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9 Ways to Whiten Your Teeth (On Your Schedule)

Whether you have five minutes, five days, or five weeks, here are my recommendations for whitening your teeth.

by Dr. Burhenne

9 ways to whiten your teeth on your schedule

9 Ways to Whiten Your Teeth (On Your Schedule). Whitening is not a one-size-fits-all operation. Some people have a high school reunion coming up and they want to look their best, while others have a last minute blind date and have less than 24 hours to brighten their smile.

Depending on the timeframe you have, there’s a way to whiten your teeth that will get the best results. Whether you have five minutes, five days, or five weeks, here’s my list of the best teeth whitening options for you.

If You Have 5 Minutes

Swipe on some lipstick. The color in your lipstick can make your teeth appear whiter by contrast. If your teeth seem yellow, try berry or bubble-gum pink lip color. The blue undertones in these colors will bring out the white in your teeth. If your teeth appear grayish, try a copper or bronze shade, which can bring out the white in gray teeth.

Make an appointment with your hygienist. During a dental cleaning, the hygienist removes the pellicle, a natural film that forms on top of your teeth. When the pellicle is removed, the tooth appears cleaner, brighter, and even reflects light differently.

When my patients get married, as a small wedding present, I have them come in the day before the wedding for a quick polish to remove the pellicle to make their smiles brighter for the photos. This is something you can do for the day before big events. Don’t worry, removing the pellicle of the tooth is completely natural – the biofilm grows like a weed and comes right back.

Swish with water while sipping your morning coffee. Coffee and tea are major causes of staining that can easily be minimized by swishing with a glass of water after drinking. Better yet, keep a toothbrush and floss in your purse or briefcase so you can always brush and floss after your coffee – otherwise, the particles in coffee will stick to the biofilm of your teeth until your next meal, staining the surfaces of your teeth and penetrating the dentin over time.

If You Have 5 Days

See your dentist for in-office whitening. It takes two one-hour sessions in one week, three or four days apart. Your dentist will paint a 35% carbamide peroxide gel onto your teeth in two 30 minute sessions. This will make a noticeable improvement in the brightness of your teeth. Whitening this way won’t be as long-lasting as custom made whitening trays, but it will get you a brighter smile in under five days.

Invest in an Oral B toothbrush. The scrubbing motion of an Oral B Braun electric toothbrush (like this one) can be very effective at removing stains and brightening your teeth. Brush your teeth for a full five minutes by holding the spinning head over each tooth and gently holding it against each tooth. Do this with a whitening toothpaste – I’m a fan of Rembrandt (it has citroxain, a patented stain-remover), and gently hold the toothbrush against each tooth for four seconds.

You should see a difference in the brightness of your smile within five days if you were previously using a manual toothbrush.

Use whitening strips. Whitening strips tend to work well on younger people who have teeth that are already in good shape and are straight. If you have crowded and crooked teeth, whitening strips won’t work very well.

If you do use whitening strips, make sure that strips don’t come into contact with the gums – the active ingredient that whitens teeth can cause free radical reactions if it comes into contact with gum tissue – this is one reason I’m wary of whitening strips and don’t recommend them to everyone. Also be careful with whitening strips because you can get uneven results depending on the alignment of your teeth and how you apply the strips.

If You Have Five Weeks

Get custom-made whitening trays from your dentist. This method of whitening is the safest and most cost effective and will get you the best results. The cost is between $300 and $500 and gets you a set of trays custom fit to your teeth, which you can wear for the rest of your life. If you have Invisalign aligners or a clear tray retainer, those work too.

The way to do it: put a 10% carbamide peroxide gel supplied by your dentist in the tray and then wear the trays for 1-2 hours each day. Some people see results within days, others two weeks.

The teeth continue to yellow as we age, so custom made trays are a great way to be part of a system that you can use whenever you feel the need. It’s the safest method because custom made trays hold the whitening gel only where it should be – against the teeth – and the risk of whitening gel coming into contact with the tissues in the rest of your mouth is lowest. You’ll also get the most even results with a custom made tray because the custom made tray is form fitting to the natural curvatures of your teeth.

Get cosmetic work done. This is only as a last resort. With porcelain veneers, you can have perfectly shaped white teeth within two weeks. Veneers are thin sheets of porcelain that get glued onto the teeth after your real teeth are reduced – it’s a bit like a gel manicure for the teeth. You can make porcelain veneers look any way you want. Most of the celebrities you see with perfect teeth have veneers.

Porcelain veneers have significant downsides – they can break, they’re expensive, and they’re a lifelong commitment because they have to be replaced every 15 to 20 years – but they can also surpass any results you could ever get with whitening your natural teeth.

Don’t jump to this option too quickly because veneers may be unnecessary and are really only for extreme cases where whitening will not improve the look of your teeth – consult your dentist and make the decision after getting all the information.

