9 Easy Ways to Make Your Smile Brighter

How to add extra sparkle to your pearly whites.

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We asked New York City orthodontist and whitening specialist Dr. Jacqueline Goodling to fill us in on the best tooth-brightening options around, from in-office procedures to at-home treatments.

1. Professional in-office whitening: Services such as Zoom! or BriteSmile are the fastest-working protocols. A whitening agent (usually hydrogen peroxide) is applied to teeth, then activated by heated light.Treatment is a single session.

2. Dentist-supervised custom-fitted mouth trays are another pro option. Whitening gel is applied to teeth, and held in place by the tray for a prescribed amount of time. Results are the same as in-office treatments, they just take longer, since light is not used. Cost of pro treatments: From about $300 to $900.

3. At-home options: Goodling’s patients report good results with products like Crest Whitestrips and Rembrandt Form-Fit Whitening Strips. “It’s important to finish the treatment cycle to get maximum results.” Cost: $16 to $50.

4. Pro vs. OTC: “Results always vary, but we generally see a considerable difference between OTC whitening and professional whitening,” Dr. Goodling says. “Results from professional whitening can be up to five shades brighter than OTC whitening.”

5. When to whiten: In-office or at-home pro treatments should be done two weeks before the wedding. “It takes that amount of time for the full effects to take place,” Dr. Goodling says. She suggests starting 30 days before the wedding for OTC whitening, since the lightening agents used in these products are not as strong as those used under dental supervision. “Follow the recommendations on the package, because they all vary,” says Dr. Goodling, “And use these right up to the wedding.”

6. Maintenance: Teeth are most susceptible to staining in the two weeks following treatment, so avoid stain-makers such as coffee, red wine, berries, tomato sauce and balsamic vinegar. Drinking through a straw can help offset the effects.