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Crest Premium Whitestrips Tooth Whitening Product
Crest Premium Whitestrips Whitening Kit

How to Buy Teeth Whitening Products

By Lisa Cohen LeeSHOP.COM Beauty Editor

Want a healthy, bright smile? Thanks to a bounty of at-home whiteners, you can get whiter teeth in the comfort of your bathroom. For significant stains and yellowing, a dentist consult is best, but consider an OTC option when your pearly whites need a little lightening. Herewith, the nitty-gritty on going the great white way:

The Basics

Step 1TYPE: At home tooth whiteners generally fall into three categories: bleaching with a tray system; applying strips loaded with whitening ingredients directly to teeth; or coating stained teeth directly with a "pen" that dispenses active ingredients through a brush or foam tip applicator. Some bleaching systems incorporate a battery-operated light that gives faster results.
Step 2EFFICIENCY: The best brightening and stain-erasing systems are ones with a high concentration of peroxide. You'll get the whitest smile from a tray system, since it protects saliva from seeping onto your teeth and keeps the bleach from losing potency. Strips are a close second, because the dose of peroxide is very high, but be wary of the strips slipping and sliding off teeth. Finally, paint on brushes has the least amount of peroxide, but gives lightening quick whitening, good for rubbing out red wine or coffee stains.
Step 3CONVENIENCE: :Deciding which whitening system works for you depends on your lifestyle. Always on-the-go? Pick a pen. Have an hour? Strips are a good choice, because they're used for half-hour intervals twice a day, over a week, and can be worn easily while watching TV or taking a shower. A tray system requires the most time, such as a few hours a day, sometimes overnight, during a two week period.
Step 4MAINTENANCE: Once you get a whiter, brighter smile, you'll want to keep it that way. Look for daily mouthwashes, toothpastes, flosses and touch-up whiteners with mild bleaching agents and abrasives that help rinse away stains from food, coffee, tea, wine or cola and prevent yellowing.

The Lingo

Peroxide: The active ingredient that bleaches out stains for a whiter, brighter smile. Levels can vary (look for percentage on the package), but all whiteners with peroxide should be used as directed--overuse of whitening products can desensitize teeth, and cause enamel erosion.
Silica: A mild abrasive found in whitening toothpastes and flosses that help wash away surface stains and preserve the white results. Light-activated: A new, at-home technology similar to the dentist's office, that speeds up the bleaching process.
ADA: When you see this symbol, it means that the American Dental Association has given its seal of approval because the product has been tested by them for safety and effectiveness.

The Experts

Instyle Magazine Daily Beauty Flash says "In an age when whitening products are everywhere, an over-bleached grin can easily become damaged, dull and lackluster. Protect the naturally lustrous dentin of your tooth enamel: Look for a whitening formula that's gentle on teeth and contains ingredients to restore glossiness, like Crest VividWhite Toothpaste."
Seth Stevenson, Slate.com says "I actually noticed results after a couple of days. This is likely because the Crest Whitestrips use 6 percent hydrogen peroxide. What's more, I didn't mind using the Whitestrips at all. No drooling! And I could talk with them in my mouth, no problem. "
US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT says about at-home whitening kits "Costing $200 to $400, the kits work as well as or better than in-office treatments, according to Matis. In studies, he has found that at-home treatments outperform all tested in-office products. "

The Brands

Crest is not only known for their toothpaste and mouthwashes, but also their whitening strips, which give a whiter smile in less than a week.
Rembrandt products were created by a dentist, and feature papaya enzymes-a natural cleanser and whitener-in their formulas.
Brite Smile offers at-home whiteners that mimic the results of their professional treatments.
GoSmile has a unique ampoule design that's convenient and fast, lightening up stains on-the-spot.
Listerine makes OTC whitening strips, along with mouthwashes loaded with stain fighting ingredients that keep up a healthy, white smile.

The Price

$: Expect to find whitening toothpastes, mouthwashes and brush-on products at a lower price with very little active ingredients-the results aren't very dramatic, but good for obliterating everyday surface stains. Kiss My Face Organic Whitening Toothpaste is a great option at just over $8.
$$: Most of the OTC whitening kits with strips, pens, battery-operated lights or trays will be in this price range, giving a brighter, whiter smile within a week or month, depending on how high of a concentration of hydrogen peroxide. Crest Whitestrips are a great mid-price pick at around $40.
$$$: Professional grade, dentist backed treatments that may include custom-made trays (through mail order) and complete whitening systems, with maintenance and bleaching products. The Standard Professional Whitening Kit is a fantastic choice for a higher end tooth whitening solution.