Should I or Shouldn’t I Whiten My Teeth?

Last week I went to the orthodontist to sign up Eve, my 12-year-old, for braces. The place was kind of creepy—everyone’s teeth were so bright and almost neon white. I joked with the hot-looking receptionist that I felt inadequate and out of place. It all made my eyeballs hurt. Suddenly my perfectly normal and healthy middle-aged teeth seemed like rodent teeth, or worse, like coffee-and-tea-drinking shagadelic British teeth.

On cue, as if it was a TV commercial, the receptionist said, “We all use Crest Whitestrips! Would you like to try some?”

Suddenly, I was facing a moral dilemma of epic proportions. Should I whiten my teeth or shouldn’t I? You have to understand, I don’t die my hair (it’s frizzy and grey). I don’t use nail polish. I can barely stand to wear shoes. I hardly ever wear makeup, although I DO shave my legs and armpits. Where does teeth-whitening fit into my philosophy? Would I lose a part of my soul, like Susan Boyle lost her whole fabulous sassy look when someone plucked her signature eyebrows?

A recent article on told me that teeth-whitening is fairly safe to do, as long as you don’t overdo it. But does a sudden longing for a brighter smile match my own “where health meets green” mission? And more importantly, will it hurt? I have heard a number of people say that their teeth get really sensitive from the process, and that it does hurt. But I’ve got this box of Whitestrips in my purse, and I feel like it’s burning a hole in it.

What should I do? Should I or shouldn’t I? Eve says I should ask all of you. Please advise!

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37 Responses to Should I or Shouldn’t I Whiten My Teeth?

  1. Valerie May 4, 2009 at 8:27 am #

    I also use white strips and I love having a brighter smile. I also work in the dental field and the white strips are completely safe, moreso than the Zoom whitening, which is a UV light. If you have any sensitivity use a fluoride rinse, follow the instructions, before you go to bed and you will be great.

  2. Barb May 4, 2009 at 8:45 am #

    Yes you should. I have used the strips and like Valerie, love having a whiter smile. It does make me smile more and look younger without too much work!

  3. Judy May 4, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    Since you are hesitating, I suspect the white strips do not fit well with your philosophy of health/beauty. I’d suggest trying baking soda instead of toothpaste, either plain or mixed with hydrogen peroxide; this helps remove tea, coffee or food stains without the stark white look. If you use the white strips, please don’t overdo it; I think you would look strange with a white, white smile.

  4. Penny May 4, 2009 at 9:18 am #

    Maria, I used the Crest White Strips….they hurt my teeth/gums and got expensive so now I filled an old spice bottle with baking soda and every time I brush my teeth I shake a little baking soda on my tooth brush…. I think my teeth look much brighter… gums don’t hurt…and I have money to spend on other things!

  5. Lee May 4, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    Artificially dying yourself is ridiculous. Especially if your only trying to conform to the average.

    Notice I say average and not “normal.” Because what is average, doesn’t necessarily mean normal.

    Besides, I prefer to be above average.

  6. Msm May 4, 2009 at 9:30 am #

    I have been contemplating this myself for a few years as some days I think my teeth look on the yellow side. A friend of mine has whitened her teeth and they look great. I think I might try the baking soda or Crest White Strips. (I do color my hair my natural color, wear makeup though it’s very conservative and sometimes wear natural colored nail polish.) 🙂

  7. cw May 4, 2009 at 9:48 am #

    Just how shagadelic are your teeth? If they need it whiten them. It is not harmless as even toothpaste is poisonous in large quantities( fluoride you know) but then baking soda doesn’t prevent cavities. I do not dye my hair- I have the Yvonne DeCalro type of strip that is not overtly noticeable. I don’t wear makeup- never learned how to apply it well truthfully and I didn’t want to feel ugly to myself when I took it off. I polish my toenails but not my fingernails and I shave-husband’s request -but if it weren’t for summer I would hardly do it for myself. Would I whiten? probably would try baking soda first but it doesn’t help so much for brit like teeth ( the French are just as bad) I think I would use the white strips ( remembers they are toxic)- but a deep cleaning is much more important than white teeth. Bacteria in your gums can lead to all kinds of diseases and tooth loss – that is never pretty. Pretty is nice but healthy is better.

