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No one wants to feel self-conscious about their teeth. In fact, having bright-white teeth can make you look up to five years younger, according to Karen Asp, author of Anti-Aging Hacks: 200+ Ways to Feel-and Look-Younger. But daily wear and tear to your pearly whites can lead to stubborn surface stains over the years (we're looking at you, red wine and coffee).
For the most dramatic and instantaneous results, you'll want to head to your local dentist's office or teeth whitening clinic for a professional whitening treatment, which offers a higher concentration of active bleaching ingredients. The downside: Pro whitening can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,500. If that's not in your budget, the good news is that over-the-counter teeth whitening products have come a long way, and the results now rival those provided by your doc.
What is the best way to whiten teeth at home?
There are three main options for teeth whitening at home: Toothpastes, whitening strips, and teeth whitening LED kit. Pastes offer minimal whitening results, due to low levels of bleaching ingredients, whereas strips and teeth whitening LED kit provide more dramatic results since the whitening ingredients make full contact with teeth for longer periods of time. Here's what you need to know:
Whitening toothpastes: Pastes typically contain mild abrasives like hydrated silica, sodium bicarbonate, and calcium carbonate to polish and remove surface stains and/or low concentrations of active hydrogen peroxide to bleach teeth. "Most conventional whitening toothpastes largely work by using an abrasive called silica to mechanically scrape stains off of teeth, hence the 'whitened' result, not by actual bleaching," explains Dr. Justin Rashbaum, DMD at Supersmile. Look for pastes that contain peroxide if you want real results. You can expect to see visible effects after five or more days of twice-daily use.
Whitening strips and trays: A plastic strip, tray, or mold is used to apply the bleaching ingredient hydrogen peroxide directly to teeth. Each session lasts 30 minutes to two hours, and you'll need up to three weeks of repeated use for full results. If you want to make your teeth white fast, strips are one of the most effective OTC teeth whiteners, as the active ingredient is left on teeth for an extended period of time.
Teeth whitening LED kit: A whitening agent is directly applied to teeth; then a blue LED light is held over them to increase penetration and accelerate results. Like teeth whitening strips, teeth whitening LED kit are very effective because of the amount of time the active ingredient makes full contact with your teeth.