Looking to brighten those pearly whites in time for Valentine's Day? Check out a few of these helpful tips from celebrity dentist, Dr. Joseph Banker to help teeth look their best. 

So Dr. Banker, is a whiter smile something only a professional dentist can really give you?

Professional whitening gives long lasting, predictable results with minimal sensitivity. However, patients often ask if there is a more economical option. There are some excellent over the counter products that I frequently recommend.  If the patient is able to achieve their desired results with one of these products, then professional whitening is not necessary.  

Should we try over the counter products (OTC), or are they a waste of time?

Always consult your dentist prior to trying an OTC product.  It is important to ensure your teeth and gums are in good health.  It is a good idea to have a dental cleaning prior to whitening, as it will only help make the whitening more effective. Every patient is different.  Some achieve excellent results with over the counter products with little or no sensitivity, while others experience irritation and sensitivity preventing them from completing the whitening.

How do we know if a teeth whitening product from the drug store is effective? What should we look for?

There are so many different products with many different delivery methods.  Whether the material is on a strip, in a tray, or is on a brush, the bottom line is that whitening is caused by the active ingredient coming into contact with the enamel on the teeth. The factors that will affect the success are the concentration of the active ingredient, the amount of time it is in contact with the enamel, and the protection of the gums and soft tissue in the mouth. Whitening gel irritates the soft tissue. The function of the trays and strips is to keep the gel on the teeth and off of the soft tissue. OTC products that utilize lights to enhance the whitening are no more effective than those without the light. There have been numerous studies performed to show that these lights are ineffective.

Which drugstore teeth whitening products do you recommend?

While many have the same active ingredient, which will be either carbamide or hydrogen peroxide, the method of applying it to teeth varies. I like Crest White Strips ($40). They come in several strengths, and they are all easy to apply. 

How often should we use these products?

Each product has different recommendations for the duration of use.  Typically, the initial whitening takes using one treatment a day for 2 weeks. I suggest maintenance treatments be done every 4-6 months which are usually only 2 or 3 treatments to maintain the whitening.

How long do results typically last?

That really depends on what you put in your mouth.  Tea, coffee, red wine, dark colored sauces, and many other foods can stain the teeth. I love all of these foods and would never give them up. I tell my patients to enjoy them as well and to do a little maintenance whitening occasionally.

Any additional tips and tricks to a whiter smile from the drugstore?

Try a small pack first, or split one with a friend. If the whitening product doesn't work for you, you haven't wasted too much money.

Thanks Dr. Banker!  What whitening treatments do you use? Let us know with a note below!