Maintaining a dazzling Hollywood smile à la the George Clooneys and Julia Robertses of the world becomes harder as we age. Not only is there staining from foods, as Toronto-based dentist Dr. Kenneth Montague explains, “With many years of tooth brushing, you’re making that white, translucent enamel thinner. You start to see through it and expose the yellow dentin core underneath. Hence, our teeth look more yellow.”

What’s the first step in the quest for a brighter smile? “One of the great things you can do at any stage of your life is to stop using a hard toothbrush,” says Montague. Boost your brushing with Listerine Whitening Plus Restoring ($10), the only rinse to whiten teeth that is also recognized by the Canadian Dental Association for strengthening tooth enamel. To remove stains, Montague points to three methods. The first is over-the-counter whitening strips, which, he says, is the least expensive but can also be the least effective as “they tend to be abandoned because they take a lot of time,” sometimes requiring twice-a-day use for two weeks. Newer products like Crest 3D White 2-Hour Express Whitestrips,  ($60) or the Rembrandt  Deeply White 2-Hour Whitening Kit, which only need to be used once every three months, may address these compliance issues. Or consumers may find toothpastes like Colgate Optic White ($5) which uses the same whitening ingredients as strips, or the Rembrandt Deeply White + Peroxide Toothpaste easier to incorporate into their daily routine. The second method is the take-home kit from the dentist, which Montague calls a “huge step up” in terms of results. It involves a customized mouth tray with tooth wells that are filled with a carbamide solution. The tray is worn for an hour at bedtime for two or three days.

According to Montague, the most effective method – and the one with the least sensitivity issues as it uses a protective gel on the gums – is the in-office, light-activated whitening procedure. The process can be done in 15-minute stages until the desired results are achieved, allowing predictable results.

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