Keep Your Smile White for the Rest of Your Life

Develop solid oral hygiene habits. They say it takes four weeks to make a habit, so if you want to brighten your smile in under 5 weeks, here it is: develop the habit of proper brushing and flossing.

Flossing and brushing might sound a lot less exciting than whitening, and they’re certainly no quick fix, but a bright smile isn’t just a white one, it’s also a healthy one.

Think of it this way: It’s like wanting to be thin before you’re fit—wanting the superficial benefits of health, without the health itself. By brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly, you’ll prevent the growth of bacteria, keeping teeth white, clean, and healthy.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short. Make sure that the time and effort you’re spending trying to brighten your smile doesn’t take away from the time you spend making them healthy. White teeth aren’t necessarily healthy teeth. Whether you always skip flossing because you don’t like it, or you floss every night – the cumulation of these years of habit will show on your smile.

Whitening is just part of the equation for having a bright, healthy smile. It all comes down to prevention – if you want to have a brighter smile, don’t sell yourself short by focusing purely on the looks – invest in yourself and these habits and you’ll have a pain-free, confident, and bright smile decades from now.

Mark Burhenne DDS

More on whitening:
Top 9 Teeth Whitening Myths Debunked
What’s the Best Way to Whiten My Teeth?

For more of my dental health updates, follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Did I answer your question? What else do you want to know about whitening? Leave a comment below! I read each and every one.

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Dr. Mark Burhenne DDS

33 Comments

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  1. Hello, I had my two front teeth cut down significantly shorter, and new parts created, a few years ago. At the time, I thought the dentist had done an ok job, but not too long after, say a week or so, I noticed that there was a definite line marking where he’d stopped grinding down and the new part began. The colours match all right, but there is a roughness and a brown line showing where the old stopped and the new started. I hate to smile due to this. Can I use bleach or hydrogen chloride on my teeth, maybe with a toothbrush, to get this brown line off? I understand whitening strips will not work on “fake” teeth.

    • Hi Cynthia,

      It sounds like you had crowns or veneers done on your front teeth. This “line” you refer to is the junction between the restoration and the tooth, and should not be visible until near the end of the resorations life, say 15 years from the time you had the work done.

      It sounds like the margin of the resoration does not properly seal to the tooth (which is the roughness you refer to), and is allowing coffe and other stains to accumulate between the tooth and crown. Bleaching will never be able to satisfactorily fix this problem, only a new restoration that is properly made will do the trick.

      Hope this helps.

      Dr. B

  2. Thanks for the tips! My smile looks a little gnarly because of how yellow my teeth are. It’s great that there are teeth whitening methods to help my smile look more white on almost any time table. My wedding is coming up, so it’s very important to have a clean, white smile for the photos. I have a little over a month, so the tips for having a whiter smile in five weeks will be perfect to help make my teeth look tip top for my wedding photos. Wearing custom-made whitening trays that I can always use seems like a pretty great way to whiten my teeth not only for my wedding, but also to maintain a nice smile for my new wife for the rest of my life.

  3. Well said!! I think you did a good job to enlighten the people about how they can whiten their teeth with their schedule. Those who want to know about this kind of information, they will get much help from this post.

  4. Great!! These are the effective tips to whiten the teeth naturally by implementing oral hygiene habits. Our healthy mouth keeps our smile beautiful.

  5. The breakdown of different ways to whiten my teeth for different time frames is fun. I’ll have to try that lipstick trick until I can see my dentist about getting a teeth whitening treatment. It sounds like custom made trays are the way to go for this kind of thing. I’m willing to give it a few weeks to see what the results can be.

  6. I think the easiest way to get your teeth whitened is to go in to the dentist and have him do the work for you. However, the best way is probably the last one you mentioned, developing good oral hygiene habits. It will take longer, but it will also last longer. It just isn’t all that easy to start. At least not for me.

  7. Thank you for the help. I am hoping to start some extensive whitening before my wedding in a few weeks. It sounds like going to a cosmetic dentist is the most efficient possibility. How many visits does it usually take before starting to see a difference?

  8. It is interesting for me to learn a little bit about some ideas to whiten teeth, or have them appear whiter. I think that it is important to whiten teeth, so your smile can be healthier. I am excited to try this lipstick trick.

  9. Thanks for the advice about all the options I have to get a brighter smile. I think take-home kits are a good option, but I would rather have it done all at once. It will be nice to have an instantly white smile. I can I combine this trays or strips to make it last longer?

  10. I really loved how you said, “Make sure that the time and effort you’re spending trying to brighten your smile doesn’t take away from the time you spend making them healthy.” In the end, I would rather have healthy teeth than white teeth. However, I do feel like mine could be whitened a little. It would make me feel more comfortable with myself. Thanks for the info and the reminder to continue focusing on health.

  11. There are many times when I go out of the house and my teeth look very yellow. Even after the fact that I brushed my teeth. That lipstick idea might just work. However, it might be cool to get that natural film removed that you mentioned.

