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We’re in the midst of award season, which means the world’s biggest celebs have been hitting the red carpet…with super bright smiles.

But you don’t have to be a million-dollar movie star to get a million-dollar smile.

Dr. Shannon Hobbs shows us how to get celeb-inspired pearly whites with different teeth-whitening options.

Veneers

Don’t be fooled—not all celebs overdo it with the whitening and many of them are actually wearing veneers. They require the removal of some of your enamel in order to fit to your existing teeth.

Here’s how it works: you apply a whitening gel to your teeth that contains an active ingredient (either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide) that penetrates the enamel to reach the discoloured molecules residing deep within the enamel layer. Oxygen molecules from the whitening agents react with the discoloured molecules in your teeth, breaking the bonds that hold them together. The oxygen molecules spread, whitening the entire tooth. As a result, you are left with a brighter, whiter smile.

Toothpaste

All toothpastes help remove surface stains because they contain mild abrasives.

Some whitening toothpastes contain gentle polishing or chemical agents that provide additional stain removal. Look for “peroxide” on the ingredients list.

The effectiveness of these products is limited to surface stains and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for professional cleaning.

Baking Soda

Baking soda can be effective but be warned: it’s risky to the enamel.

If you’re going to use it in a pinch, mix it with water or toothpaste and brush gently, as it can cause corrosive damage to the teeth.

Carbon Charcoal

Charcoal products have become really popular because it provides fairly good whitening results. However, its abrasiveness hasn’t been evaluated and the dental associations find it to be concerning for public use.

The biggest concern is the health of the enamel; these products may cause deterioration and erosion which can lead to sensitivity and cavities.

Talk to your dentist about alternatives and try to steer clear of dental supplies that haven’t been approved by the national association.

Whitening Strips

The main benefit of over-the-counter whitening is the cost. They’re also available to use immediately, so you can just pop into your local drugstore and start whitening your teeth.

The primary drawback of these systems is that customers who use them may not be good candidates for tooth whitening and there’s no professional oversight. Many of the products don’t list the concentration of the whitening agents or contain alternatives so the consumer can’t modulate the dosage to improve results or reduce sensitivity.

Whitening Trays

To begin the at-home procedure, the dentist takes impressions (molds) of your mouth, and then has soft, custom mouth trays made. A thin ribbon of whitening gel is put into the tray and worn for the recommended amount of time.

Take home systems will often use 10-20% carbamide peroxide that also contains glycerin, carbomer, sodium hydroxide, water, and flavouring agents. Some gels that contain more than 10% carbamide peroxide will also include sodium fluoride to reduce sensitivity and strengthen teeth.

Medical Grade Whitening

Most in-office systems use 15-35% hydrogen peroxide gels, sometimes coupled with a high intensity light to expedite the bleaching chemical reaction.

The procedure involves a dentist gently cleaning your teeth with pumice and then putting a protective barrier on the gums. The hydrogen peroxide paste is put on the teeth for several minutes and is then rinsed off. It’s reapplied several times and can achieve about four to six shades of whitening after only 40 minutes.

The main advantage is that the dentist can supervise and help determine if tooth whitening should be performed and if it will be effective for the patient. Patients with teeth decay, infected gums, white spots, and/or multiple tooth coloured fillings or crowns on the front teeth may not be good candidates for tooth whitening.

The disadvantages of dentist supervised whitening systems include higher cost and longer time required to get started. These whitening systems can cost between $300-1000, sometimes more.