F is for Facelift: Teeth Whitening Kits (Yup) plus links to Special Offers and Free Samples

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Janine
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teeth whitening kits

Know what? Home teeth-whitening kits are icky. Messy and yucky. If the box says "minty fresh," don't be fooled -- even the mildest of them all cannot be classified as pleasant-tasting. And yes, you might temporarily have to deal with ouchie sensitive teeth. But despite the untasty, unwieldly aspects, home kits are surprisingly effective, and the messy and the yucky and the ouchie are worth it, without a doubt.

Dull, stained teeth make a face look tired and drawn. Whiten the teeth and you'll brighten the face -- in fact you'll take at least a couple of years off your appearance and look healthier as well. Seriously.

I first whitened my teeth about 10 years ago, with a kit from my dentist. It was $350 to have the molded refillable trays made for the overnight-wear program. The bleaching gel tasted awful, left weird white blotches on my teeth as they lightened, made them breathing-hurt sensitive... I was a tad freaked. But blotches aside, my teeth were discernibly brighter within three days, so I figured I might as well finish the 14-day (overnight! agh!) regimen as directed to see what I'd get. And a few days after completing it, my bright-white teeth settled to an awesome, even-toned white. Whiter than the lightest sample shade in my dentist's office (but not in a Ross Geller black-light way), they stayed that way for about two years.

Better than the shade, though, was that whitening my teeth turned out to be a wake-UP! for my complexion. I actually needed less makeup to look refreshed and polished. And younger! I was so pleased with my results that as soon as home kits hit the market, I immediately started pushing them at people (you know who you are).

My favourite is still Crest Whitestrips Premium Plus ($49.99 CAN/$39.99 US; 20 strips). They taste yucky and the gel-bleach coating is icky, but they work, and quickly. Some people don't like that the strips can slip around, and sensitivity can be an issue, but whatever. So I don't talk much for two 30-minute stretches per day for 10 days. Who's that gonna bother? And the sensitivity doesn't last.

Lots of folks I know like Whitening Listerine Quick Dissolving Strips ($33.99 CAN/$23.99 US; 56 strips), which, unlike Crest, stick to the teeth. They work, too, although I found the dissolving-strip experience yicky -- a little foam-at-the-mouth within about 8 minutes. FYI, the strips can be a little awkward to get out of the packaging. (They're like stretchy, sticky Listerine breath strips.) Be sure to tear off both sides as well as the top of the package before carefully removing the strip.

Others I know like the Aquafresh White Trays ($44 CAN/$36 US; 14 trays). Pre-filled with a squiggle of whitening gel, they don't fit as well as custom trays from your dentist, but of course they're a few hundred bucks cheaper. And yep, yicky. I'm using them now, and occasionally a bit of gel escapes a tray... really yicky. Blech. But guess what? Used as directed, Aquafresh White Trays whiten too.

If you're worried about whether your teeth can handle a home-whitening process, check with your dentist. Badly stained teeth may need more than one box, and beware -- caps, crowns and veneers don't bleach like real teeth. Investigate your options, including laser whitening if you want near-instant results (more sensitivity issues, though, and $$$).

Whitening toothpastes won't do it, by the way. Use them if you like, but effective whitening at home is down to how long the active bleaching agent is in contact with the teeth. It's about penetration time, in minutes and consecutive days. Fewer strips/trays in the box means faster results (no-one is going to sell a box o' product that doesn't give you noticeable, lasting results by the time you use it all up, cuz that's just silly). And although you might see results in three or four days, the discolouration will be back in no time if you stop there. You'll get the best, long-lasting results if you soldier through and finish the regimen as per the brand instructions.

It's rather a beauty cliché now, but a whiter smile really is like a mini facelift plus vacation, and it doesn't have to take a big bite out of your wallet. You just have to grin and bear it. Then show it off.

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Crest, Listerine and Aquafresh whitening kits are available at drugstores and mass retailers.

Images courtesy of Crest, Listerine and Aquafresh.