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4 Great Ways To Whiten Your Teeth And Brighten Your Smile

I've actually tested each of the options.

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Cristina Spanò
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I have been concerned about the color of my teeth since I got braces in the eighth grade. I remember looking at those photos the orthodontist had on the ceiling showing what could happen to your smile if you didn’t brush well enough.

That was the 1980s, and I had a few too many scrubbing parties with the baking soda — which led to receding gums and surgery a few years later — since there weren’t a lot of options for teeth whitening then.

Well, times have changed (I still don’t recommend using straight baking soda on your teeth), and there are so many ways to brighten your smile on any budget. I can officially say: I’ve done them all. Here are four to try.


Whitening strips have been my go-to for a long time.

I’ve tried every brand from the most expensive to natural to generic. For me, I think they all work the same and I never noticed my teeth got whiter — even when I tried the expensive brand.

Whitening strips contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide and bleach your teeth much like bleach can whiten clothes. Whitening strips target both extrinsic stains (caused by diet, smoking, etc.) and intrinsic stains (caused by aging, genetics, medications or too much fluoride). This type of whitening technique is best when you are looking to get a few shades whiter or want to maintain your smile after an in-office whitening treatment.

You may have sensitivity to these strips, so be aware of that.

In-office whitening

Many dentists and cosmetic offices offer whitening treatments. These take a lot longer (a few hours) than using a strip at home and are more expensive. Prices range from a few hundred and up, so check with your local dentist or cosmetic boutique for their pricing.

During this procedure you will have a cheek retractor in your mouth to expose all your teeth. A bleaching gel is applied to your teeth after your eyes, gums and lips are covered so none of the bleaching gel gets on them.

The gel is activated using a special UV light and left on for about 15 minutes. The gel is taken off and then the process is repeated, depending upon how white you want your teeth. It’s important to take Tylenol or Advil before this procedure, as you will probably have heightened sensitivity for about 24 to 48 hours. Also, avoid dark foods and drinks for at least one or two days. That means no coffee, dark cola, berries, tomatoes, red wine or juice.

This is the fastest way to brighten your smile, and it will yield better results than the whitening strips.

At-home kits

There are many at-home kits to try if you want more whitening than a strip can provide but don’t want to spend the time or money on going to a dentist’s office. There are many different varieties to choose from, so do your research, read reviews or ask friends if they’ve tried any of them. They range in costs — some come with a light which yields better results, and some don’t. It really depends on how much you want to spend and the time you want to invest.

Coconut oil

If you are looking for an all-natural way to whiten your teeth with zero sensitivity that won’t break the bank, then coconut oil is the way to go. My hygienist let me in on this secret years ago after showing me a picture of her daughter’s teeth. She told me the only thing her daughter used was coconut oil. She would oil pull every night, which means she’d swish some edible coconut oil around in her mouth and then spit it out. The coconut oil doesn’t bleach your teeth, yet it is said to help get rid of the plaque that sticks to teeth and causes buildup. This does leave an oil residue on your teeth, and it is great if you already have white teeth and are trying to maintain the pearly whites.

As I mentioned, I’ve tried all these options. My honest opinion is they all work about the same, with the in-office treatment being slightly more effective and the coconut oil being a good addition to a strong oral hygiene and whitening routine.