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Turning through magazine pages reveals guys and gals with rows of white teeth. Having white teeth is a no brainer but getting them to that level is another question. There’s a bunch of solutions offered including gels, pastes, and strips. What’s the best method for you? Here’s how to reverse a stained smile using a variety of today’s methods.

What’s a Surface Stain?

To start, it’s useful to know the difference between whitening methods that address surface stains and those that whiten a tooth by getting inside the enamel. Most toothpaste addresses surface stains though some contain more whitening agents. However, even the whitening pastes only target surface stains. So, a person who has been smoking for years, won’t see much improvement from such pastes.

Doctor Vs At-Home

There are benefits to bleaching at home or at the dentist’s office. The dentist’s solutions are going to be stronger. So, though it costs less to bleach at home, your dentist’s bleach is more powerful, so it would take more over the counter solutions to equal just one in-office bleach session. However, a healthy mouth is a lifestyle, so there’s no reason why a diligent person could not equal the work done at the dentist through meticulous care of their mouth on a daily basis. Shop for at-home kits at


As mentioned, all pastes address surface stains but even premier over the counter whitener paste will only get your teeth one shade lighter. However, a professional whitening procedure can get a person’s teeth three to eight shades whiter. If you’re looking for minimal results, go with paste.

Gels and Strips

Aside from pastes, consumers get gels and strips to whiten their teeth. Gels are peroxide based and usually work by wearing a retainer for a short period of ten minutes or so. Some tooth or gum irritation can occur. Results are seen after a few days of repeated use and can last for up to four months. Strips whiten in the same fashion but are applied to the front row of the upper and lower teeth.


Like traditional rinses, whitening products help fight plaque and clean your mouth. The added hydrogen peroxide helps bleach teeth. Manufacturers differ in promising results yet most products take weeks to show an effect. However, some feel like this is one of the weaker methods due to the limited time the rinse is in full contact with the teeth. If you’re just swishing it around in your mouth for 30 seconds twice a day, it’s not enough time to get teeth really white.


Some seek to get results from professionals, and reserve time in the dentist chair to get their teeth white. However, depending on your dentist and the nature of your insurance, you may have to pay out of pocket for such procedures. While it may not break the bank, paying for bleaching at the dentist may be a cost you want to avoid in full.