Who doesn’t want white teeth? Honestly, though. The fact is that perfect, yellow-free tusks have been one of the most universally aspired to ideals for ages, so much so that should anyone ever tell you that they’re 100% satisfied with their smile, you can bet your ass that they’re either lying to you, themselves, or, most likely, both. The good news is that there are distinct factors that lead to discoloration, and ruling them out early can keep your teeth their brilliant selves for as long as possible. The bad, however, is that more often than not people get to these too late, long after the damage has been done.
First, let’s review the basics, the things you probably heard from your dentist as a kid but may have forgotten. Dentist Jean Strathearn reminds us that teeth are discolored because of food stains from things like coffee, tea, blueberries, and red wine. These are called extrinsic stains and can usually be removed or helped. Other stains—permanent ones—are called intrinsic stains, and can be the result of taking antibiotics when your teeth were developing as a kid. Those are much harder to deal with. As far as the obvious things you can do to avoid stained teeth, Dr. Strathearn says you should be brushing and flossing daily. “You want to be careful not to scrub away enamel at the gum line. You want to go below the gum line when you floss—between the gum and the tooth. That’s where people are either too aggressive or not aggressive enough.”
Hardly groundbreaking information, we know, but diligence is the key. Of course, the tools you use are just as important, and these days, there are hundreds of toothpastes to choose from at the pharmacy. Some promise healthier gums, some promise better breath, some are cinnamon-flavored (ooooh)! And then there are those that promise whitening. Do they work? “Well, it’s true to a point,” Dr. Strathearn explained. “It takes a long time. There is an agent in there that will lighten teeth, but it will take a while. It’s noticeable, but not as quick as Crest Whitestrips.” So while you may see a difference over the course of a few months, let’s say, don’t expect results overnight.
Which is why millions of people turn to whitening products each year, in hopes that they can renew their once pristine white teeth to their former glory. And when they do, they’ve got a number to choose from (not to mention a slew of new gadgets). From toothpastes that tout themselves as effective to whitening strips, gels, and even dental procedures, deciding which means to a pearly white end can be tough. So we’ve done the work for you, providing the pros and cons for all the methods out there. Now all you need to do is choose wisely.
How They Work: The basic concept surrounding your standard, over-the-counter whitening toothpaste is simple—to remove surface stains and discoloration. How does it do this? By employing polishers and abrasives, which buff away dark spots, plus gentle chemical bleaching agents.
The Good: First off, there’s the price; these are by far the most universally used form of whitening, and for good reason. You can easily pick up a tube for a five-spot, though, of course, you can upgrade to more expensive options. Aside from that though, they’re also hella easy to use, and effective, to an extent. Sure, you won’t all of a sudden be blessed with perfect chompers, but it’ll help.