7 Things You Need To Know About Teeth Whitening, According To A Dentist

With the help of geode lips, glitter lips and holographic lips (and, OK, Kylie Jenner's Lip Kits), our collective smile game has officially been taken to the next level. But as we all know, our lips only account for half of the equation. With all of the crazy lip art taking over the internet, it's important for us all to remember to take care of our pearly whites, too, because no lipstick shade (matte, sheer, shiny or otherwise) is going to look its best set against a set of yellowing teeth. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep your teeth looking white.

Our options for teeth whitening, which used to be limited to bad-tasting white strips or a multi-thousand dollar dentist visit, are now endless. There are methods at every end of the spectrum as far as cost, commitment and color change, which allow pretty much anyone to make minor — or major — improvements to the shade of their teeth.

However, with the variety of choices comes the reality that all whitening methods are not created equally. According to Dr. Timothy Chase of SmilesNY, "It's all about strength of bleach and amount of time," and here's what he wants you to know before you decide which one is right for you.

1. Keep 'Em Clean

Goby Brush Kit, $50, Goby

You wouldn't bleach a pair of white jeans without trying to get the stains out the regular way first, (at least, I wouldn't), and the same logic applies to your teeth. Dr. Chase suggests getting a full-mouth cleaning before you make any decisions about whitening so you have a true sense of what you actually need before you decide to invest.

2. There Are A Variety Of Delivery Systems

Bright White Smile Teeth Whitening Pen, $25, Bright White Smile

Gone are the days of trying to pillow talk with plastic sheets over your teeth. Now, there are trays, pens, brushes and gels, too. As far as the drug-store options go, it's pretty much personal preference as to what you think works for you. And don't worry, you can still get the strips, too.

3. You Can Whiten On A Budget

3D Crest White Strips, $32, Amazon

Those white strips you see at the checkout counter at CVS? Yup, they're the real deal. "Go out and buy a box of white strips and see how diligent you can be to follow the directions," says Chase. "It's a good way to kind of judge what kind of result you would get with an at home product. It’s pretty inexpensive and you kind of get a gauge of where you’re headed." Try out the white strips for a few weeks, and if you aren't satisfied with the results (and are prepared to spend a lot more money) check with your dentist about the options he/she can offer you.

4. Over The Counter Treatments Take The Longest

Aura Glow Deluxe Home Teeth Whitening System, $50, Amazon

At home treatments require a weaker bleach to protect the soft tissue in your mouth, so the process takes longer (hence the strength of bleach/length of time comparison). "At home, when you put peroxide on a tray or you paint it on your teeth, most of the time you have to use a peroxide that’s rather weak because at home it kinda goes everywhere, says Dr. Chase. "If you put a kind of strong peroxide on soft tissue on gums and tongues and lips it can burn. It’s a weaker peroxide and because it’s weaker you have to do it a lot longer to get the results you want."

5. Your Dentist Can Prescribe You A Stronger, Faster Treatment To Use At Home

If you're not willing to wait for multiple months to see whiter results, talk to your dentist. "You can get custom trays that fit around each and every one of your teeth, and then the dentist can give you a stronger material that you can put in the custom trays," says Dr. Chase. "It’s a much better delivery system because it holds the bleach where it should be and minimizes the burning lips and gums." Because the whitening gel is being confined to your teeth, it won't damage the soft tissue so a stronger bleaching solution can be used.

6. If You Need Your Whitening Done Quickly, Opt To Do It In The Office

This is the most expensive option, but it's certainly the fastest and most effective when compared with the others. "In the course of an hour and a half, your dentist can cover all of the soft tissue [in your mouth] with what’s called a 'barrier', which allows him to use a strong bleach that gets you a really quick result," says Dr. Chase. "A strong bleach won't hurt the teeth no matter how strong it is, but it will burn the gums. But if we cover the gums, we can use the strong bleach for a short amount of time and get good results in one appointment."

7. Smile!

Because you're never fully dressed without one. Duh.

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