There is no purer torture than the pursuit of white teeth. Have you ever left a Crest Whitestrip on for too long? Or attempted to get your teeth professionally bleached? You think it's going fine until the light they use scorches your dental nerves and unleashes violent, searing pain upon you. And it's expensive.
I should concede that there is nothing on God's green Earth—no rare pair of sneakers, no beachfront vacation property, no life-affirming romance—I want more than white teeth. Perfect teeth signify both impressive hygiene and general mirth; if you're showing them, it's probably because you're laughing or smiling. (Or you're baring them, because you're in a street fight.) As a dumb and grimy youth, I let my dental hygiene fall by the wayside, and I'm still paying for it. My mouth is decidedly off-white, and not in the cool Virgil Abloh way. The Benjamin Moore shade is "Pale Straw." It's in the yellow family.
In my adulthood, I can't afford veneers and am too much of a wuss for Whitestrips. Instead I've devoted my life's research to high-gain, low-pain ways of achieving a Benjamin Moore shade of tooth remotely in the ivory ballpark. This is what I found.
Instead of Colgate: Color-Correcting Toothpaste
I will never not use color-correcting toothpaste since meeting PopWhite Whitening Primer and Toothpaste. The science, if you could call it that, is simple and sound: purple brings out the whites of your teeth. This means my teeth look noticeably whiter every time I brush, if only by optical illusion. But besides toning your teeth, it's just a good toothpaste—the staple of every solid dental routine—that's free of abrasive, erosive cleansing agents (in favor of gentler ones, like coconut oil.) The brand also offers an oral rinse if you’re interested in doubling-down.
Instead of Whitestrips: Luster Two Minute White
Torture aside, the appeal of Whitestrips is that they work. And they work well. But at what cost, other than the cost of Whitestrips? If you aren't precise about application, Whitestrips can contribute to increased sensitivity, turning every ice cream cone or bowl of hot soup into a dangerous game of Russian Roulette.
If you're OK with the results being less dazzling, switch to something like Luster Two Minute White, which also demands a much smaller time commitment. Luster's two-step program includes a Cleanser (this is basically your toothpaste) plus a Serum to tone. It's like a skincare routine, for your teeth. And the regimen, while gradual, will knock your smile up a few shades. I carry the Serum on my person for situations when I want to put my best teeth forward—first dates, one-on-one meetings. It’s like a Tide to Go pen for your mouth.
Instead of a plastic toothbrush: A Silicone Toothbrush
I'll admit this one is less pointedly about teeth whitening, but it's still useful if you're looking to mitigate mouth damage: Bristled toothbrushes, surprise, can be very abrasive on your gums, and not in a good way. This has given way to silicone toothbrushes, which are not only gentler but are also less prone to harbor bacteria. I used to use the Foreo Issa, but I recently broke it in a furious bout of brushing. My replacement, from Boie USA, offers manual rubbery toothbrushes that are ergonomically designed for optimum brushing—look at how cool they are! Every time a guest uses my bathroom, I have to endure an onslaught of compliments. It is exhausting, but I appreciate it.
Instead of regular floss: Sonicare AirFloss
My childhood dentist, no doubt frustrated by my inability to follow basic dental hygiene tasks (and jealous of my sterling complexion and dazzling sense of humor) used to berate me for not flossing enough. To add injury to rudeness, he would floss for me until I bled. "If your gums are bleeding, that means you're not flossing enough!" he would scream, my mouth welling with blood. Why would that make me want to floss more?
Once a deeply unpleasant task (and the source of personal dentist-related trauma), flossing is now fun, thanks to AirFloss. AirFloss looks like an electric toothbrush, but instead of a brush head, you get a tiny satellite dish that shoots a high-velocity jet of water between your teeth, like one of those cans of air you clean your keyboard with. It's effective, doesn't hurt, and that's it, because that’s all that matters. I fill mine with cinnamon mouthwash for an added sensory bonus, but you are free to live your life as you normally would: pain-free, and with a smile.