You’ll want to make sure you’re flashing a set of perfect pearly whites at your wedding. Luckily, there’s never been a better array of at-home whitening treatments offering results comparable with pricey in-office procedures—for a fraction of the cost. We put the treatments to the test and polled the professionals to get the skinny on the best ways to achieve—and maintain—your most dazzling, camera-ready smile. >>
The most popular kits on the market now are strips, trays and gels. Joseph Banker, DMD, of Creative Dental Care in Westfield, New Jersey, says they’re all equally effective; it’s just a difference of application, sensitivity and strength. “A form of peroxide is the active ingredient in all over-the-counter teeth-whitening products,” says Banker. “The concentration of the whitening ingredient and the length of time teeth are exposed are what determine the degree of whitening— and the likelihood of sensitivity.”
By far the most goof-proof option out there, thin, flexible, disposable strips come pre-coated with a whitening formula. We just had to align the strips with the gumline, press the gel side on the fronts of the teeth and fold the excess underneath and behind to secure the strips in place. “Irritation is minimized because the method of placement keeps the gel clear of gums,” says Banker. If you do experience sensitivity, just use them less frequently or for a shorter duration, maybe both. “You’ll still see noticeable results,” says Banker. We had brighter smiles after trying Crest 3D White Whitestrips Professional Effects ($50, Target .com) for 30 minutes a day for 20 days.
Also prefilled with a whitening gel, trays ensure you get the perfect dose every time. The downside for anyone with super-sensitive teeth—and a smaller mouth—is that it’s harder to minimize contact with gums. While we were fans of the thin, flexible trays in Aquafresh White Trays ($33, Walgreens.com), one size does not fit all. The trays, although fairly malleable, were bulky and we felt self-conscious, causing us to shun company for the recommended 45-minute application time. However, after diligently sampling all 14 disposable molds for a week, we had noticeably radiant smiles. >>
The most “hands-on” application method, gels are smeared directly on teeth b y gliding the gels in a quick back-and-forth brushing motion, requiring a steady and dexterous hand. “Gels can be messy and can easily irritate the gums if not applied carefully,” says Banker. Our advice is to look for a gel formula that comes with its own applicator, like the GLO Brilliant Personal Teeth Whitening Device ($199, Sephora.com), to avoid having the gels come in direct contact with your gums. The whitening kit includes a set of 10 vials, which equals approximately 40 applications, after which, we were beaming thanks for now having more lustrous choppers.
the whiter-teeth diet
Now that your teeth are already looking whiter and brighter, you’ll want to keep them that way—at least until after your wedding photographer folds up his tripod. Giving new meaning to that old adage “You are what you eat,” Mitchell Charnas, DMD, of Manhattan Dental Spa in New York City, says that choosing the right foods (and avoiding the wrong ones) can have a transformational effect on teeth. For starters, he suggests getting into the habit of eating a serving of yogurt every day. “Yogurt reduces the level of bacteria in the mouth, which will prevent plaque buildup, and result in less staining of the teeth,” says Charnas. “Just be sure when you’re at the market to choose a yogurt that has active cultures without added sugar, such as the plain Greek variety.”
Another camera-friendly choice? Surprisingly, the experts suggested acidic fruit. “Snacking on foods with a balanced amount of acidity, such as oranges and pineapples, works to oxidize stains that other sugary foods can leave on teeth and improve teeth whiteness over time,” says Charnas. >>
Another particularly effective weapon in your anti-yellowing arsenal is the strawberry. “The acidity found in strawberries has a natural ability to remove stains that cause yellowing,” says Charnas. His recipe for creating your own at-home stain remover: Add baking soda
or salt to crushed strawberries. “Apply the paste to teeth, leave on for five minutes, then brush with your regular toothpaste,” he suggests.
dazzling-smile dos and don’ts
rethink your consuming habits
In addition to watching your diet, it’s worth getting into some Hollywood smile-friendly habits. “Adding a tablespoon of milk to your coffee makes it much less likely to stain,” says dentist to the stars Arthur Glosman, DDS, in Beverly Hills. And you might want to rethink your nonfat creamer: “The higher the fat content in milk, the more stain protection for your teeth,”
he notes. Tea drinkers should consider switching from darker leaves like Earl Grey and English breakfast, which are more likely to stain, to lighter teas, such as white, green and herbal blends. Addicted to cola? Drink it at room temperature. “Extreme temperatures make teeth more porous and likely to absorb stains,” explains Glosman, who cautions to watch the sneaky little extras! “Ketchup, soy sauce, chocolate sauce, barbecue sauce and balsamic vinegar can all stain teeth,” he says.
keep a toothbrush handy
When in doubt, brush. “Try to clean teeth immediately after consuming anything that’s highly pigmented,” says Glosman. Don’t have a toothbrush and paste handy? “Give your mouth a good rinse with water—or pop in a
stick of sugarless gum as a backup,” he suggests, or better yet, nosh on an apple (extra bonus—it’s a healthy snack): “Not only are apples a superfood, but they’re also a wonderful way to clean teeth in a pinch.”