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The Best Over-The-Counter Teeth Whiteners

By Amalah

Dearest Amalah:
I searched your archives and couldn’t find anything on this topic. I tried. I promise.
A few years ago I had Adult Braces. (I must refer to them as Adult Braces as I find that title hilarious.) I wore the big old silver braces for two years. And also paid for them myself. Ouch. And now, I have gorgeously straight teeth. For the first time in my life I can smile and feel good about it.
Except for the fact that my teeth aren’t very white.
And by “aren’t very white” I mean they are down right yellow. Ewww. I did not spend a bazillion dollars to have straight yellow teeth. My question to you is…can you recommend an over the counter teeth whitening system? One that won’t break the bank and that I can do in between working full time and raising a toddler.
Thanks….in advance…for helping me!!

austin-powers1.jpgI have tried exactly ONE of the many over-the-counter tooth-whitening systems. ONE. (Other than the “whitening” toothpastes and mouthwashes, but we all know THOSE don’t actually do anything to really whiten really stained teeth, right? They’re decent preventive measures for keeping regular coffee and red wine intake from staining your teeth, but they don’t change the color of yellowed teeth.)
Luckily that ONE system I used worked really well. I continue to use it somewhat regularly, and I am very happy with it. There could very well be something better out there, but why risk it?
crest.jpgSo: Crest Whitestrips. They work. They really do. And even if you don’t follow up with whitening toothpastes or cut back on coffee (the horror!), the results last about six months to a year. I’ve used both the “classic” version (back when classic = all they offered) and the “premium”, and have been happy with both. I could probably stand to buy another pack, but honestly, my teeth still look loads better than when I first decided to do something about them. (I had the Tetracycline staining, which…yeah. Delicious!) I find that I can go longer and longer with each pack now before I notice yellowing.
You use them twice a day for 30 minutes. I wore the morning strip on my drive to work and the nighttime strip while I washed my face and puttered around getting ready for bed. Yes, they are vaguely annoying and sticky and they feel weird. But they don’t really taste like anything and you start seeing results in about a week, which I always found REALLY helped with the motivation and dedication aspects.
They’ve come down in price since I first started using them, and now Crest seems to offer about a dozen variations on them. Whatever. The (which promises results that last six months) costs a measly $22. The (which promises 12 months of whiter teeth), is only $30. I don’t know nothing ’bout all the new-fangled ones like the “premium plus” strips or the “age defying” strips, since we didn’t have them back in my day. All we had were basic strips that tasted like paste and we used them while walking in the show uphill both ways AND WE WERE GRATEFUL.
Aquafresh offers the ($32), and Sephora devotes loads of marketing dollars to the GoSMILE system ($89). These might work! I don’t know! Maybe they are even better. But personally, when I find something that works and perhaps even defies my expectations, all for a reasonable price, I stick with it. One day I would love to scrape $500 together for a bleaching in my dentist’s office, but I’ve been saying that for years now and look! I have scraped exactly…uh…four dollars, 15 cents, and four mismatched buttons together.
So for now? Gooooo Whitestrips! Yaaay!

Published June 27, 2007. Last updated June 27, 2007.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • wilddreemer

    June 27, 2007 at 11:32 am

    I HEART WHITESTRIPS! I used these before my wedding back in 2004. In my wedding photos the only bad thing I can say is my neon white teeth make everyone elses teeth look sooooo yellow! I was hot! Guess what! I got pregnant a month later and then nursed for 15 months and now I’m knocked up again soooo its been three years since I could whiten and my teeth are still just as white! I got my husband to use them and he is Filipino (aka yellow impossible teeth) now they are bright white and his dentist actually commented on how amazing his teeth were for an asian person. Also, I found it a little annoying to put the strips on at two seperate times a day so I read really hard and the directions said you can apply them one after another. So I would just hang out on the couch for an hour watching Top Chef or something and put em on back to back and tada bright white teeth!

  • Meghan

    June 27, 2007 at 11:33 am

    The “premium” version of the Crest Whitestrips are the ones that were previously only available at the Dentist’s office (I believe they were called the “professional” version before) becuase basically they’re twice as potent as the basic/original formula.
    I have really sensitive teeth, so after the first day or so I would have to cut back to once a day treatments over two weeks because the pain was just too much. (And yes, I asked my dentist if I should stop all together, because seriously, the pain! was intense. He said as long as I could take it, they weren’t going to do any damage. No pain, no gain, right! Right?)
    My sisters have used and prefer the Target and Meijer brand (which appear to be the exact same thing, but with different store logos slapped on). Instead of the thin gooey strips in the Crest kit, these are wax strips that you mold around your teeth. My sisters prefered them for ease of use, they had the same whitening results as with using the Crest version (but cost about $5-10 less).
    If you’re going to use the Crest ones, be sure to have a tissue handy to wipe the foamy/slimy gel off of your teeth when the 30 minutes is up. Because that part is kind of gross.

  • Vida

    June 27, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    I loved Whitestrips, but they made my teeth incredibly sensitive, even after I went down to using them every other day (I’d do the top teeth one day and the bottom teeth the next). I’d love to start using them again, but they made my teeth hurt like crazy. Any suggestions?

  • Meghan

    June 27, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Vida – My dentist gave me a sample of Sensodine, and it really helped. The sample tube had enough in it to get me through the two weeks, but it would be totally worth it to pick up a tube and use it for the two weeks before and the time while you use the white strips.

  • kristinarena

    June 27, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Well, I’ve used the whitestrips, and while they definitely are fabulous, I’ve found that the “Plus White 5 Minute Speed Whitening” gel works just as well. It feels/tastes/looks just the same as the gel on the whitestrips, but is about four dollars a tube. You can either use the little rubber tray, or you can just apply with a q-tip. I’ve found that it works equally as well either way I do it. I get more compliments on my white teeth than anything. GO! Get some!

  • Rachel

    June 27, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    I use Crest Whitestrips and I cannot tell you how many people have complimented my teeth because I can’t count that high. They work so well that after a couple days of doing the full 2x a day for 30 minutes I can do just once a day for a few more days and my teeth are WHITE! For my teeth it doesn’t take the whole box to get the results I want so I have about half left over for touch ups.
    BTW I have a crown for one of my front teeth and the tooth color matcher guy didn’t have any sample colors white enough to match my teeth. And when I got the crown I hadn’t whitened in over a year. Teh awesome.

  • AmyM

    June 28, 2007 at 10:50 am

    I love the Whitestrips, they really do work. I have 3/4 of a box in my bathroom cupboard that I really need to start using again. But the thought of the pain! It’s too much! I hated that feeling and it would last for hours sometimes. I didn’t think my teeth were all that sensitive, but the Whitestrips really do a number on me. I will try the Sensodyne that someone recommended.

  • Isabel

    July 3, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks Amalah for getting to my question so soon. This is great advice! And the comments are even full of more.
    Sounds like I need to get my butt (and my yellow teeth) to Target and pick me up some Whitestrips. And make you sure you comment on my pretty white teeth when I meet you at BlogHer!

  • Isabel

    August 15, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    Hey, I used the Whitestrips and finally got around to posting before/after pics.
    In case anyone is interested, you can see them at htttp://