beauty for one

How to Whiten Your Teeth at Home

Photo: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Thanks to “the stew,” fluffy coffee, turmeric lattes, red wine, or just living life, there’s a good chance that there are some stains on your teeth right now. Unless you only eat food without pigment, eating and drinking things can color your teeth, leading to a yellowish tint.

According to Dr. Marc Lowenberg of Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor, arguably the most famous celebrity dentist in the world (his clients include Kelly Ripa, Chris Rock and Julianna Margulies and the practice also sees Christy Turlington and the Knicks), there are two types of teeth stains. Intrinsic staining is deep down in the tooth and comes from genetics, certain medications, or decades of drinking red wine. Extrinsic stains are surface only. Unless you have a trained eye, it’s difficult to identify what type of stain you have but the extrinsic type is the only kind you can treat at home. “A lot of the success in whitening your teeth also depends on the molecular structure of each person’s enamel, which is determined by genetics. The more porous teeth are, the better they react to bleaching. The downside is that if they are more porous, they stain faster, but they also whiten quicker.”

Below, Lowenberg breaks down the best ways to whiten your teeth at home, from a DIY paste to the teeth-whitening product that really works.

Coconut Oil or Activated Charcoal

Ayurvedic lore — and also Goop — suggests that oil pulling can whiten teeth. According to Lowenberg, it does help to pull bacteria from your teeth, which can slightly help with whitening. However, in his opinion as someone who caters to busy New Yorkers, it’s not a good use of your time.

“The difference is negligible. People would not be happy with the teeth-whitening results you get from just oil pulling.” (The same applies for activated charcoal.) The bottom line: You won’t get noticeably whiter teeth from swishing oil in your mouth for 20 minutes.

Teeth-Whitening Pens

If you’re looking into whitening products, you’ll see a lot of teeth-whitening pens on the market. In Lowenberg’s opinion, they do work, but they’re best if you’ve already whitened your teeth and are looking to maintain or touch-up. “Most whitening pens don’t stay on the teeth long enough to make an overall big difference,” he explains.

Teeth-Whitening Lights

“So I’ve tried hundreds of different teeth products over the years …” goes the refrain for Instagram teeth-whitening ads, made popular by the Kardashians and other influencers who have posed awkwardly with the products they’re shilling. Lowenberg explains that the lights are designed to mimic the professional whitening procedure you get in the dentist’s office, where you sit for up to an hour in ultraviolet light, which activates the oxygen molecules in hydrogen peroxide. “The LED lights to work to an extent, but not to the same intensity,” he says. “The longer the contact with the light, the better the result.”

Baking Soda

Creating a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide is the second-most effective teeth whitener, and something Lowenberg personally does every day. Baking soda is a nonabrasive cleaner that sweeps off surface stains without damaging teeth or enamel. Adding it to hydrogen peroxide releases oxygen molecules that break down stains.

Don’t rinse with just hydrogen peroxide as it will not have the same effect, Lowenberg warns. It needs time to adhere to the teeth to properly make a difference. (There’s a reason why teeth-whitening products are always a gel and not a liquid. This is also the reason you shouldn’t bother with a tooth-whitening mouthwash.)

Here’s how to create your own paste: Just add a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide into a dish and then gradually add baking soda until it has the exact consistency of toothpaste. Brush.

Teeth-Whitening Strips

These are the number-one most effective way to whiten teeth, according to Lowenberg. Small strips of plastic are coated with a teeth-whitening gel, which contains hydrogen peroxide, and are stuck to the teeth for about 45 minutes. Specifically, he says, “Crest White Strips are fantastic. Before I put on veneers, I could not believe how great the results are.”

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How to Whiten Your Teeth at Home