Whiten Your Teeth without Spending a Fortune

There’s nothing more attractive than a bright, white smile, but considering all of the foods and beverages we consume that cause stains (coffee, tea, and soda, for a start) it’s no surprise that most of us are a couple of shades (or more) from the glowing grin we desire. The problem is that many of us don’t think we have the funds needed to get our grills in ship shape. But whether your problem is cheap dental insurance that won’t cover whitening (in truth, even expensive insurance usually won’t pay for it) or other bills that need to be paid before you address cosmetic issues, there are ways to whiten your teeth for less. Here are just a few methods that won’t deplete your wallet.

1. Skip the dyes. So many foods these days come with additives, preservatives, and of course, food dye (none of which are good for you). If you can find ways to stop yourself from ingesting these foods, you’ll do less damage to your teeth to begin with. But what about items like coffee, tea, and wine that are naturally infused with staining agents? If you want to avoid stains on the front of your teeth, at least, try drinking these beverages with a straw. The best part is that this method is virtually free.

2. Toothpaste. Whitening toothpaste will not show huge results. It’s really meant for maintaining the white smile you already have. But it will help to remove mild surface stains, prevent some future staining, and possibly even whiten your teeth one shade with ongoing usage. And generally, you’ll pay the same price as (or just a little bit more than) regular toothpaste. Just keep in mind that any method of whitening will only work on healthy, natural teeth. Caps, false teeth, and dentures will stay the same color.

3. White strips. These strips are a step above whitening toothpaste for two reasons. Not only do they contain bleach, which penetrates into the tooth to whiten from within, but they also stay on the teeth longer for greater effectiveness. While whitening gels and rinses can easily be washed away by saliva, strips are secured to teeth for 30 minutes twice a day, generally over the course of two weeks. Results are immediate and may last up to four months. And you’ll see a definite improvement (2-3 shades lighter) for about $30-40.

4. Trays vs. lasers. You’ll get the same results either way when you go to the dentist, which is to say up to eight shades lighter (on average). Bleaching trays will cost you about $500+, and you’ll have to use them the same way as white strips (twice a day for two weeks) with a bleaching gel provided by your dentist. The laser procedure could cost you $1,000 or more, but you’ll get the whole shebang in a 1-hour visit. Trays are obviously the cheaper choice, and they’re reusable, so if you want to whiten again it will cost you less because you’ll only need to buy the bleach. Additionally, you may save about half on these procedures if you have insurance that covers them.

5. Dental schools. You know how you can go to a massage school and get a session with a masseuse-in-training for half the price of a professional? Well, why not do the same with dentistry? Every person who becomes a dentist (cosmetic or otherwise) needs practice while they’re in school. If you’re willing to volunteer, you can get your whitening done for a fraction of the cost (or even free). All you have to do is offer your services for their exams. Since they’re being graded on their work, you can expect the best service the students have to offer (with trained professionals looking over their shoulders).

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