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Oral Care

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Choose the Best Teeth Whitener

By Lisa Hill
WebMD Feature

Are your pearly whites not quite as white as you’d like? There’s a lot you can do to turn your stained or yellowish choppers into brighter, dazzling ones.

“You can see why whitening is so popular. It works for most people,” says Edmond R. Hewlett, DDS, an associate dean at the UCLA School of Dentistry.

Recommended Related to Oral Health

Best Tips and Tools to Whiten Your Smile

By Abbie Kozolchyk You can easily romanticize a few laugh lines (hey - every wrinkle is but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life, according to Dickens). But time's effects on your smile can be considerably harder to write off, no matter how talented the scribe. There's the yellowing or graying of teeth, the thinning of lips, the appearance of lip lines...and the list goes on. On the bright side, home tools that fight tooth discoloration (to say nothing of the latest in-office...

Read the Best Tips and Tools to Whiten Your Smile article > >

Some of your best bets to do it? You could get a professional bleaching at your dentist’s office, apply a home-use bleaching product from your dentist, or use over-the-counter whitening strips. The right option for you depends on how much you want to spend and how quickly you want to see results.

Option 1: Go to a Pro

Your dentist will use a much stronger whitener than anything you could get at the store or online.

Whitening gels used by dentists usually have a 25% to 40% concentration of hydrogen peroxide, says Yiming Li, DDS, PhD, professor of restorative dentistry at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry. That’s the stuff that changes the color of your teeth.

The whitening gel is applied and stays on for 15 or 20 minutes. That process is repeated once or twice. Sometimes a light is aimed at your teeth to speed up the whitening (although most studies show the lights don’t do much). This whole treatment costs around $500 or $600, but many dentists offer discounts to attract new patients.

Hewlett says you should see a difference in the dentist’s office after about 45 minutes.

Victor K. Ryoo, DDS, owner of Ryoo Dental in Fullerton, CA, has seen varying results with in-office bleaching.

“People expect that they’ll come in for an hour and that their teeth will be dazzling white and that’s not the case. It will always depend on what the starting point is and what their habits have been in the past,” including whether they're heavy coffee drinkers or drink red wine, he says.

Option 2: Takeout

Your second option is to ask your dentist to give you a take-home treatment. He’ll take an impression of your teeth and use that to make a fitted tray. The whitening gel goes inside the mouth guard. The gel comes in several strengths. You can wear the guard while you’re asleep if you have a lighter gel, or for 30 minutes to an hour each day if it’s a higher-power option.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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You are currently

Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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