Getting a million-dollar smile has spawned a billion-dollar industry. From trays to strips and lasers, a brighter, whiter smile is something nearly everyone wants.
When you're brushing on a budget, a whitening toothpaste may seem like the easiest and most affordable approach, but do all of those products really work?
It's hard to find a toothpaste now that doesn't offer whitening.
Dentists say it's all about marketing because without the promise of pearly whites, their toothpaste just won't sell.
We tested four brands of whitening toothpaste on four different people over an eight-week period.
One of our testers, Alison Hill, loves drinking wine, but she doesn't love what it leaves behind on her teeth. Another tester likes to smoke cigarettes.
"I'm a smoker," said Jessica Sells. "My teeth are yellow."
We even found someone who drinks at least three cups of coffee or tea daily.
"You pay for it in other ways," said Jeff Rivenbark.
Each of the products we tested offers claims like "gentle whitening" or "clinically proven," and they promise to whiten your teeth "in just one tube" or "in only 14 days."
After two weeks of daily brushing, our participants' expectations were high.
"I'm gonna smile, and blind you with brightness," Rivenbark said.
One person even thought her toothpaste was helping to keep stains off her teeth.
"Throughout the day, they seem to not get stained as quickly," Sells said.
Four weeks into our test, unlike their stains, our participants' faith was beginning to fade.
"There was an initial change, and then, since then, I don't feel it," said our fourth product tester, Shelly Crawford.
At the six-week mark, came the complaints. Some were concerned about the rate of the whitening success and others had issues with their products' texture and taste.
Hill tested a product which claimed to have an Alpine Breeze flavor.
"Alpine Breeze? I don't feel like I'm skiing the Alps," she said.
After eight weeks, each participant was asked to return their empty toothpaste tube. All except one of our testers was happy to do so.
Crawford said she was "unimpressed" and that if she really wanted whiter teeth, she'd have to go to a professional.
That's exactly what America Now did.
We asked Dentist Lori Pappert to examine our eight weeks of picture progress, or lack thereof.
"I don't see a dramatic change anywhere," Pappert said.
She said a true change in color occurs when a whitening product like peroxide sits on the teeth for an extended period of time like when you use a plastic tray.
Pappert cautions that whitening pastes are often gritty because they use abrasives to polish.
Some contain baking soda and many use silica also known as very fine sand.
"Well, now I want to stick my finger down my throat," said Hill.
Dentists say these ingredients are not dangerous, but using a product too much could have long-term damaging consequences for your teeth.
"You're sanding the finish off your teeth," Pappert said.
Your finish affects the final results.
Of our product testers, Sells was the only one who noticed an immediate change that faded after several smokes.
Both dentists and brushers agree, perhaps, the only benefit of whitening toothpastes is that consumers who purchase these products tend to be more consistent about brushing regularly and for longer periods of time.
Pappert recommends avoiding acids that etch your teeth and allow stains to set in.
After you eat, you should wait 30 minutes before brushing because that allows the acid in your mouth to neutralize so you're not rubbing it around your teeth.
When you're going to pick out a paste, Pappert recommends you shop on the bottom shelves. There, you'll find fewer glitzy packages and just your basic toothpaste which she says works perfectly well.
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