  8. Cheryl May 4, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    I used to whiten my teeth, but I don’t any more. They got super sensitive, and still are. The same thing happened to my friend. Perhaps the newer whiteners are less harmful than the one I used, but if I had it to do over, I would not whiten. That said, I don’t think personal care/personal beauty has to be an all or nothing proposition. You can wear a little make-up, but not color your hair, or whatever. It’s all about you feeling good about yourself, feeling like you are attractive, and holding true to your own personal values. You don’t have to explain this to anyone!

  9. maria May 4, 2009 at 9:58 am #

    This is better than using a magic 8 ball to make decisions! FYI I already use Kiss My Face Organic Whitening toothpaste, which tastes yummy. My dental hygenist says my teeth are “better than most people she sees.” But still, based on all your comments I might just do it….keep on voting!!!!!! I will do whatever the voters decide.

  10. Sandy May 4, 2009 at 10:11 am #

    Your hesitation seems justified when dealing with something that just isn’t natural. Stark white teeth just look fake. I tried the strips also, only to find they hurt my teeth and gums. I use baking soda only a few times a week and find that to be enough. I had discovered that over use of baking soda also caused sensitivity issues for me. I have been working toward a greener, healthier, more natural life style for years. Crest Strips and other teeth whitening procedures just don’t seem to fit in with that way of life.

  11. Christina May 4, 2009 at 10:13 am #

    Not healthy for the teeth. Not a good long term solution. I would cut out coffee, tea and red wine, or be sure to rinse with water after drinking, or better yet, brush. More importantly, teach these healthy habits to your daughter to increase her chances of being able to avoid the toxic mouth junk. Also, have you ever noticed people with the streaky white marks on their slightly discolored teeth? Yeah, that’s from using whitening products and scratching the enamel. Not pretty.

  12. Maya May 4, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    I’m interested in trying the baking soda. Any instructions or tips on how best to do it?

  13. Anonymous May 4, 2009 at 3:03 pm #

    I voted to brighten and then as soon as I sent off my vote, I thought ” is voting to whiten the same as a vote to say you need to change/improve yourself?” I have whitened my teeth, colored my hair, wore nail polish and use SPF 55 sunscreen on my face ( not only to protect from getting skin cancer AGAIN, but to keep my face as long as possible!!)
    Go ahead and do what makes you feel good about yourself, and I am sure that burning in your purse is starting to get hot!!

  14. Anonymous May 4, 2009 at 3:04 pm #

    And I think I know what orthodontist office you sent too–with all the “stepford wives/technicians”!!

  15. Lisa May 4, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    I would love to have a brighter smile. Not snow white, just brighter. But I have teeth that have been partially capped or filled in to fix a small break. I’ve heard that this creates a problem because in order to whiten your teeth even a little, one needs ALL of the original enamel. Does anyone know how to get around this dilemma ?

  16. Samantha May 4, 2009 at 3:55 pm #

    I think as long as you brush your teeth twice a day and don’t eat a ton of sugary food, your teeth are fine. I think people with their fake white teeth and beeming smiles are a little creepy looking anyway!

  17. Sue May 4, 2009 at 4:54 pm #

    If you decide you don’t like the whiteness, just stop using them.

  18. Pete May 4, 2009 at 6:44 pm #

    Do your part to stimulatethe economy. Buy the stripes and use them, your friends will thank you and so will America. I think you’re a good looking woman and a brighter smile will just enhance your beauty.

  19. nancy May 4, 2009 at 8:05 pm #

    “anonymous” above is me—I just accidently neglected to put my name in!!

  20. Amanda May 4, 2009 at 8:27 pm #

    You already have a gorgeous and natural smile. There is something disturbing about noticing someone’s blindingly white teeth first. It’s the SMILE you want people to appreciate. Not the crazy white teeth. For me, it’s one of those “why bother” kinda things. Besides, you did start you post by saying it looked creepy en masse.

