The most common request I get is to make a patient’s teeth whiter. Based on the number of over the counter products, gums, mints, etc white teeth are a priority. And they should be. The color of your teeth is one of the first things people notice when evaluating your smile.

So what works? The first thing is a dental check-up. There are some stains that are associated with discolored fillings and cavities that won’t whiten.

Chewing gums-won’t whiten teeth but Trident’s gums with Recaldent can help prevent cavities.

Toothpastes-won’t whiten teeth, but can help to keep teeth from getting discolored. Whitening toothpastes are generally more abrasive so you have to be careful, especially if your gums have receded.

Paint on whitening gels-These don’t work because they don’t stay on your teeth long enough.

Whitening strips get my approval, but can be difficult to use, but if you persist your teeth will get whiter.

Do-it-yourself whitening trays- I have mixed feelings about these as I worry about the potential to cause damage to your gums. But they should get your teeth whiter.

Custom whitening trays-We give these a thumbs up. They allow whitening while you sleep which is more effective than while you’re awake since you do not produce as much saliva which dilutes the whitening gel. They fit precisely so they do not allow as much of the gel to escape.

Laser whitening, light assisted whitening, and in-office whitening-These methods can be helpful in jump-starting the process. Every split mouth study (they whiten half the mouth with the light and half without) show that the light or laser is an unnecessary part of the process. For the money, I think the results you get from laser whitening are disappointing. If however, you need your teeth whiter tomorrow or have tried at home methods and can’t stick with it, laser whitening or in-office whitening should be considered.

Zoom Whitening and BriteSmile- As near as I can tell, from unbiased research, there is nothing different about these approaches compared to other in-office whitening approaches. We’d like a teeth-whitening magic bullet. There isn’t one.

Deep Bleaching-This is a combination of in-office and at-home teeth whitening. This method offers the most predictable and impressive results.

In a future article we’ll address whitening sensitivity, how often to whiten, is it permanent, and other common questions.