Whiten Your Teeth at Home
Michael Friedman, DDS
You flip through old photos and notice your grill doesn’t glisten like it used to. Luckily, you can get back your pearly whites without shelling out a lot of green. There are many safe, effective, and affordable over-the-counter (OTC) products that will brighten your smile. You can use them in the comfort of your home.
What’s the Best Option?
It depends on your goals and how much time and money you want to spend. Matthew Messina, DDS, an adviser for the American Dental Association in Cleveland, OH, says to opt for a well-known brand you can buy from a popular store or online. Some of your options include:
Whitening toothpastes: These are like gritty cleansers that lift surface stains from your teeth. “They are safe and moderately effective, but they aren’t likely to give you the whitening results you’re looking for,” Messina says. He adds that toothpastes help keep your teeth white after your dentist bleaches them.
Whitening strips: You apply these to the surface of your teeth for a certain amount of time. Hydrogen peroxide lifts the stains. You can expect your teeth to lighten about five shades, Messina says.
Paint-on or brush-on formulas: You apply these before bed for 2 weeks.
At-home trays: If you get them from your dentist, she’ll make a mold of your teeth to create fitted trays. She’ll give you a strong bleaching gel to use at home. Over-the-counter systems work the same way. But they can cause irritation and may not work as well. Some OTC kits come with a bendable mouthpiece. These work better than one-size-fits-all trays. The bleaching gels that come in these kits aren’t as strong as the ones you get from a pro.
Is It Safe?
Most teeth whitening kits use a bleaching agent, like peroxide. Studies show the process is safe. But check with your dentist to see if your teeth are healthy enough. “You want to make sure there aren’t any underlying problems like decay or periodontal disease that could be causing your teeth to turn yellow,” Messina says.