  21. Ann May 4, 2009 at 9:48 pm #

    You have to like what you feel, and for only a small time you have to like to like what you see. And likng what you see is by your own standard, not someone else’s. If it has not caused pain nor heart ship thus far, I would say fore go it. If you just want to try it…..heck….why not, they will return in 6 weeks or so. It depends on what you want to spend your earned earned money on too. I can think of a couple more well deserving companies that could use that cash.
    Good luck in your decision. I can really appreciate your comtemplation having been there before…….you are inspiring me to let it go grey. ( And I too who most mistake me to be 15 years younger — think the whitening style smiles are just another way to get consumers to keep spending reguarly…like nails and highlights etc….)

  22. Vanessa May 5, 2009 at 8:13 am #

    If you’re dead keen on whiter teeth, use a whitening toothpaste or one with baking soda. I quite like Arm & Hammer. Then again, I’m going grey shamelessly so perhaps I’m not the best person to be listening to!!

  23. Alice May 5, 2009 at 8:56 am #

    Interestingly, I’ve seen one of the plants you mention in another post as one you grow, the Alpine White Strawberry, given as a natural teeth-whitener. Might be worth looking into.

  24. reydenna May 5, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    I bought myself a Sonicare toothbrush, mainly because I thought it might help overcome my being too lazy to floss. It brushes for 2 minutes before turning itself off. I think my teeth are somewhat whiter as a result, but I would use whitestrips in addition, if I weren’t too lazy….

  25. Yvette May 5, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    I like you prefer real nails and hair and skin. Mainly it is a sort of vanity that I think I look great without painting myself. However, my teeth aren’t “pearly whites” and it does bother me.

    A few years back I tried the white strips but I love my stain inducing beverages and they just didn’t fit my simplified (non-existent) beauty routine. However, I recently learned that Zoom has made some big improvements in the in office whitening. It causes less sensitivity, works faster and better.

    I’ll be waiting for the Zoom2 to arrive in my area and get that done.

  26. Shelbi May 5, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    A few years ago I researched whitening with Zoom and all the pastes and trays to gain sparkly white teeth for my wedding pictures. I learned I have VERY sensitive teeth and gums and can not leave the strips on longer than about 5 minutes and certainly can’t sit through the Zoom. I am a red wine drinker and espresso junkie. I came to the conclusion – who really cares if my teeth are a shade or two lighter beige [but me]? They are healthy, not falling out, not chipped or cracked. I never whitened them.

  27. Christine May 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm #

    When are we ever going to learn to accept ourselves as we are, and consider what we ARE to be beautiful, with slightly imperfect smiles and hair?!!

    I agree with your initial assessment that all those super-white smiles are creepy (pay attention to your first imrpessions… they’re usually the truest). And frankly, if we Americans have this much time and money to throw at something as superficial and unimportant as perfectly white teeth, then I’m not surprised that our economy is in the tank and our education systems are failing us. Where is our internal compass? How have we moved so far away from what really matters in this world?

    Please love yourself as the beautiful self that you are! And if you really want whiter teeth, do it the REAL way, by eating clean healthy food (as you do) and using natural products (slower, but more honest and sustainable).

    And in the meantime, we need to all stand up and CELEBRATE the imperfection that we all embody, and appreciate the perfection of our honest, true essence!

  28. Steph May 5, 2009 at 6:51 pm #

    Well said Christine.

  29. Victoria May 5, 2009 at 7:33 pm #

    I used the whitening gels back in the ’90s, and they made my teeth sensitive. I even suspect that I lost a few teeth in part due to the gels. As an African-American woman, I don’t use relaxers in my hair, so I’m one of the few relatively young women in the U.S. (37) rocking a ‘fro. Where do you think hair-altering chemicals go after they’re served their purpose? That’s right: in our water and ground. Same thing with tooth-altering chemicals. What’s in that stuff, anyway? If you feel the need to brighten your teeth, I’d go with Tom’s of Maine whitening toothpaste.

