Make your smile sparkle

Have your once-pearly whites seen better days? Those built-up stains from coffee,
tea, and red wine can darken the tooth’s lustrous white enamel. The result:
a smile that’s not quite so bright.

Once a treatment reserved mainly for the dentist’s office, tooth whitening
has become considerably less expensive — and more convenient — with
a wide variety of over the counter products.

Need a quick fix? If you have a wedding or other special event coming up soon,
no worries. Depending on what formulation you choose, you can get results within

Four ways to improve your smile

Tray-based whitening kits

This method involves filling a mouth guard-like tray with a whitening gel
which contains a peroxide-bleaching agent. This tray is then placed over the
teeth and worn for a period of time, generally from 30 to 45 minutes per day.
You can see initial results in as little as 3 days. Trays allow for whitening
of the entire tooth.

Tip: Try to select a kit that offers a flexible tray. This allows
for a more secure and comfortable fit. Also, for greater convenience, look for
a product where the mouthpiece is pre-filled.

Whitening strips

These are thin strips that are coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel.
The strips are applied directly to your teeth. Depending on the formulation,
strips are typically worn for about 30 minutes, twice per day, for 14, 10, or
7 days; while others call for an ongoing 5-minute daily regimen.

Whitening gels

Clear, peroxide-based whitening gels are applied with a small brush directly
to the surface of your teeth. Instructions generally call for twice a day application
for 14 days.

Whitening toothpaste and floss

While all toothpastes contain mild abrasives to help remove surface stains,
some whitening toothpastes also have gentle polishing or chemical agents that
are more effective in stain-removal. Because most brands either do not contain
a hydrogen peroxide or only in very low concentrations, they don’t reach
stains deeper in the tooth. According to experts , whitening toothpastes can
gradually lighten your tooth’s colour by about one shade.

While not as fast or effective as other at-home whitening systems, whitening
toothpaste and dental floss can be useful in maintaining brighter, whiter teeth
following other treatments.

When evaluating over the counter treatments, keep in mind that, in general,
the more peroxide, the greater the whitening power and the faster the results.

How safe are tooth whiteners?

Clinical studies show that home tooth whitening products are not harmful when
used as directed, according to Health Canada. The agency says that based on
the available scientific information there is little concern about possible
adverse effects on tooth structure or enamel hardness.

However, it is important to follow the instructions on the product and pay
attention to any precautionary statements.

Tooth whitening products are known to cause tooth sensitivity in some people,
although this is usually temporary. Brushing with an anti-sensitivity toothpaste
for 2 weeks prior to the whitening treatment, and during the treatment can decrease
sensitivity to help you complete your whitening treatment.

Note: Tooth whiteners only work on natural teeth, not caps, crowns,
veneers, fillings or dentures.