There are plenty of reasons to envy movie stars: The chance to wear stunning designer threads on the red carpet, trips around the world to film on-location, access to some of the best makeup artists and hairstylists in the biz. But the thing we covet the most might just be those gleaming, pearly white smiles.
Thankfully for us, while we might not be able to book a trip to Cannes anytime soon, it's totally possible to obtain silver screen-worthy teeth. We tapped celebrity dentists Kevin B. Sands, DDS, and Victoria Veytsman, DDS, as well as SmileDirectClub's senior director of professional education Riddhi Gangolli, BDS, MS, Ph.D., to learn more about both in-office and at-home teeth whitening—including preparation, picking a method, and upkeep. Read on for their tips.
Meet the Expert
- Kevin B. Sands, DDS, is a celebrity dentist based in Los Angeles. His clients include Emma Stone, Britney Spears, and Drake.
- Riddhi Gangolli BDS, MS, Ph.D., is the senior director of professional education for SmileDirectClub.
- Victoria Veytsman, DDS, is a general and cosmetic dentist with offices in Los Angeles and New York City. She is a member of Byrdie's Beauty & Wellness Review Board.
Get Your Oral Health in Check
Our experts unanimously agree: Your first step is getting your at-home oral hygiene in tip-top shape. Though Sands says it's a myth that whitening treatments wear down the tooth enamel, it's still good to go into the treatment with your best mouth forward. Therefore, ensure your brushing, flossing, and rinsing game is especially on point in the weeks and days leading up to the whitening treatment.
"For any type of teeth whitening treatment, you should always prepare by keeping up with your at-home dental care routine, like brushing your teeth and flossing daily," says Gangolli. "Specifically, making sure to brush your teeth before your treatment can improve results as this helps to ensure the teeth are clean before the whitening."
Veytsman and Sands both noted that it might behoove you to make a cleaning appointment prior to whitening, while Gangolli and Veytsman both suggested switching out your toothpaste. "You want to be sure your mouth is healthy first before any sort of whitening," says Veytsman. "If you normally have sensitive teeth, you can use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth like Sensodyne for about a week prior to your visit."
Make an Appointment With a Pro...
So you've decided you want to whiten your teeth, but what now? With so many whitening products and procedures available both in-store and in-office, it can become intimidating to choose a method that's easy and effective. For results with true staying power (at least a few months), Sands says in-office whitening treatments like Zoom typically yield the best, brightest results.
Additionally, your dentist has the tools—and the skills—to tailor your treatment precisely to your wants and needs. "It's a more controlled environment and we can use a greater strength hydrogen peroxide gel to get a better result," says Veytsman. "At-home whitenings don't allow for the higher percentage peroxide, and you also can't cover up the gum tissue at home, which would be important for those that have sensitive teeth."
... But At-Home Has Advantages, Too
However, whitening trays made by your dentist and whitening strips can be great alternatives. "The biggest advantage to at-home teeth whitening is the convenience," says Gangolli. "You don’t have to take the time to make an appointment with your dentist and you can easily and safely whiten your teeth in the comfort of your home. It’s oftentimes cheaper than in-office whitening treatments as well, making this a more affordable option."
Another perk? You have control over just how white you go. "With at-home teeth whitening, you do not have to commit to a shade as you would at the dentist’s office," says Gangolli. "You have the ability to get comfortable with your brightened smile and decide if you would like to go brighter without the added burden of another in-office appointment."
Just remain diligent with your use and ensure you follow the product's exact application instructions, Sands advises. For instance, if it recommends to use every day for a week, use it every day for a week. Applications few and far between won't have the same, sparkling results.
Don't Slack on Your Brushing and Flossing
Sands says preserving results shouldn't be too difficult. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing on the regular with quality products is the best way to keep pearly whites extra bright. And again, he recommends going in to see your dentist about those regular teeth cleanings. (Do we sound like a broken record yet?).
Veytsman and Gangolli concur. Gangolli suggests SmileDirectClub's XL Water Flosser ($40), while Veytsman likes Crest White Strips and Whitening Toothpaste ($4).
Watch What You Eat
While we've been taught to supplement our diets with foods boasting hues of the rainbow, Sands says regularly noshing on dark or ultra-colorful fare is actually one of the worst things you can do if you're trying to maintain your teeth whitening results—whether you've committed to at-home treatments or received a treatment in-office.
Gangolli and Veytsman both cited coffee, wine, and berries, as food and beverages that could potentially undermine your whitening efforts. Veytsman also suggested avoiding "any dental products with color in them."
While we could probably live without soda (one of the worst offenders for discoloration, per Sands and Veytsman), it just doesn't seem realistic to delete healthy additions like berries and coffee from our diets entirely.
So what's the solution? According to Sands, we should try to balance the colorful foods in our diet with calcium-rich options like milk and hard cheeses (music to our ears) and even things like hard fruit, which he says will "help cleanse the teeth as we chew." Love your morning mug of java? Try following it up with an apple to negate the possibility of stains or even just swishing your mouth with some water.
Immediately after teeth whitening, however, your best bet is to fully abstain from the above discoloration agents. "Avoid staining foods and beverages like coffee tea and red wine for about 24 hours after the procedure," advises Veytsman.
Make Some Lifestyle Adjustments
There are of course myriad reasons to quit smoking, and you can add tooth staining to the list. You'll also want to think carefully before grabbing a drink or two at happy hour: one study found that alcoholic beverage consumption was linked to gum disease. To soften the blow, Sands suggests drinking through a straw instead.
Çetinkaya H, Romaniuk P. Relationship between consumption of soft and alcoholic drinks and oral health problems. Cent Eur J Public Health. 2020;28(2):94-102.