You can get the shine back on your smile with a variety of teeth-whitening methods. There are pros and cons to brightening up at the dentist's office or with an at-home kit.
Whitening rinses. They're easy to use. All you do is swirl it around in your mouth for a minute.
The whitening agent in the product is in contact with your teeth for just a short time, so your choppers get brighter gradually. Rinses can help prevent new stains after you whiten your teeth.
Gel strips. You usually put them on your teeth once a day for up to 2 hours. Depending on how strong the product is, you may need to wear them for 10 to 20 days.
Whitening trays. These are filled with a gel that you fit over your teeth.
They can whiten your choppers fast. But the trays sold in at-home kits aren't custom-made, so they're more likely to rub and irritate your gums. Make sure you follow the directions on the package carefully.
The most common one involves custom-made trays filled with bleaching solution that fit firmly over your teeth. Because your dentist supervises the procedure, a stronger bleaching solution can be used than what's found in home kits.
He may recommend doing everything in his office. In that case, a light or heat source may be used to speed up the process.
Another option is to get fitted for custom-made whitening trays that you can use at home.
Which Is Right for You?
"If your teeth and gums are in excellent condition, you may want to consider an [at-home] whitener," says Kellee Kattleman Stanton, DDS, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
At-home whiteners are easy to use and relatively cheap. But if your teeth or gums are sensitive, custom-made trays that you get at your dentist's office may help you avoid irritation.
Professional solutions used by your dentist are typically stronger than those in over-the-counter kits, so your teeth may whiten more quickly. He can also make sure that sensitive gums don't get more irritated.