening treatments involve applying a hydrogen peroxide treatment to your teeth and using lasers to speed up the bleaching process. This gives you whiter teeth much more quickly than using at-home whitening kits for weeks before seeing results.
The downside is obviously the hundreds of dollars you’ll spend, which is why you’re probably shopping around for a store-bought whitening kit.
Consumer Reports tested several over-the-counter whitening kits. The best they found were Crest Whitestrips Supreme ($50), which you must purchase from a dentist’s office or online. Strips in general perform best, with the exception of Target’s Whitening Dissolving Strips. The i-White – a battery-operated tray with a light designed to speed whitening – was near the bottom of the ratings, despite claims to provide “dental professional results at home.” Products with trays may not fit and excess gel could ooze out and be swallowed. While store-bought white strips perform well, you shouldn’t expect extreme results like you could get from more pricey laser treatments.
If the price of whitening kits (and the questionability of their effectiveness) has you down, you’ve likely opted for a whitening toothpaste. These toothpastes typically cost an extra buck or two than normal pastes, and promise to remove the worst of stains from your teeth. However – while whitening toothpastes may slow the staining process – a study in the British Dental Journal found that the vast majority fell short of their claims to make teeth lighter. Most contain hydrogen peroxide, but in an over-processed, unstable form and in very small amounts.
Home Whitening Treatments to Never Try
Your dentist would be horrified to find out what you’re doing to whiten your teeth at home. If you’ve followed friends’ advice to use lemon juice for removing tooth stains, stop! Lemon juice is far too acidic and can cause teeth to lose calcium – which is irreplaceable once lost. While a little lemon juice spritzed on your food isn’t dangerous, sucking on lemons can destroy teeth.
Another commonly-used, cheap method of removing tooth stains at home involves brushing teeth with baking soda. While baking soda doesn’t kill germs in the mouth, it can remove plaque and break down stains. It can, however, be very abrasive, so avoid using baking soda on your teeth more than once or twice a week and use a gentler toothpaste the rest of the time.
Preventing New Tooth Stains
To reduce tooth stains (and avoid getting them in the first place), go easy on coffee, tea, red wine, and soft drinks (even the clear ones). Especially avoid smoking, and brush teeth after meals as often as possible (take your toothbrush to work). This advice – combined with regular cleanings and checkups from your dentist – can be enough to avoid and even get rid of staining. An occasional round of white strips can help significantly, but make sure you take care of your teeth by keeping them healthy first.
Author Bio: Dr. Nathan Tanner is a dentist in Billings, MT., who has extensive experience through owning his own practice, Grand Avenue Dental Care, and from teaching cosmetic and pain-free dentistry at the OHSU dental school.