  12. This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that in-office whitening is a good way to get a brighter smile in a short period of time. I’m going to be having my senior pictures done in a few weeks, and I want to make sure my smile looks its best for those. I’ll definitely look into having my teeth whitened about a week in advance so they are white and beautiful for the pictures. Thanks for the great post!

    • Sou PSDB, eu vou aguarar sérias providencias. Quem construiu recebeu para construir bem feito. Se fez porcaria, tem que arcar com a responsabilidade. Consertar e inclusive indeniszar possiveis prensísou.Mejtiras é coisa de vagabundos petistas.

  13. My cousin’s wedding is in a couple of weeks, so I want a white smile that will good when I smile in pictures with my family. Making an appointment with a dental hygienist seems like a good way to find out what will whiten my teeth in time for the wedding. It’s good to know that they can also remove the pellicle to make my smile look a little brighter. Thanks for the tips!

  14. There are some very cool ways of getting whiter teeth nowadays. I was unaware that a dentist could paint a peroxide gel on and that will whiten teeth. I think I would be more willing to have a professional do it than at home.

  15. I’ve been wanted to get my teeth whiter for sometime now, so I really appreciated this post. I liked your advice to invest in an Oral B toothbrush. I didn’t realize that an electric toothbrush would help me remove stains from my teeth better. Thanks for sharing!

  16. I love how you split the different methods into their own time frames. I’d probably be most likely to go with the five minute options, because sometimes all I can do is slap on a bit of lipstick to make my teeth look whiter. However, I’ll also try to keep my teeth clean and healthy in general, since that’s one of the simplest ways to get pearly whites, not pearly yellows. Thanks for the article!

  17. If someone wants to use whitening strips after braces, should he be worried?

    I know you have talked about other ways to whiten teeth, but I’m specifically interested in whitening strips.

    Please, let me know.

  18. I honestly had no idea there were so many at home and in the dentist office methods of getting your teeth white. Currently my teeth are a little stained from all the coffee I drink, but I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I’ll go have to talk to my dentist and see if teeth bleaching is something that could work for me. Thanks for the awesome info and advice!

  19. I have an event coming up and I want to get my teeth whitened so my smile looks great. I think I will have just enough time to go in for an in-office whitening. Is there usually any sensitivity that results from this method? If so, how long does it usually last? I don’t want to go to the party and not be able to eat anything because my teeth hurt! Thanks for the information!

  20. I like that you mentioned that we can have cosmetic work done. If I was noticing that my teeth were yellowing and they wouldn’t change then I would want to make sure there is an option for me. It might be a good idea to find out what the procedure and ask if you have questions.

  21. Thanks for your tips on how to whiten your teeth! That’s really neat that there is a toothpaste available with patented stain-remover. I have been thinking of getting my teeth whitened for my wedding and wanted to find a way to keep them especially white after the treatment.

  22. Hey Mark,

    I totally agree. One thing I will say is that people under tend to forget about getting a dental check-up/cleaning before using any of these whitening products or services. I honestly believe that if you haven’t been to a dentist for a while you should avoid teeth whitening until you see a dentist. I know people who haven’t been to the dentist in years and yet are considering to whiten their teeth. I warned them that things might not end well if they do….

  23. I really like your tip about possibly considering getting cosmetic work done when it comes to whitening your teeth! That seems like a great way to get the results that you want that will last a long time. I have been trying out some different teeth whitening methods for a while now but I haven’t gotten the results that I want. I’ll have to keep these tips in mind and talk with a dentist if I have any concerns. Thank you for sharing!

  24. I have tried the coconut oil route and I didn’t really see any differences but most people swear by it. Great advice here.

  25. Thanks for the tip about making sure whitening strips don’t touch your gums because it can harm the tissue. I’m looking into ways to whiten my teeth because my anniversary is coming up and I know we’ll be taking pictures. I want to make sure the whitening is done safely, so I’ll probably contact a professional to get it done.

  26. It really helped when you mentioned how you can visit your dentist and get your teeth whitened in two 30 minute sessions with carbamide Peroxide. My son is getting married in a few weeks and wants to make sure he looks his best and has a great smile, so I’ll share your post with him. I can see that taking time to consult with a professional dentist can also help you avoid damaging your teeth by using dangerous substances or applying the right ones the wrong way.

  27. I recently switched dentist and need to get some teeth whitening done but want it to be a little more permanent than putting on some lipstick. I’ve tried whitening strips and they don’t seem to ever work for me so I’ve been considering getting cosmetic work done. I love your explanation of veneers and will make sure to consult my dentist to see if it’s a right match for me. Thanks for the tips!

  28. I have never thought to swish water after I drink my coffee in the morning! I bet you could use this same tip with other food that can stain your teeth too! Thank you so much for this tip! I have been meaning to get that whiter smile I have always wanted, but I haven’t had the time for most other whitening methods.

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