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.
Some of your best bets to do it? You could get a professional bleaching at your dentist’s office, apply a home-use 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 gel stays on for 15 or 20 minutes. That process is repeated once or twice. Sometimes the dentist aims a light 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 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. It 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.