You know bleaching has gone mainstream when Crest Whitestrips sponsors the Miss Universe pageant. Bleaching is now the most popular cosmetic-dentistry procedure–and can be done in an hour or so at the dentist or in three or more days at home.
In-office procedures like BriteSmile and Zoom!, which combine bleach and light, cost about $550 to $790 around Washington; specials can bring the price down by $100 to $200.
Dentist-made take-home trays, which you fill with bleach, take longer but work as well–for some $250 to $580. The news on these: Your dentist may still prescribe two weeks of overnight use, but some versions now require wearing just an hour a day or six hours over three or four days.
Over-the-counter kits, from Whitestrips to paint-on gels to one-size-fits-all trays, offer varying degrees of effectiveness and comfort. Most run under $50. Many dentists recommend Whitestrips, and their peroxide works. When The Washingtonian tested products, Natural White 5-Minute trays worked well, too. Toothpastes and gels had less-stellar results.
Whichever method you try, you'll do better if your teeth are yellow than if they're more brown or gray. For more information, see the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, aacd.com.