If you do decide to try whitening at home, the American Dental Association suggests you talk with your dentist first, especially if you have:
- Sensitive teeth
- Dental restorations
- Very dark stains or a single dark tooth
- Lots of fillings or crowns
Here’s a guide to help your sort your choices if you want to perk up your pearly whites and keep them shiny.
What Product Is Best for Me?
The answer depends on the dollars -- and days -- you want to spend on brightening your smile. Your choices include:
Toothpastes: These are just like the mildly abrasive, fluoride toothpaste you might use now, but with added polishing agents or chemicals to help remove stains. You might spend anywhere from $1 to $20, though any prices may vary.
Mouthwashes and rinses: These often use a mild hydrogen peroxide solution to brighten your teeth. To give whitening mouthwashes a boost, some people rinse first, and then brush their teeth with a whitening toothpaste. Be ready to spend around $5.
Whitening strips and gels: They use peroxide to help bleach away tooth stains. You put them right on your teeth with a brush or thin strip. A full course takes between 10 and 14 days. You may need to apply them twice a day. You can buy whitening strips and gels from your pharmacy, dentist, or online for around $10 to $55.
Tray-based bleaching systems: These use a mouth guard-like tray filled with a peroxide-based bleaching solution to help whiten teeth. The bleaching tray is worn several hours a day for as long as a month. You can buy tray-based tooth whitening systems from your nearest pharmacy for around $30, or get a custom-fitted tray from your dentist for $150 to $600.
How Do I Keep My Teeth White?
After you've gotten your teeth looking good, you want to keep them bright. Here's how:
Watch out for foods and drinks that stain: Just about anything with acids or tannins can dull your teeth. To keep your smile bright, go easy on white and red wine, sports drinks, carbonated beverages (light and dark), black tea and coffee, berries and other strongly colored foods, as well as sauces such as soy, curry, and tomato.
Dig in to produce and calcium-rich foods: When you munch on fruits and veggies, it can help “scrub” your teeth. Think about how clean your mouth feels after eating a fresh, crisp apple. High-calcium foods such as cheese can aid in keeping your teeth white.
Get regular cleanings at your dentist's office: Professional cleanings will remove plaque, which can pick up stains from what you eat and drink. Your dental hygienist can help keep teeth looking and feeling great.
Sip through a straw: This will reduce your teeth's exposure to staining liquids.