Are tooth whiteners worth the money?

July 28, 2009 5:25:04 PM PDT
Would you like whiter teeth but don't want to spend hundreds of dollars at the dentist's office? Then you've probably considered a drugstore tooth whitener. Consumer Reports just tested eight kits, including some that are heavily advertised. Crest promises its Whitestrips will give you a "dramatically whiter smile." Listerine says its Whitening Quick Dissolving Strip "simply dissolves ... to noticeably white." And iWhite claims to provide "dentist-office results." Consumer Reports tested to see how well eight at-home kits work. They cost anywhere from $17 to $50.

"We had over 80 staff members try out one kit each," explained Consumer Reports' Gayle Williams.

There are kits that use strips that stick on and strips that dissolve. Other kits use trays, including one from iWhite. It has a battery-operated light designed to accelerate teeth whitening, but it didn't do so well.

Williams said, "It turns out that the iWhite kit actually whitened teeth the least of all the kits tested."

Consumer Reports uses a special device called a colorimeter to assess staffers' before and after tooth color.

"Don't expect dramatic results," Williams warned. "None of the kits offered a Cover Girl white smile."

But the $50 Crest Whitestrips Supreme did outperform the others, rating very good. It's available online.

"If you want to reduce stains on your teeth, go easy when it comes to drinking tea, coffee, colas, red wine - even clear sodas," Williams advised.

Be aware that all the kits Consumer Reports tested caution the product may cause temporary tooth and gum sensitivity, and that was the case for some people in the tests.

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