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    Whiten Your Teeth at Home

    By Michelle Leifer
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by 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 and rinses: These are like 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 and rinses 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.

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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    Never
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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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