A brighter and whiter smile is more than just a cosmetic upgrade to your appearance. It may have deeper effects on your subconscious. Multiple studies have shown that people rate a bright smile as one of the most attractive features in other people. Other research links higher self-esteem and a white smile, which may lead to more personal and career opportunities. Yet even if you agree that it’s time for whitening for your smile, you have a lot of options to choose from today. Cut through all the marketing and overwhelming selection at the local drugstore to find the best whitening options for you.

Whitening Toothpaste: Limited Effects

Many people assume that grabbing a whitening toothpaste off the shelf and using it twice a day is all they need for good results. However, these products rarely do much to lift existing yellowing or stains from coffee and wine. They can help keep whitening teeth from getting as stained, but they may also lead to sensitivity. Your dentist can recommend a whitening toothpaste that’s higher quality than those at the drug store to help maintain your smile between professional whitening services. Avoid highly abrasive products like toothpaste products that contain powdered charcoal since scratching your enamel will only weaken your teeth in the long run.

Home Whitening Strips: Uneven Results

Simple flexible strips that melt onto your teeth may seem like a quick way to get a little tooth whitening at home. One mistake with the placement of the strip will lead to leftover staining along the tooth edge or damage to the gum tissue from exposure to the lightening compounds. It’s tricky to get the strips on just right and then you’re still likely to end up with uneven whitening. You’ll also need to use the strips for weeks to see results and may develop sensitive teeth from the long period of exposure. Many people find the strips uncomfortable to wear as well, not to mention unpleasant tasting.

Home Whitening Trays: Messy Mixtures

For at home whitening with trays and liquids, you have two options. DIY kits are messy and tend to contain whitening liquids that are quite harsh on the gums. Your dentist can also create a custom tray and liquid kit that is much more likely to give you good results without sensitivity or gum damage. The difference is that you’ll get bite trays that fit your teeth perfectly, ensuring you only need a small amount of whitening gel or liquid to coat the teeth and get even results. The DIY kits can’t offer this kind of custom treatment. If you really prefer the at-home tray method for whitening, talk to your dentist about getting a high-quality kit from them instead of shopping for over-the-counter solutions.

Professional Whitening: Reliable Brightening

In-office whitening services from your dentist are the best way to lighten your smile. The dentist has multiple approaches available to lift stubborn stains and create an even color across all your teeth. If you have crowns, veneers, or other dental work, you’ll definitely need a dentist to handle the whitening. Trying to use a DIY kit at home will only damage the dental work and leave it a noticeably different color from the rest of your natural teeth. If there is any sensitivity or gum irritation related to your whitening experience, the dentist can immediately treat it and give you a much more comfortable experience than you'll get with DIY products. You don't want to spend your money on a kit from a store just to end up seeing the dentist anyway to treat unexpected side effects like pain or irritation.

Whitening Lights: Best Administered by a Pro

You may find UV or LED lights sold online as medical devices meant for lightening and brightening the smile. These products are only safe for professional use, even if they’re sold to the public. Many consumer-grade tooth-whitening lights are ineffective and do nothing. The professional grade models can cause eye damage or skin damage if used improperly, so you don’t want to mess around with them if you do manage to find them. Let the dentist handle the light-based whitening treatments so you can feel assured that you’re not putting yourself at risk for other serious health problems in your quest for a brighter smile.

Make the most of every grin and smile with a little whitening. For most people, professional in-office whitening from a dentist is the best option. Your dentist may recommend other high-quality toothpaste or easy trays to use between visits so your smile stays sparkling. Choosing a teeth whitening dentist is a good way to ensure you can visit the same office for routine cleanings and care as your cosmetic procedures.