No matter how much you love coffee and/or red wine, they don’t necessarily love you back, at least when it comes to maintaining your pearly whites. “Whitening is just a means to remove stain pigment that has accumulated,” says Emmanuel Layliev, dentist of New York Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, which counts NFL quarterback Tom Brady and R&B superstar Usher among its patients.
Day to day, snacking on high-fiber fruits and veggies (think apples, celery, andcarrots) can aid in cleansing your teeth and helping to reduce discoloration. So can drinking coffee through a straw. But since sometimes stain buildup can simply leave your grin looking grim, we asked Layliev to give us the run down on which options keep your smile shining bright like a diamond. Keep reading to find out more about the most popular teeth-whitening methods, ranked from least effective to most.
LEAST EFFECTIVE: MOUTHWASH
Nope, this one won’t help lift stains—but you should still gargle to protect against bacteria buildup. Just pick one that’s clear and free of alcohol—colored ones could eventually discolor your teeth, and alcohol can dry out your mouth and actually lead to more stain build up (no thanks). Layliev recommendsDentisse Natural Solution Oral Rinse ($16, dentisse.com), which containsbaking soda to stop odor.
LEAST EFFECTIVE: WHITENING PENS AND GELS
As long as it contains peroxide, it will whiten your teeth—that being said, whitening pens and gels are the slackers who sit in the last row of class of the tooth-whitening world. “It’s all about the contact that the peroxide makes with the tooth—if they aren’t on for 15 minutes to a half hour, then they are usually useless,” says Layliev.
SOMEWHAT EFFECTIVE: TOOTHPASTES
Some whitening toothpastes can help lift stains, depending on the ingredients—although, just as with pens and gels, the effect won’t be long-lasting. Layliev likes Dentisse Pro Natural Reflection Toothpaste ($16, dentisse.com), which contains kaolin clay—it’s abrasive enough to remove stain molecules but doesn’t over-exfoliate. He says Supersmile Toothpaste and Accelerator($36, supersmile.com) works even better. The accelerator contains Caplrox, which Layliev says has been proven to be great at reversing stains from smoking.
VERY EFFECTIVE: WHITENING STRIPS
Crest 3D Whitestrips ($41, drugstore.com) can lift years of stains from your teeth, says Layliev. All you have to do is wear the strips for 30 minutes per day for the duration of the treatment—which varies from box to box. They get the job done by sticking right to your teeth and directly applying peroxide—one of the reasons they come in ahead of some other home-based treatments. One con? They only reach to the front six or eight teeth.
VERY EFFECTIVE: GLO BRILLIANT TEETH WHITENING DEVICE
This one will put a chip in your bank account, but is the most likely home treatment to banish stains . The Glo Brilliant Teeth Whitening Device($220, sephora.com) uses light technology with whitening gel to lighten teeth up to five shades in five days. The peroxide concentration in the Glo system is lower than what you’d get at the dentist, so the results won’t be quite as good as in-office treatments, says Layliev.
VERY EFFECTIVE: PHILIPS ZOOM QUICKPRO
This abbreviated procedure uses breakthrough two-layer technology to open the pores of the teeth to allow peroxide to penetrate and lighten the smile, says Layliev. Just keep in mind that this particular treatment is “best for those that don’t really need to remove too much stain,” says Layliev. As part of the approximately $125 procedure, your dentist can also give you take-home whitening trays filled with special peroxide gel (the kind you’re only getting from a dentist) to maintain the pearly-white results.
THE MOST EFFECTIVE: PHILIPS ZOOM WHITESPEED
It’s not cheap, but it sure does work. For around $600 and an afternoon at the dentist (the procedure takes 45 minutes), this whitening treatment will lighten your teeth up to eight shades. The treatment uses LED technology, and you’ll get take-home trays to use. While it’s pricey, the good news is it only needs to be repeated every one to five years, depending on your eating and smoking habits.