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A picture says a thousand words, but a smile says a million.

However, if smiling with dull or stained teeth makes you want to frown instead, teeth whitening may be a solution to turn that frown upside-down.

Teeth whitening used to only be available in a dentist’s office, but is now widely available, in many different forms like whitening strips, pens, trays and more.

But what works the best and how should you get started?

We spoke to ADA certified dentist Dr. Jon Copeland of Copeland Dental Group in Missouri to help answer our questions and find sparkling solutions to stained and dull teeth.

What is teeth whitening really doing to my teeth?

Close-up of dentist and his patient choosing the shade of dental veneers during appointment at dental clinic.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

We love the end result, but what is really happening when you apply peroxide to your teeth to whiten them?

“Whitening via peroxide, which is an activated oxygen molecule, breaks down surface stains into smaller, less noticeable particles,” explained Copeland. “By breaking the surface stains down, the natural white color of your teeth becomes more noticeable.”

Peroxide is also a word that many get unnerved by, as it is associated with bleach. While that is great for doing laundry or cleaning your kitchen sink, please keep the bleach far away from your teeth.

“Peroxide for teeth whitening is either a form of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide in different concentrations that generate results at different rates and are in a gel form. Household bleach, in liquid form, is a caustic cleaning agent that you should not ingest in any form,” said Copeland.

How often can I whiten my teeth?

A before and after teeth photo, with yellow teeth on top and white teeth on the bottom image
Smile Brilliant

You should definitely brush and floss your teeth twice a day, but when it comes to a full whitening session, it is really up to the discretion of your dentist and yourself, taking into account your teeth’s sensitivity and your desired results.

“Whitening intervals are somewhat subjective and different levels are needed by the amount of stain, the level of whiteness one wants to achieve and the amount of staining products they use regularly like coffee. It is generally safe to whiten at home for those being seen [by a dentist] on a routine basis.”

Speaking of staining products, coffee and red-wine drinkers should take note, as those beverages along with other colored drinks can cause staining, and should either be avoided or sipped through a straw at the very least. Lastly, become a regular at your dentist for cleanings and your smile will thank you.

“Teeth will stay whiter longer by reducing consumption of staining foods and drinks like coffee, tea, or red wine. Routine dental visits and cleanings will keep the stains from building up, especially in hard to reach areas with a brush or floss,” said Copeland.

When choosing a whitening kit, should I opt for LED lights, strips or custom trays?

A box of Smile Brilliant trays and whitening supplies
Smile Brilliant

We do live in a world of options when it comes to whitening products, from on-the-go whitening pens to strips to crazy-looking LED mouthguard contraptions. But what will work the best for long-lasting and full-coverage effects?

Custom trays allow for the most predictable delivery of whitening. They are sculpted to your teeth so you have the potential for less damage to areas that you do not want the peroxide to go, and have the most rapid and predictable results,” said Copeland when asked about the best way to whiten.

LED lights have also been a new craze, but maybe only in theory, as the science behind the light and heat-activation may do little more than leaving your strips or trays on longer.

“In my opinion, the LED lights do not greatly improve the whitening process,” said Copeland. “The light does not activate the particles as much as heat them up.  So, just giving the peroxide a little more time will have the same effect.”

Our review of the Smile Brilliant whitening system:

A set of Smile Brilliant whitening kit on a marble table
Sophie Cannon

After speaking with Dr. Copeland, I decided to put this teeth whitening system to the test. Smile Brilliant uses the custom trays method, which seemed to be the very best for an all-over whiten made to last, and one that was more affordable than a professional dentist whitening, breaking down to under $20 per session. 

“There are many products available and ‘one size does not fit all’.  Custom trays are the most specific and predictable way to whiten one’s teeth at home,” said Copeland.

I am a big believer in specific and predictable, and so I ordered a kit and got started with the first step: making the molds. This process was honestly super fun, as you must mix the play-doh like pastes together and then fill the impression trays, before pressing the top and then the bottom into your teeth to make impressions. The directions were super straightforward, and I was impressed with how mess-free and fast the whole process was.

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A set of whitening syringes and retainers
After a week, my custom trays and the whitening gel was delivered, along with retainer cases and more.

A box of putty to make teeth molds with
The instructions were clear and the putty was super fun to mold.

A hand holding two molds of blue teeth
Don’t my teeth look nice? The putty hardened in about thirty minutes, ready to send back to the lab.

Fast-forward a week and my trays and the gel arrived in the mail safe and sound, with a new set of directions for use. The gel is easy to apply into the trays, and they obviously fit seamlessly, since they were perfect impressions of my teeth. The rest was very straightforward, but I will note that the taste of the gel was actually pretty pleasant and didn’t make me gag or over-salivate like I have with Whitestrips.

Be warned, like with any whitening, there may be temporary white spots on your teeth, but those will fade in a few hours. Also, if you have any dental work, implants or other non-natural and non-porous materials in your mouth, these will not whiten. I learned that, as the skinny sliver of fake-tooth in my center gap did not lift like the rest of my teeth, so if you plan to whiten your teeth, consider doing so before dental work so everything matches. 

The moment of truth came after just three whitening sessions, as seen in the before and after below. Since I didn’t have too many stains to begin with, I was left with pretty white chompers after these few sessions. The best part? Now that I have the custom trays and the gel, I can whiten whenever I see stains start to come back, without needing to call up the dentist again.

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A before and after of Sophie's teeth after whitening
While I did have minimal stains to start, I can see a noticeable whitening effect after just three session.

A before and after of Sophie's teeth after whitening
While I did have minimal stains to start, I can see a noticeable whitening effect after just three session.


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Source: NYPOST

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