Winter whites

At the dentists office …
Ultraviolet treatment: Zoom! and BrightSmile coat teeth with an ultraviolet-activated whitening gel, containing as much as 25 percent hydrogen peroxide. They promise smiles that are whiter by seven shades or more.
Cost? $500 to $1,000.
Discomfort level? The newest version, Zoom! 2, generates less heat and works faster than its predecessor, reducing pain for gums.
Time factor? Considered the fast food of the teeth whitening industry, they change chompers from hausfrau yellow to wedding day white in a single 60- to 90-minute treatment.
Contraindications? May cause gum sensitivity or require follow-up treatment.
How long does it last? Depending on one’s penchant for red wine, coffee or cigarettes, a single treatment can last six months to a few years.

Custom-fit bleaching trays: Take-home trays, with individual teeth moulds, are worn over the teeth after being injected with bleaching gel.
Cost? $400 to $600.
Discomfort level? Some people object to the lengthly tray-wearing process, and the bleaching trays may irritate the teeth and gums.
Time factor? Be prepared to wear these anti-social oral trays for several hours a day over one to three weeks.
Contraindications? Although it is rare, gums may burn if chemicals are left too long on teeth.
How long do they last? Teeth may remain seven to 10 shades whiter for a year or more. The bleaching trays can be used to touch up ultraviolet treatments.

Over the counter …
Crest Whitestrips Premium Plus; Oral-B Rembrandt Whitening Pen; Colgate Simply White Clear Whitening Gel: Thin, flexible strips coated with 10 percent hydrogen peroxide lift tooth-surface stains. The applicator pen contains a similar bleaching agent. The leave-on gel does not require rinsing.
Cost? Strips, $48; pen, $20; brush-on gel, $15.
Discomfort level? Initial dental checkups against potential gum sensitivity are advised for whitewashed-smile wannabes.
Time factor? The strips involve twice-daily 30-minute applications over 10 days. The pen takes 14 nights of before-bedtime treatment. The gel requires twice-daily applications for 14 days.
Contraindications? Improperly placed strips or product overuse can cause gums to redden and flare.
How long do they last? The latest Whitestrips deliver 18 months in the dazzle department; the pen, seven to 18 months; the gel, six months.

Reach Brightener Toothbrush; Oral-B Advantage Artica Toothbrush; Pfizer Advanced Listerine: The toothbrushes feature tapered heads and multi-leveled bristles to enliven plaque-dulled teeth. The mouthwash uses zinc chloride to unearth potential tartar, maintaining shinier chompers and sexier breath.
Cost? Reach Brightener, $4.15; Oral-B Advantage, $4.39; mouthwash, $3 for 250 mL.
Discomfort level? Overuse of the brushes can irritate the gums.
Time factor? Use twice daily to maintain whiteness rather than produce dramatic results.
Contraindications? Considered safe if used properly.
How long do they last? Like an extended warranty for bright teeth following professional or at-home whitening treatments. If you want a star smile without the porcelain veneer price tag, take heed of these helpful tips:

1. Get the go-ahead first from your dentist, says Canadian Dental Association president Jack Cottrell, citing pregnant women or those with active tooth decay, periodontal disease, broken fillings or dentures as unsuitable candidates for treatment.

2. Be prepared for lesser results from drugstore products, such as toothpastes. “They aren’t in the mouth long enough to do any good,” cautions Winnipeg dentist Dr. Ernest Cholakis.

Decide how white you want to go. “It all depends on your sense of style,” says Cholakis.

After getting dentist approval, flirt carefully with more economical, over-the-counter offerings, such as Whitestrips, being sure to avoid the gum sensitivity associated with overuse, advises Toronto dentist Dr. Peter Model.