What the best teeth whitener has
- An easy application method. Strips are probably the most convenient of all teeth whiteners, with whitening toothpastes (covered in our toothpaste report) a close runner up. The gel/tray method can be messier, and is best used if you don't have a sensitive gag reflex.
- A reasonably pleasant taste. Some reviewers were so turned off by the taste of their teeth whitening product -- a particular problem with toothpaste and gels -- that it ended up in the trash. While there are no guarantees that you'll love any flavor, since taste is in the taste buds of the beholder, if you know what types of flavors you like in other items (Fruity? Minty?) that might help you make the right choice the first time.
- Non-irritating ingredients. We're not talking about tooth sensitivity here, as that's a very individual problem and can usually be traced to the active ingredient, hydrogen peroxide, that's used in most teeth whiteners. Rather, we're talking about other ingredients in tooth whitening products. Common inactive ingredients include, but are not limited to, silica, polyvinlypyrrolidone (PVP), potassium nitrate, sodium bicarbonate, and various types of fluorides.
Know before you go
How is your overall dental health? It's important to have a complete oral exam before beginning any whitening treatment to make sure you are cavity-free and don't have any underlying problems like gum disease. Teeth whitening can aggravate these issues and cause further damage and pain.
Do you have extra-sensitive teeth and gums? If you do, a consultation with your dentist before beginning any professional treatment can steer you in the right direction. You may even be better off with a professional whitening treatment -- pain alleviation has come a long way in the professional setting. Many say that it also helps to use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth for several weeks before, during and after treatment.
Are you realistic about the results you desire? Results vary from one person to the next and often are based on the starting condition of your teeth. In compiling this report, we saw many complaints from people who started with bad staining issues and were disappointed that they weren't dazzling white at the end of 14 or 20 days. If you have normal yellowing or discoloration from wine or coffee, most whitening products will give you a nice improvement in color. If you have dark stains or simply have a yellow hue to your teeth, don't expect miracles. If you don't get the results you want from an over-the-counter product, consult with your dental professional to see if an in-office product or procedure would be more effective.
Do you want to maintain that sparkle? Dental professionals agree: teeth whitening shouldn't just be limited to once every six months to a year. While that will brighten your smile for the short term, for the best long term results you should also use a whitening toothpaste, which, again, we cover in a separate report, and rinse, as well as flossing regularly. These products don't even all have to be from the same manufacturer, feel free to mix and match as you find products that suit you.