As we all know (and hopefully are practicing), you should be brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing. But even if you are practicing your daily oral hygiene to perfection, it only takes a few cups of morning coffee to make your pearly whites ... not so pearly.
If you can’t make it to the doctor’s office for a teeth-whitening session, here's some good news: With the right teeth-whitening kit, you can make your smile sparkle in the comfort of your own home without shelling out the big bucks. Below, we talk to Dr. Jon Marashi, celebrity dentist and Byte's chief cosmetic dentist, about how you can whiten your teeth at home — plus, we list the best at-home teeth-whitening kits you should know about.
Why Aren't My Teeth White?
Before we get into the solution, let's consider the root cause. Marashi says that the issue could be — you guessed it — your oral hygiene.
“White teeth always start with your at-home oral care,” he says. “So if you’re not brushing and flossing properly, you’re not going to get too far with teeth whitening!”
"White teeth always start with your at-home oral care."
Marashi also notes that external stains from food and beverages like coffee, tea, red wine, and berries add layers of plaque on the teeth, which cause staining and discoloration. "Also, your teeth naturally darken as they age over time," he adds.
Tips for Whitening Your Teeth at Home
According to Marashi, before using a teeth-whitening kit, you should "mechanically" cleanse your teeth of any plaque buildup by either doing a deep cleanse at home (brushing and flossing) or by getting a professional cleanse.
“The second way is to internally whiten the teeth by combating the aging process, because the tooth is actually darkening from the inside out,” says Marashi. “This technique is known as teeth whitening.”
Though teeth whitening can be done in a variety of ways, Marashi notes that the most common uses are over-the-counter trays and adhesive strips that contain a peroxide solution.
"The peroxide soaks into the teeth and breaks up the discolorations on the inner aspects of the tooth, thereby whitening it," he says. However, if you're expecting instantly brighter teeth, we have news: Marashi says that these options usually take one to two weeks to see results.
“The peroxide soaks into the teeth and breaks up the discolorations on the inner aspects of the tooth.”
"Results can be hit or miss, but in general, these products are relatively inexpensive, so it is hard to go wrong," he says.
One issue that people run into with teeth whiteners is sensitivity. If you have particularly sensitive teeth, Marashi recommends making a dentist appointment for a professional treatment, where they'll use protective barriers around the gum line to prevent tooth sensitivity.
“People with very thin enamel or who are sensitive to cold drinks and so forth typically don’t fare as well — it’s like going outside wearing a t-shirt instead of a winter coat,” he says.
Also, if you have veneers or crowns, you probably won't see any results from at-home whiteners. "Teeth whiteners will not work on veneers or crowns," says Marashi. "They are designed to be color stable, so the peroxide solution doesn’t soak in."
“Teeth whiteners will not work on veneers or crowns.”
If you're ready for a brighter smile and would rather skip the dentist's chair, these at-home teeth-whitening kits are among the best out there. Below, check out our favorites:
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