5 Ways to Whiten and Brighten Stained Teeth

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There’s nothing worse than dark, dingy, stained teeth that don’t look bright and white. Not only are stained teeth unsightly, but they can also affect your self-esteem. Whatever the cause of the darkness—food, coffee, tea and smoking are amongst the most common culprits—make the choice to brighten discolored teeth, and once you’re happy with the results, maintain them with at-home care. 

You May Also Like: Five Ways to Prevent Teeth Stains

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If the cause is plaque, apples can help clean teeth and remove stain-producing substances.

Apples can remove bacteria trapped on and in between your teeth while scrubbing away surface stains. Their rough, fiber-rich skin makes them ideal for cleansing, while malic acid, a chemical used in teeth-whitening products, helps dissolved stains. While natural stain-removers can help, you’ll still need to brush, floss and maintain regular cleanings to keep your teeth clean. “The best way to ward off staining is to brush your teeth immediately afterward,” says New York cosmetic dentist Nargis Schmidt, DDS

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If the cause is what you eat and drink, brush with activated charcoal to brighten teeth.

We know that certain foods are bound to stain the teeth. “Foods and drinks that stain your teeth are the same foods and drinks that would stain a white shirt–think blueberries, red pasta sauce, colas, coffee, red wine and tobacco products,” says New York cosmetic dentist Timothy Chase, DDS. “These foods and liquids stain the enamel of the teeth.” Brushing on a regular basis with activated charcoal, like inVitamin Activated Charcoal Tooth and Gum Powder ($9), can brighten teeth. The powder’s adhesiveness allows it to bind to surface stains and lift them off teeth. No need to worry about the taste of this one either; it has a refreshing spearmint flavor. 

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If the cause is smoking, use a whitening gel to erase stains from nicotine and tar.

Yellow or brown tobacco stains tend to affect the outer layer of teeth, but don’t penetrate the underlying layer of dentin. So, it’s best to treat your treat with a mild peroxide gel, we like Sno32 P4 Daily Whitening Maintenance Gel ($30) to target discolored enamel. This whitener, unlike others, won’t irritate your gums and is easy to incorporate into your daily routine–just add it on top of your favorite toothpaste. 

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If the cause is age-related discoloration, at-home whitening tools can restore a youthful smile.

As we age, the enamel of our teeth begins to wear down, leaving our teeth more translucent and revealing the porous yellow tissue under the enamel. At-home whitening tools, like Apa Beauty Apa White Duo ($150), reverse discoloration for a brighter, more youthful smile. The whitening pen and strip duo rely on supercharged ingredients like carbamide peroxide to visible whiten teeth in less than one week. 

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If the cause is medication, professional whitening or veneers can provide stunning results.

Excessive use of fluoride or medications that contain tetracycline can cause dark enamel bands that are hard to lighten; in-office whitening or veneers can help to dramatically brighten teeth. Professional whitening treatments use a light to activate a special gel that penetrates the enamel, or veneers (thin porcelain shells) are placed over natural teeth to cover stains. “The most reliable way to whiten your teeth is with in-office whitening. A small amount of highly concentrated bleach is placed on the teeth and then activated with a UV light. It can be done in a few sessions or in almost half the time with the new laser bleaching treatments,” says Dr. Schmidt. But, in some cases, veneers, porcelain thin shells that are adhered to your teeth, need to be used instead. “Veneers are an option if your teeth are damaged, misshaped, have spaces or they will not whiten to your desired level. As for shade, you can select any level of whiteness that you desire. The good thing about veneers is that they are very resistant to staining,” adds Dr. Chase.

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