There are countless teeth whiteners on the market, but many kind of bite. These four treatments and five au naturale solutions are sure to bring a (bright, gleaming) smile to your face.
LIGHT TREATMENTPhilips Zoom WhiteSpeed
How it works: After applying a protective resin to your gums, a dentist paints peroxide gel onto your teeth. Expect to sit for 45 minutes while a light device activates the chemical reaction of the whitening gel.
Good for: Sensitive types.
"Much of the pain people feel from whitening is caused by peroxide on their gums," says Dr. Jeffrey Rappaport, co-owner of Lavaan Dental Spa in New York City. "Here we can protect them, and if you have sensitive teeth, we can adjust the duration and intensity of the light."
Results: Teeth can turn up to eight shades whiter; the treatment lasts from six months to a year.
Cost: $395; find a dentist at zoomwhitening.com
STRIPSCrest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips
How it works: Flexible strips coated with a peroxide-based gel are applied to teeth for 30 minutes daily, 20 days in a row.
Good for: Multitaskers.
The strips adhere securely, so they'll stay in place while you take calls or hit the gym.
Results: Strips don't contain the same strength of bleach that dentists use, but you can still expect noticeably whiter teeth for six months to a year.
Cost: $50; target.com
TOOTHPASTERembrandt Deeply White + Peroxide Fresh Mint Toothpaste
How it works: Hydrogen-peroxide particles scrub off surface stains, plus "the formula penetrates the enamel and bleaches teeth at the deeper level," says Dr. Arthur Glosman, a cosmetic dentist in Beverly Hills, California. The longer peroxide is in contact with teeth, the better it works, so spend at least two minutes each time you brush.
Good for: Guys who whiten regularly.
The daily paste prolongs the results you've gotten from strips or a professional treatment.
Results: Most will notice whiter teeth in two to three weeks, and if you've just had a professional treatment, you won't be subject to the same re-darkening that naturally occurs over time.
Cost: $8; drugstore.com
ON-THE-GO POLISHSupersmile Icy Mint Quikee Instant Whitening Polish
How it works: Dab a pearl-size drop of this calcium-peroxide formula onto teeth and smooth across with your tongue until it dissolves.
Good for: Guys in a hurry.
It's compact and easy to travel with, and you don't have to brush or rinse.
Results: The gel removes the stain from your morning espresso but won't correct deep discoloration.
Cost: $18; ulta.com
WHITER TEETH WITHOUT THE BLEACH
We've dug up some natural, day-to-day ways to prevent a murky-looking smile.
Apples, Celery, and Carrots: The crunchy texture of these fruits and veggies acts like a toothbrush and can help scrub off dark surface stains.
Strawberries: Malic acid, a whitening agent, occurs naturally in this fruit. Chew slowly the next time you have a handful, or crush a few berries up and spread the mixture over your teeth with a toothbrush.
Gum: Chomping away increases saliva production in the mouth, which flushes out the food debris stuck between teeth that can lead to discoloration.
Baking Soda and Water: In a pinch, this mixture can lift off stains and actually lighten teeth, but don't do it more than once a week or you risk damaging your enamel.
Cheese: Researchers believe the calcium in cheese creates a film over teeth that can protect them from foods that stain—a cube or two before red wine could save you the embarrassment of purple teeth.
—Kristen Dold (@kristendold), associate editor at Details