How to Get Your Biggest, Brightest, and Whitest Smile

A past study by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, claims that having a whiter smile can boost your mental health and enhance your career prospects. According to New York City-based Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Julian Isaacs, “when a patient’s smile makeover is done and they get a mirror for the first time, the reactions are amazing. There are smiles, hugs, and tears of joy that really make it all worth it.”

Here are some of the most effective whitening solutions for your teeth, including in-office systems, at-home kits, kinds of toothpaste, natural treatments, and dental veneers.

In-office Treatments

Dental office treatments often produce greater results, as they utilize a teeth bleaching process and can make your teeth whiter than they ever were naturally. One example of in-office teeth whitening systems is the Philips Zoom in-clinic portfolio, which has treatments that can lighten teeth up to eight shades.

While most treatments are in-office only, there are some that combine an in-office treatment with at-home use, such as the Philips Zoom QuickPro. For this particular procedure, two layers of the whitening varnish are applied in-office and then brushed or wiped off 30 minutes later. After the in-office portion is complete, patients are typically given an at-home kit to quick-start the whitening process.

If you opt for the Philips Zoom tray system, you will receive custom-fitted whitening trays to be worn at-home for either 30 minutes twice a day or overnight. Patients usually see results within two weeks of starting the at-home treatment. All of the Philips Zoom solutions have the ADA seal of approval, along with the in-clinic treatments that vary in cost, but average around $500.

At-home Products

At-home treatments take a bit more commitment than in-office treatments. They can be used as a substitution or in addition to custom-molded trays or Zoom solutions to maintain your new smile. The main difference between results from in-office and at-home teeth whitening is the expected shade differential. At-home teeth whitening products remove stains that have built up over the years, which means they can only help your teeth go back to their natural shade. Dr. Isaacs, a New York City-based Cosmetic Dentist explains, “they take anywhere from seven to 21 consecutive days of treatment to see the full results.”

Whitening toothpaste contains polishing beads and/or whitening agents to aid in stain removal. Like in-office treatments, some over-the-counter toothpaste also contains hydrogen peroxide, but in lower concentration relative to prescribed options, such as silica and charcoal. Thus, a whitening toothpaste would be your best option if you have more sensitive teeth and cannot tolerate in-office whitening.

Additionally, whitening strips and whitening rinses that are hydrogen peroxide-based can help individuals achieve a whiter smile. Depending on the person, whitening strips can show results within days of use, while whitening rinses typically take several weeks or months.

Dental Veneers

Dental veneers (also known as dental porcelain laminates and porcelain veneers) do not just fix the color of your teeth, but can also provide a long-term solution for teeth that are worn down, chipped, or misaligned and uneven. In addition to being able to personalize the color of your new teeth, your dentist will also be able to correct the overall appearance of your smile. The veneers are either made from porcelain or composite resin, with the choice of material to be specific to your lifestyle and the results you are seeking.

The veneer process is irreversible as your dentist will have to wear down the top layers of enamel before taking impressions and going ahead with the procedure. It is important to make sure you discuss any concerns with your dentist before taking the next steps. The process itself generally is not painful and requires three visits to the dentist. The first visit will allow you to discuss the procedure with your dentist, the second one will involve removing the top layers of enamel, taking imprints, and possibly even receiving temporary veneers to be fitted during a third visit. At this point, the color of your new veneers can still be adjusted by using different types of adhesive to stick the veneer to your natural tooth.

Results can last up to 15 years and you can treat your veneers as natural teeth as there are no specific cleaning instructions. You may suffer from more sensitive teeth after the procedure, but your dentist will advise on how to deal with that if it does happen.

Natural Solutions

Coconut Oil Coconut oil is a popular option if you would like to keep your teeth whitening chemical-free. In order to whiten your teeth using coconut oil, you will need to “pull” the oil, meaning you need to swish the liquid around your mouth for anywhere between five and 15 minutes, so it “pulls” back and forth through your teeth and gums. Fortunately, there are products packaged for single-use, making it easier to use coconut oil on-the-go. Alternatively, you can also use standard coconut oil that you may already have in your pantry. For best results, you should “pull” the coconut oil once a day.

Charcoal Powder Another popular natural option is activated charcoal powder that you dip a wet toothbrush into. The substance has also been used to detoxify the body and is thought to be effective at whitening teeth because it lifts debris off the teeth. While it will not be able to single-handedly give you a smile whiter than your natural shade, it can help rid of any lingering stains. One precaution you should take is to be careful not to swallow activated charcoal, as it can affect hydration levels and even affect the absorption of certain medication.

Baking Soda Baking soda has also long been used as an effective at-home teeth whitening method. Its chemical makeup enables it to gently lift stains off your teeth over time, similarly to charcoal. Both of these methods should be used at least four to five times a week, although more frequent use will not have any negative effect.

Other There are other alternatives that are said to whiten teeth too. In fact, they are common ingredients that may already be in your kitchen! Lemon or orange peels, strawberries, and even magnesium-rich leafy greens are all reported to enhance the brightness of your smile.

These natural solutions may be effective for some types of stains, but Dr. Isaacs says, “depending on the cause of the dark teeth they may not work.” If you are not seeing desired results with natural solutions, it could be worth having a discussion with your dentist to discuss alternatives.

When to Avoid Whitening

Teeth whitening is not for everyone. Children 16 years old or under should not whiten their teeth because the nerve of the tooth is still enlarged at this age and whitening can cause gum tissue to become irritated. Additionally, pregnant women and women breastfeeding should not whiten their teeth because of the chemicals found in teeth whitening pastes and other products.

Furthermore, those with sensitive teeth should discuss this sensitivity with a dentist before undergoing any at-home or in-office teeth whitening procedure. Dentists will be able to discuss options that minimize the risk of sensitivity being increased by teeth whitening. When asked about potential options for patients with sensitive teeth, Dr. Isaacs suggested a two-step process to reduce the risk of increasing the issue, explaining that “after the procedure, I’ll give my patients a desensitizing gel in order to help with any post whitening sensitivity.”

This article originally appeared on Aedition