The Secret to Whiter Teeth

You don't have to spend thousands of dollars on veneers if you want a brighter smile. Here, a list of the most efficient methods to achieve one.

Photograph by Bartholomew Cooke

You don't have to spend thousands of dollars on veneers if you want a brighter smile. Here, a list of the most efficient methods to achieve one. Kayleen Schaefer

1. HALOGEN LAMP

The Treatment: After a 25 to 30 percent peroxide solution is applied to your teeth, you'll sit under a fluorescent bulb with your mouth propped open. The light reacts with the mixture, speeding up the bleaching process.

The Time: About an hour and a half

The Cost: About $600

The Result: Even if you started out with teeth only slightly less than alabaster, they'll be noticeably whiter. And you won't need to repeat the treatment for another year.

2. WHITENING TOOTHPASTES

The Treatment: These pastes, which contain little if any hydrogen peroxide, the awful-tasting bleaching agent, are packed with small grains that lift superficial stains from teeth.

The Time: Five minutes a day

The Cost: $3.50 to $20 per tube

The Result: The pastes will scrub off the daily residue left by coffee or red wine but won't get rid of deeper discoloration.

3. CUSTOM-FIT TRAYS

The Treatment: A dentist takes a mold of your teeth to create made-to-measure trays. At home, you fill the trays with a 6 percent peroxide gel solution and bite down.

The Time: Two visits to the dentist for the molds and then two weeks of wearing the trays for half an hour a day

The Cost: About $400

The Result: The trays will get your teeth about as white as the lamp will, but the peroxide won't penetrate as deeply. You'll have to repeat the procedure every six months.

WHAT TO SKIP

Teeth-Whitening Mouthwashes: Like the pastes, these rinses have abrasive particles that are supposed to clean away minor blotches, but dentists say swishing with them won't make your teeth any more stain-free than rinsing with the regular stuff. Strips: These work like trays, but because you don't clamp down on the strips, the bleach never seeps past the surface enamel. Plus, they don't wrap around to reach your molars. They're an accessible and economical option, but they won't get your teeth as white as trays will. Veneers: Using porcelain caps to make your teeth Seacrest-white is a good idea only if your job involves on-camera work. They're prohibitively expensive and tend to look unnatural without the filter of TV. If you're an accountant, stick to methods that will make your smile shine, not blind.

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