We were all born with brilliant white teeth but teeth lose their whiteness as we age. That's why white teeth are so attractive -- they're associated with the energy of youth. While tooth discoloration caused by over-flouridation, tooth damage or medications cannot be bleached away, common yellowing of the teeth caused by staining from foods can usually be corrected quite easily. (Perhaps too easily. Have you seen Joe Biden's teeth? No, really have you? You should. The chronicles are quite funny.)
So why live with yellow teeth if a white smile is what you've been dreaming of?
Here's how to get your teeth as pearly white as possible:
Brush. Floss. See your dentist.
I hate to be boring, but you can't whiten unhealthy teeth. For starters, the active ingredient in most whitening regimes can only whiten the tooth surfaces it comes in contact with. Plaque, especially between teeth will give you uneven results. In addition, unhealthy teeth usually lead to unhealthy gums -- and unhealthy gums are usually too sensitive to tolerate whitening. Also, bleeding gums don't go well with white teeth. Just saying.
Two words: Hydrogen Peroxide
Most tooth whitening is achieved through the use of a humble little product you probably already have in your medicine cabinet: Hydrogen peroxide. But that doesn't mean that you can achieve the same level of whitening from rinsing with hydrogen peroxide that you can from professional tooth whitening. The level of whitening is directly related to the amount of time the peroxide stays in contact with your teeth -- and that's where things get different.
The most effective whitening method is getting custom trays made by your dentist. The advantage of having custom trays is that they are more comfortable than strips and the trays will last forever. The disadvantage is cost -- a dentist will charge around $500 out of pocket to make your trays. Here's a tip: once you have trays you can buy the professional strength gel at a reasonable price elsewhere - even on Amazon.
The second most effective method are whitening strips. They're great because the keep the peroxide against your teeth for a significant period of time -- usually thirty minutes. Since whitening is a cumulative process, if you are both patient and persistent you can get decent results. And you don't even need to make a dentist's appointment, since the strips are widely available.
What about all those other whitening products? (I've even seen whitening floss and toothbrushes, for Pete's sake!) While they can technically whiten your teeth, they do so by mechanically removing dirt from them. Which is the same thing you do when you floss and brush with your regular old standbys. I wouldn't pay a premium for these products.
Rinsing with a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide and one part water won't dramatically whiten your teeth if they're very yellow, but it will help maintain some of the whiteness if you do it regularly after bleaching. As always, be sure to practice good oral hygiene!