So you want whiter teeth? There are plenty of ways to get a brighter smile. And Canadians are gleaming from ear to ear as whitening products explode onto drug store shelves.


But before you jump on the megawatt-smile bandwagon, make sure this is how you want to spend your money and time.


“Tooth whitening is a bit of a luxury,” says Dr. Benoit Soucy, director of clinical and scientific affairs at the Canadian Dental Association in Ottawa. “To a large extent, it is similar to a lot of fashion trends. For most people it is not needed. It’s like, ‘Why go on a diet if you are in a healthy weight range?'”


Another thing to keep in mind: “It is not always a good idea to go for the whitest possible teeth. It draws attention to the teeth and shows up flaws,” he says.


Metro asked Soucy to guide us through the various whitening options. By and large, bleaching your teeth is safe, as long as you get your teeth checked first by a dentist, don’t overdo it, and follow instructions carefully.

The cheapest products are toothpastes and mouth washes that promise whiter teeth. These are safe but probably won’t make a huge difference, says Soucy. “Whitening toothpastes don’t change the colour of your teeth; they simply remove the surface stains,” he says.

Next up are whitening kits you can buy at the pharmacy. These contain either whitening strips, materials to paint the bleach onto your teeth, or trays that you fill with a bleaching agent and mold to your mouth. These kits typically cost between $10 and $100.

A more expensive option is to get custom-made trays at the dentist’s office. Because these fit exactly, there is less chance of spillage and swallowing peroxide bleach. Treatments can be done at home using these custom-made trays. This option may cost between $250 and $600.

For a super-fast, super efficient whitening treatment, there’s a light-activated gel treatment at the dentist’s office. This may set you back between $600 and $2,000, but your teeth will sparkle after usually just one visit.

There are several benefits of having whitening done at the dentist: First of all, you will get any problems fixed before you begin; secondly, your dentist will examine you to find out if bleaching will achieve the results you want; thirdly, he or she will make sure the procedure can be done safely; and, finally, the dentist will be there if you feel any irritation or sensitivity.

Follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Don’t accelerate the process or continue longer than advised. Over-bleaching can irritate your gums and even create chemical burns on the tongue.