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Brighten Up Your Smile
Get the scoop on home teeth whitening kits -- and find out when it might be worth springing for a pro
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- by Stephanie Galluzzo
Your Goal: Noticeably whiter teeth
Try: A kit
"Over-the-counter whitening kits and strips can be very effective when administered properly," says Mickey Bernstein, president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, in Madison, WI. All whitening products contain peroxide, which penetrates the pores of the teeth and leaves them a few shades brighter after one to two weeks of regular application. The biggest difference is the method of delivery -- strips, trays, or paint-ons -- and each has its pros and cons. Strips are convenient, but they usually cover only your front six teeth and can slip off. Trays provide more coverage, but they can be uncomfortable to wear. Paint-ons leave no visible coating, but some can dissolve before they have a chance to work.
One we reach for: GoSMILE Advanced Formula B1 ($89; sephora.com). This paint-on can whiten you up to ten shades in a week. Plus, there's no need to rinse or brush it off afterward.
- Your Goal: To maintain your color
Try: A whitening paste
These pastes are formulated with hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, and they're like a deep-cleaning facial for your teeth. They can't penetrate and lighten like a kit, but they do remove surface stains.
One we reach for: Crest Pro-Health Whitening ($3.50). Not only does it whiten and fight tartar, it also combats sensitivity, plaque, and gingivitis.
- Your Goal: A quick touch-up
Try: A whitening pen
To keep new stains from taking hold, zap them before they set. Either swish your mouth with water after eating and/or drinking stain-causing foods (cherries, coffee, red wine) or, for added insurance, toss a whitening pen in your bag.
One we reach for: Whitening Pen from Listerine ($13). Its hydrogen peroxide dissolves stains on contact.
- 3 reasons to see Dr. White
The professional whitening options are turbo versions of what you can do yourself. Costs range from $500 to $1,000 for power whitening and $250 to $600 for custom trays. If any of the following are true for you, a pro might be worth the splurge:
1) You've tried at-home kits and haven't gotten the results you were hoping for.
2) You have fillings or crowns that won't lighten with bleaching and require special treatment.
3) You want whiter teeth -- now.