Go the extra smile: 8 DIY ways to whiten your teeth at home
Want whiter, brighter teeth without a costly treatment? Sarah Finley looks at the best DIY options to try at home
Coffee, red wine and curry: all delicious things to eat and drink, but consuming them means we're more likely to develop stained teeth and discolouration. Some people are more prone to this than others, but our diet will have a big impact on it.
Of course, we'd all love to be able to afford professional teeth-whitening, but it's not a reality for most of us. So, what's the next best thing?
Teeth-whitening products, which you can use at home, have come a long way in the past few years, with products ranging from toothpastes to at-home kits with LED lights (which accelerate the whitening process). But what's the first thing you should look for?
"Make sure they're medically licensed or approved by a dentist," says Dr Krystyna Wilczynski, a cosmetic dental surgeon, at NuYu London, "It's just not worth experimenting with anything that looks or feels unprofessional.
"Here at the salon, we make sure we assess everyone on a one-to-one basis to check for sensitivity or how white their teeth need to be.
"We also personalise mouth guards, so look out for guards which seem generic or don't mould well to your teeth."
Having a check-up with your dentist before you start to whiten teeth is also a good idea.
"Bad patches on teeth could be stains, but it some cases it could be decay, so check with a dentist before whitening," warns Dr Guy Barwell, a dental surgeon from The Implant Centre.
The only way to really know if what you've used is effective is time. "Dependent on diet, a good teeth-whitening treatment can last for around six months before you need to top it up again," says Barwell.
Here, we've trialled the latest teeth-whitening products - from toothpastes and whitening strips to charcoal-based treatments - to help you achieve that perfect smile.
Limited Edition Oral-B Genius 9000 in Rose Gold: £99.99, Argos
To clean and whiten your teeth, you need to start with a good toothbrush, and this electric one from Oral-B is worth forking out for.
It comes in a pretty travel case, where you can also charge it too, and charging lasts for around a month.
The brush heads are approved by Dr Uchenna Okoye, the Clinical Director at London Smiling cosmetic dentist surgery, so you know you are in good hands.
We liked how the different controls allow you to adapt your brushing to how dirty or stained your teeth are, while the small head and bristles reached gaps in between your teeth too.
After a month of using the toothbrush, our teeth felt brighter, cleaner and were stain-free.
Billion Dollar Smile Teeth Whitening Kit: £29.99, Superdrug
This kit is easy to use, with everything laid out for you. We loved the shade guide and clear instructions, which are great when you are a newbie to teeth-whitening.
The kit consists of three 3ml non-peroxide gel syringes and a LED mini light.
The non-peroxide ingredients are clinically tested and the formula, which was easy to dispense on to the gum shields, felt gentle on our teeth and gums. We liked the smell of aloe vera, pomegranate and chamomile, which made it feel less clinical than some of the other products available on the market. Following just a few weeks of using it, we were impressed with how bright our teeth were - around a couple of shades lighter than they had been before.
Pro Teeth Whitening Co Activated Charcoal Strips, Mouthwash, Powder and Toothpaste: from £8.99, Amazon
Charcoal is becoming popular in teeth whitening products, and although some dentists think it's a fad, many claim it's great for getting rid of stains on your teeth.
The powder is normally made from coconut shells and other natural ingredients to create a detoxifying agent.
Pro Teeth Whitening Co uses charcoal in its teeth-whitening powder and toothpaste, aloe vera and peppermint mouthwash, and teeth-whitening strips.
The products are 100% natural, vegan-friendly and approved by Dr Peter McQuillan, a Harley Street dentist.
We used the products for a couple of weeks and found that the charcoal powder, although a little fussy to use, got rid of staining on the front of our teeth, while the mouthwash made them feel cleaner on a day-to-day basis.
The whiteness of our teeth hadn't improved as much as we'd liked, but more improvement might be seen with continued use.
Polished Teeth Whitening Kit: £39.99, polishedwhitening.com
This kit - comprising three syringes filled with teeth-whitening gel, a mouth guard and LED light - comes presented in a stylish box.
Once you've connected the shield guard to the LED light, you then take the syringes and fill the mouth guards up with formula.
Getting the right amount of formula on the mouth guard, and then getting it into your mouth while trying to avoid your gums, can be a little tricky, and the application time of 10 minutes seemed too long.
The instructions say that you need to use it every night for a week to see results, but we found it hard to commit to this and used it only a few times before we gave up.
That said, we did see some teeth-brightening over the course of the week, so we recommend it for the committed teeth-whiteners amongst you.
You can also try out its whitening strips and mouthwash if a kit seems a little too advanced for you.
Oral-B 3D Whitening Therapy toothpaste: £5, Boots
Many of us don't want to use kits or gels on our teeth - we want to rely on a toothpaste.
But with so many out there, which ones actually do the job? The Oral-B 3D Whitening Therapy toothpaste, created in partnership with scientists, claims to use an active mineral complex to not only whiten teeth, but also strengthen and nourish enamel.
We loved the taste and feel of it, as some whitening toothpastes can be a little harsh or leave a funny taste in our mouths. It took a while to see some effects with this toothpaste, but within a month of regular brushing, they looked shinier and fresher.
PROCOAL Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening Powder: £9.99, procoal.co.uk
Developed and formulated by UK dentists, this is 100% natural and vegan-friendly.
The black powder comes in a small pot and you simply have to dip your brush into the powder and use it to then clean your teeth like you would with toothpaste.
If you are not a fan of LED lights or mouth guards, this powder can be a faster way to brighten up teeth. The 60ml pot is also said to last for around five months, making it excellent value for money. But, unlike some other powders, it really stuck to our teeth and after a few minutes of cleaning, it took several mouth washes before the black colour completely washed out of our mouths. Having said that, the product gave our teeth a glow after a couple of weeks.
FOREO Issa 2 Silicone Sonic Toothbrush Sensitive Set: £169.99, John Lewis
This snazzy looking brush is unlike anything else on the market, and is the world's first electric toothbrush made entirely from silicone.
Most brushes have a small head, but this one is an oval-shaped brush which moulds in to your mouth and doesn't just clean one tooth at a time, but many.
We were impressed with the technology behind it - 16 adjustable speeds and sonic pulse technology that uses up to 11,000 high-intensity pulsations per minute. But we found that the feel of it took some getting used to and although it left our teeth looking shiny, our teeth didn't feel that clean. Overall, we found it impressive, especially as a one-hour charge means it last for a whole year - unusual for most electric toothbrushes. But if you are looking for an overall clean and whiteness, this one may take a while to see the results.
Rapid White 1 Week Tooth Whitening System with Charcoal: £12, Boots
This set of toothpaste and gel claims to whiten teeth up to six shades lighter in one week - a bold claim for a £12 set.
On the plus side, it's easy to use. You brush your teeth with the charcoal toothpaste, use the mouth guard to apply the teeth-whitening gel and pop in your mouth for five to 10 minutes. The mouth guard doesn't fit very close to the teeth, however, so we wondered how much of an impact this would have and if it was safe for gums.
We also found the mouth guard quite uncomfortable, with our jaw aching after just a couple of minutes. We used it morning and night for a week and saw some difference in colour, but it was more of a brightener than a shade difference. It's great for the price point but won't magically change your teeth colour.
Although it's not a kit designed to whiten your teeth, the Oral-B Genius 9000 toothbrush gives you a great overall clean and does leave teeth looking shades whiter.
If you are looking for something more specific, the Billion Dollar Smile Teeth Whitening Kit is the easiest and best kit on the market to give you that overall change in colour that you're looking for.