In the endless search for the fountain of youth, teeth play a huge role. So it makes perfect sense that along with the many anti-wrinkle skin care products that are emerging on the market, there is also an increased number of teeth whitening devices. But which products are the safest and most effective? Here are some OTC methods you might want to consider using as well as some other things you should know about the best way to whiten your smile. 

Over-the-Counter Tray and Gels: This is the oldest OTC method of teeth whitening which involves a ‘boil and bite’ system where you heat a tray and then place it in your mouth. Though effective, this system can take weeks before it yields results and most users report sensitivity issues to the breakdown of carbamide peroxide gel. 

Whitening Strips: Introduced about 15 years ago, whitening strips use hydrogen peroxide on a polyethylene strip to whiten teeth. They can vary in the amount of hydrogen peroxide they use as well as in the shape and thickness of the strip. Though the product is relatively effective, it can burn the user’s fingers or cause irritation if the strip rests on the gums. Whitening strips can yield results in a couple of weeks. 

 The best part about whitening strips are that they're so easy to use. Photo via  Humana

The best part about whitening strips are that they're so easy to use. Photo via Humana

Paint-Ons: These involve a sealed delivery system that avoids harmful byproducts of carbamide peroxide breakdowns. Because they are targeting the teeth, contact with the soft tissue can be avoided along with the sensitivity and irritation that comes with it, especially if the gel does not migrate from the tooth. However, because whitening agents are likely to escape, results tend to take a bit longer, averaging about two months. 

Whitening Devices: These are newer systems which bring a professional whitening experience in an OTC product. Laser light is used to break down hydrogen peroxide and create whitening oxygens. Because the reaction rate of hydrogen peroxide is accelerated, users must wear protective eyewear. These devices produce rapid results in as little as two days.

Oil Pulling: This involves swishing natural oil around your mouth in the attempt to remove bacteria which can cause plaque and yellowing. Any oil can be used although sunflower, sesame and coconut are all popularly used in this application. Although some studies show that oil pulling can reduce bacteria, there is no scientific studies that show that it can whiten teeth. However, it is a safe practice that some find effective, so it may be worth a try. 

 Coconut oil works great as an oil puller. Photo via  Medical News Today

Coconut oil works great as an oil puller. Photo via Medical News Today

Brushing with Baking Soda: Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can scrub away surface stains on teeth and prevent bacteria from growing. Although there is no evidence that baking soda alone can whiten teeth, studies show that toothpaste that contains baking soda will have a whitening effect. Do not look for overnight results from using baking soda while brushing, but continued use should produce whiter teeth over time. 

Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar Is known as a disinfectant and natural cleaning product. Its main active ingredient is acetic acid which kills bacteria. However, like hydrogen peroxide, the apple cider vinegar can also erode enamel and soften teeth, so use should be limited. 

 Limited use of ACV works some toothy wonders. Photo via  World Market

Limited use of ACV works some toothy wonders. Photo via World Market

Good Health and Hygiene: Of course, there are many lifestyle choices you can make to improve your dental health and the appearance of your teeth. Eating crunchy, raw fruits and vegetables can help eliminate plaque as you chew. Some recommended foods include strawberries, pineapples and celery. Calcium rich foods like milk, cheese and broccoli can protect your teeth from enamel erosion. 

Make sure to brush and floss regularly, especially after consuming food or beverages that are likely to stain your teeth. Brushing and flossing will help eliminate bacteria and prevent plaque build up as well as gently rubbing stains out of your teeth keeping teeth clean and white.

 Floss to keep your pearly whites, white. Photo via  Personal Care Dentistry

Floss to keep your pearly whites, white. Photo via Personal Care Dentistry

Your teeth are an important part of your health and appearance. Whitening them can improve your look but it should be done in a safe and effective manner. Those interested are advised to research carefully before taking this important step. 

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