Your Ultimate Pre-Wedding Teeth-Whitening Guide
Your smile is one of the most important aspects of your bridal look—just think of how much you'll be grinning in all the wedding photos! Unfortunately, a white dress and yellow teeth don't make a great match. Luckily, the latest whitening dynamos make brightening up your smile easier than ever.
To ensure that nothing gets in the way of your beaming, gleaming grin, you'll want to start by checking in with a professional. Whether you're a whitening newbie or habitual bleacher, before you try another product, have a frank discussion with your dentist about what's making your teeth look dull. Are the surface stains intrinsic (from tetracycline use, or trauma to teeth), or extrinsic (the result of coffee, tea, wine, spaghetti sauce, or smoking)? The degree of discoloration and the condition of your teeth will affect how well any whitening regimen works.
As for how it works? Both in-office and at-home techniques use peroxide as the active ingredient "to penetrate the micropores of the outer enamel, breaking down the stain," explains Atlanta cosmetic dentist Peter V. Vanstrom. "As a rule, brown and yellow staining can be whitened more easily than gray or darkened teeth." If you already experience some zingers when drinking hot or cold liquids, chances are sensitivity will be an issue. Try using a less intense bleach product and go slowly for effective yet shudder-free results.
While teeth whitening is often essential for showing off your whitest smile in engagement and wedding photos, you should choose a method that works best for you—that means assessing any existing dental damage and consulting your budget. Whether you decide to head into the office for a treatment or perk up those whites at home, we've rounded up the best ways to get that sparkling wedding smile you've always wanted. Click through for expert tips for whiter, brighter teeth.
A dentist applies a 25-to-40-percent-hydrogen-peroxide coating to teeth; it may be accompanied by a blue light or laser to accelerate the process. You'll see results in a single one-hour appointment. The good news? It's stronger than what's available over the counter, so you can expect the most significant shade bump, even on heavily stained teeth. On the other hand, the cost (from $500 to $1,500) and sensitivity risk (due to powerful bleach) are potential downsides—and no treatment can whiten veneers, crowns, caps, or fillings.
With this semi-DIY option, a dentist fits you with a custom plastic tray that you inject with a hydrogen-peroxide gel, via a syringe, at home. The tray is worn for anywhere from an hour to overnight, for up to 10 days, says Timothy Chase, a New York City cosmetic dentist and cofounder of SmilesNY. Created from a mold of your teeth, the tray should fit like a glove, ensuring that the gel stays on your teeth for the duration of each whitening session. One thing to look out for—badly fitted or overfilled trays may cause discomfort or a transient burning sensation of the gums, so make sure you go to a pro.
For this whitening method, you apply clear hydrogen-peroxide "stickers" to your teeth along the upper and lower arches. This latest version pledges to "remove up to six years of set-in stains" when worn for 30 minutes a day for 14 days. The upside? They're easy to use and widely available and work well on light staining. The strips need to make direct contact with enamel to be effective, though—a problem if you have gaps or crooked teeth.
Crest "3D Whitestrips+ Therapy" Whitening Strips, $45, crest.com
To utilize this nifty gadget, twist the dial and brush 7 percent hydrogen-peroxide gel over your pearly whites. Precision and convenience make this an easy tool to tote in your bag to tidy up after drinking wine or coffee, since it can prevent new stains from setting. There's no need to rinse! Unfortunately, because it contains a small amount of bleach and doesn't stay in contact with teeth for very long, results are minimal.
Go Smile "On the Go" Teeth Whitening Pen, $19, gosmile.com
You're already brushing your teeth, so why not make that dentifrice do double duty? Look for one formulated with 2 percent hydrogen peroxide. It's affordable and accessible and can lift moderate surface stains and recent discoloration. But don't expect them to completely remove the bigger, deeper-rooted problems. "Whitening toothpastes aren't effective on intrinsic stains, so users may be disappointed with the level of brightening achieved," says Chase.
Colgate "Optic White Platinum Stain-Less White" Toothpaste, $5, colgate.com
It seems paradoxical to brush with a nearly black substance to whiten teeth, but that hasn't stopped legions of adherents from praising activated-charcoal toothpaste. "At first I was alarmed by the loads of gray suds, but it left my mouth feeling minty, and looking cleaner and visibly brighter than any other toothpaste I've tried," says Martha Stewart Weddings executive editor Laura Wallis. (As with any newfangled notion, dentists advise moderation.) Fluoride-containing and fluoride-free formulas are both available.
Black Is White Toothpaste, $30, curaprox.com
. Hello Activated Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste, $6,