HOUSTON - Flashing a Hollywood smile is getting a little easier thanks to at-home teeth whitening products you can buy at the store.
But not all products really work.
Strips, trays and bright blue lights. How do you know which one is best for that perfect smile?
Which teeth whitening products work, and which ones are just a waste of time and money?
For 18-year-old Aubrey Clear, the journey toward a dazzling smiling didn't always leave her feeling her brightest.
"I did a set of whitening strips a couple times and those worked, but they weren't great. The whitening pen I was not impressed with," Clear said.
Prosthodontist Keith Clear said the obsession with whiter teeth can be seen in the new shades manufacturers have added to the whitening spectrum over the past few years.
"If you went back 20 years, you couldn't find anybody that had these shades, even somebody who was super healthy and didn't do anything to darken the teeth at all," Clear said. "And they could come up with new colors that have never even been on the planet before, and now we could add these colors on and this is what people sometimes think natural, healthy teeth look like, but really, these are colors that haven't existed before. These were healthy colors."
One key to a better, whiter smile is how long the product stays in contact with your teeth. So, whitening pens aren't nearly as effective as whitening strips.
"These actually work quite well and people can get a very good bleaching job using white strips. It's just, you have to do it over and over again, maybe 60 different applications," Clear said.
Products that use a bleaching tray are the closest thing to what the dentist uses.
"But these trays are somewhat generic. They're somewhat a few sizes fits most people, so that's where it's going to be the frustrating portion, is just trying to get the gel to stay on the teeth in a way that's comfortable so you can have it on your teeth long enough to get a result," Clear said.
Products with hydrogen peroxide yield fast results but also fade fast. Carbamide peroxide takes longer, but lasts longer. And the kits with the blue light?
"This is essentially just a flashlight with some blue cellophane on it," Clear said.
Whitening toothpastes will remove surface stains, but they won't bleach your teeth.
For people with sensitive teeth, Clear recommends using a toothpaste like Sensodyne for one or two weeks before you start bleaching, and only bleach every other day, instead of every day.