  30. Linda May 5, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    Why not try the Crest Whitestrips, you got them for free. By using the strips you can see if they really work. I tried some free Crest Whitestrips and my teeth did appear a little brighter. But I was a little confused by the length of the strips, why were they that length? If I wanted brighter teeth, would I not want them all brighter?

  31. Anonymous May 6, 2009 at 6:33 am #

    I have some more questions to consider: From a science and health perspective, does anyone really have any idea what these whitening products actually DO to your teeth?

    Who says they’re “safe”? How well have they been tested, and for how long? What are the constituents that make up these products? Were these constitutents tested individually for safety, or were they tested as a group for synergistic (negative) effects? Are they really something we want in our mouths, and on our teeth?

    Teeth aren’t like hair… they are a very permanent part of our bodies. It is entirely possible that the “yellowing” we have on our teeth may be there for some very good reason… I mean, how well do we REALLY understand how our bodies work on that minute level? Maybe that yellow coating is there to really improve the strength and health of our teeth over the long haul… I don’t know, and how well do doctors and dentist know? (There are just so many things we don’t yet understand about the functioning of the human body on a “scientific” level… but there are many things we CAN know about our own bodies, if we listen to our hearts and instincts.)

    This is a (hopefully) silly extrapolation, but there is a remote chance that whitened teeth may be incurring damage that doesn’t really rear its ugly head for 10 or 20 years down the line. And then what? What happens if whitened teeth begin to truly deteriorate at that point? That could be a major health crisis of a sort… just so we can have whiter teeth now.

    And for what? Do we want whiter teeth because WE want them? Or because some marketer says we should?

  32. Dee May 6, 2009 at 10:08 am #

    Hi Maria, I noticed your request for opinions on whitening your teeth and agree this is a personal decision. Full disclosure I happen to work for Crest and use Whitestrips. Wanted to let you know there is a lot of information at that may help with your decision. Also, check the FAQ’s for information on sensitivity and safety. If you chose to try Crest Whitestrips we have a $7 off coupon on our site and a money back guarantee. Please let us know what you decide. Thanks Dee.

  33. Wendy May 6, 2009 at 11:39 am #

    I liken your experience to walking into a Calvin Klein or Prada store. Of course, the salespeople are all wearing the clothes (or in your case, the teeth) and are gorgeous. But that is their job. It is also their job to sell you the clothes or at least make you want to buy them.

    A truly educated consumer knows what works for them and can see through the sales pitch and group think.

    So perhaps, although this made for a very fun read, none of us commenting can tell you either way what you should do for finding where health meets green for you.

    Good luck…looking forward to reading about your choice!

  34. Rebecca May 8, 2009 at 11:34 pm #

    I think you should try the Crest whitestrips. I did. And like you, I have graying frizzy hair, hardly wear any make-up, am always in my bare feet, don’t polish my nails, etc. I drink coffee and tea, and noticed it was really taking a toll on the color of my teeth. I tried the strips, but didn’t follow the directions exactly. Instead of using them twice a day for 14 days, I used them once a day for 7 days…noticed my teeth looked better…and still use the strips about once or twice a month as maintenence. I also use baking soda to brush with everyday. I get compliments on my teeth all the time…they look naturally white because I don’t over-do the treatment. I’ve seen others with teeththat look flourescent ! You be the judge of how frequently you need to use the strips to get the results you desire, and I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

  35. Tony May 10, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    Instead of whitening your teeth, you could spend the time you save apologizing to all your British friends for the vile calumny that suggests our teeth are anything but perfect!

  36. Kim May 11, 2009 at 2:33 pm #

    isn’t the real question whether or not whitening your teeth will lead to dying your hair, wearing gobs of makeup and amassing a shoe wardrobe the size of Imelda Marcos? I say no to whitening the teeth, simply because coffee-and-tea drinking shagadelic teeth are a sign of a life well-lived.

  37. Jill December 11, 2009 at 6:06 pm #

    Whiten em. Beauty is pain.

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