Teeth whitening, once an option only for the wealthy, is now very affordable. Though there are still expensive techniques that your dentist provides, such as professional dental trays and power bleaching kits that can run upwards of $600, there are now effective and affordable options, such as whitening strips and gels you apply directly to the teeth. These products cost between $15 and $30.
The best way to find out if you need to whiten your teeth is to go to a cosmetic dentist who will give you a definitive answer. There is also a test you can do right in your home that should give you a good idea on whether whitening is for you, says Dr. Jeff Golub Evans, a cosmetic dentist in New York and past president of the American Academy Of Cosmetic Dentistry.
If your teeth have a yellowish or brownish hue compared to a piece of white computer paper, then you are probably a candidate for whitening. But if your teeth are grayish compared to the paper, then you probably are not a good candidate, he explains.
Dr. Golub Evans showed us some of the teeth whitening methods and products now available:
Power Bleaching- This technique is used in many dentist offices and goes by several different names. Some of those you may have heard of include "Brite Smile" and "Zoom." Power bleaching uses light to accelerate a whitening solution. This typically takes about an hour and costs between $400 to $1000. You will see results immediately.
Professional Dental Trays- With this product, a professional-strength solution is placed in a tray fitted to your mouth by the dentist. It's available in light, medium and very strong. Trays can be worn overnight or for about an hour during the day. The trays costs anywhere between $300 - $600. It usually takes a few days to see results.
Over-The-Counter Dental Trays- The idea is the same as the professional dental trays, except the solution used here is weaker. Also, the trays are not custom fitted. Dr. Golub Evans says these over-the-counter trays can cause problems. The solution can leak out of the trays and give you a sore throat. With most of these products, you can expect to see results within a week. Prices vary widely. However many products run in the range of $10 to $30.
Whitening Gel- The gel is made with a polymer system that will adhere to your teeth so that the whitening ingredients can work without the use of a tray, which some people find messy, says Dr. Golub Evans. The gel removes surface stains as well as stains within the teeth. You should expect to see results within a few days. The gel retails for $14.99.
Whitening Strips- Dr. Golub Evans says whitening strips are considered very safe. You place them on your teeth twice a day for 30 minutes at a time and you can expect whiter teeth within two weeks. It's important for people using strips to remember that they should avoid liquids such as red wine and black coffee. The strips temporarily make the teeth more porous which means they can stain more easily. The strips retail for about $39, but there are many deals that bring down the price.
Whitening Toothpaste- The paste is only on your teeth for a short amount of time, so Dr. Golub Evans says it does very little to whiten your teeth substantially. But he says it won't hurt your teeth either. Prices range from about $2.50 to $5.
Whitening Floss- You use this product just like regular floss. Dr. Golub Evans says it's good for people who may drink a lot of tea and have discoloration in the areas near the spaces in their teeth. Floss prices range from $3.50 to $6.
Whitening Gum - Most people chew gum for less than half an hour, so Dr. Golub Evans says that's really not enough time for the ingredients in the gum to work very effectively. Gum prices range from about $3.50 to $9.