Teeth-Whitening Tips: How to Fix a Stained Smile

Your photographer can fix a lot of things in Photoshop, but that’s no excuse to go half-ass on dull or yellowing teeth. Brightness can be an easy fix, and a quick one — even if you love coffee and red wine.

First, you are going to have to change your daily routine (especially smoking.) More advanced whitening treatments can get your smile even brighter in as little as a week, which includes recovery time, so that you aren’t wincing at your reception whenever you sip something cold. Just be responsible in how you go about it, whether it’s at home or the dentist’s office, since overly aggressive whitening can cause permanent damage to your teeth’s protective enamel.

Below are four options for fixing a dull smile in a jiffy, safely and effectively. Consider them oral hygiene “best practices” to maintain until death do you part.

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Visit a Pro

The safest and most effective way to whiten your teeth is to visit the dentist. They have your best interests in mind, like preserving the enamel on your teeth and sparing your gums from turning white and sensitive. The doc can also adjust the potency of the whitening gel, depending on how far you want to take this. (Don’t expect miracles, but do expect drastic and instant improvements.)

In-office procedures like Zoom whitening use technology not available to the consumer, like lasers, to deliver better results. They require a bit more money ($500 on average) and a little more time out of your day (about an hour), but compared to at-home treatments, which rely on the cumulative effects of lower-grade whitening, professional treatments can knock the yellow off your teeth more quickly and more effectively. Make sure to get a consultation first, especially if you have sensitive teeth or orthodontics, to see what treatment your dentist recommends.

Whiten at Home

If you insist on whitening at home, you can still achieve noticeable results in a few quick sessions. Invest in a program like HiSmile (for $59.99), which sends you mouth trays, whitening gel, and a light-up LED mouthpiece to magnify results. The trays and LED methods are more effective than whitening strips that can gradually slide off your teeth. Just turn on Netflix and start your regimen; it’s the perfect excuse to not speak to anyone for 30 minutes. And for the especially lazy, the Go Smile Blu Professional device ($99.99) will also brush your teeth and massage your gums while it whitens with similar LED technology.

But note: When you’re whitening, you’re putting your teeth at risk. Follow the enclosed instructions of any product exactly as outlined. Do not fall asleep with the gel on your teeth or leave it on even five minutes longer than advised. You can always do a touch-up session a couple of days later, once the teeth have recovered, but the last thing you want is to peel back the enamel too much. If you do, you won’t be able to drink anything for a week and your teeth will glow under a blacklight.

Nix Your Vices

Sadly, lots of the things you (and we) love can dull teeth: coffee, red wine, beer, dark soda, tea, cigarettes, sugary candy, and even marinara sauce can cause discoloration by staining the tiny pores on your teeth. You can prevent the need to whiten your teeth by cutting back.

After any brightening procedure—professional or DIY—you need to completely avoid your vices for a few days. This is because the pores in your teeth are exposed and newly bleached, and before that enamel seals itself over top again, those pores are at a higher risk of collecting the dyes, sugars, and smoke from all your vices. The last thing you want is to negate the brightening simply because you needed a coffee the next morning. (At the very least, use a straw.)

Maintain a Dedicated Regimen

We shouldn’t have to tell you that your oral hygiene plays a big roll in the appearance of your teeth. But we’ll do it anyway: Your oral hygiene plays a big roll in the appearance of your teeth. You need to brush at least twice daily with a toothpaste that fights stains and promotes brightness. Look for baking soda- or peroxide-packed pastes, like Tom’s Peppermint Baking Soda and Rembrandt Deeply White, respectively. And floss every night! By leaving food particles and debris in your mouth, you not only stain your teeth, but you also invite bacteria, bad breath, and gum disease.

Bottom Line

In addition to a good oral care regimen, start the whitening process at least one week before the big day to ensure maximum brightness and minimum sensitivity.

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