No matter what fashions are ruling the runway this season, there's one flattering accessory that will always remain in vogue: glistening white teeth. Unfortunately, as we get older and adopt more grownup habits (e.g., drinking coffee and red wine), we have to work a little harder to maintain that winning sparkle. Here, celebrity aesthetic dentist Jonathan B. Levine, DMD, whose A-list clients include Sarah Jessica Parker and Christie Brinkley, shares his favorite OTC whitening products—,as well as easy, everyday secrets for creating the illusion of whiter teeth without the use of any bleaching products at all!
Choose the Right Lipstick Shade
Did you know certain lip colors can actually make your teeth look significantly whiter (or darker)? Learn how to pick the right shade for you. If you have grayish teeth, avoid red lipsticks with blue tones and instead try a cooler tone with a brown base. "Nude pinks with an almost brownish hue are best," says Dr. Levine. If you have a yellow or off-white tone to your teeth, avoid deep, dark and bright shades, as well as super-shiny glosses. Instead, advises Dr. Levine, try nude shades or pinks that have bluish undertones.
Go For a Bronzed Look
Tan, golden skin goes a long way toward making your eyes and teeth pop. Skip the beach and tanning beds, and instead, give your skin an even, healthy-looking glow with a safe sunless tanner. Dr. Levine's top picks are SkinCeuticals Sans Soleil and DuWop Revolotion Body.
Whiten While You Chew
While certain foods such as soy sauce, berries and curry stain your enamel, fibrous foods like apples, celery, carrots, spinach, broccoli and lettuce actually work to remove stains by exfoliating teeth before the stain molecules attach themselves deeply to the surface. "It's like a skin scrub for your smile," says Dr. Levine
Pick Rhinestone and Silver Jewelry
Need another reason to add more sparkle to your outfit? Wearing accessories made of silver, white gold and diamonds (or even fake diamonds!) highlights the white accents in your teeth. However, "stay away from yellow gold," advises Dr. Levine—it exaggerates any yellowish tones in the enamel.
Dress to Impress
"A bright white shirt will only accentuate less-than-white teeth," says Dr. Levine. Instead, choose an off-white or cream-colored shade. "Reducing the contrast will result in the appearance of a whiter smile."
Drink Through a Straw
Red wine, cranberry juice or any chromogenic, or pigmented, liquids that tend to seep into enamel are better sipped through a straw. Even then, Dr. Levine recommends brushing immediately after drinking a stain-producing beverage so that it doesn't have a chance to set into the tooth's molecules.
Try Whitening Floss
In addition to whitening the spaces in between our teeth, a floss such as Glide Whitening Plus Scope Flavor helps maintain healthy gums, too. "By nature, our gums have a clean, pink, pillowy appearance and shape the teeth nicely," says Dr. Levine. Neglecting to care for your gums will eventually cause them to look red and irritated, detracting from your smile.
Invest in an Electric Toothbrush
"The product I believe has stood the test of time is the electric toothbrush," says Dr. Levine. These devices are the most effective at removing extrinsic stains, which are embedded on the exterior of the tooth surface (such as in the calculus or plaque) and result from repeated interaction with food debris, tobacco smoke, wine and other sources. Dr. Levine recommends Sonicare-brand brushes, but any electric brush will work well.
Don't Disregard the Strips
With the vast selection of teeth-bleaching strips on the market, how do you decide which one to use? "At this point, all of the whitening strips available work fairly well," says Dr. Levine, who's partial to Listerine Whitening Quick Dissolving Strips. He recommends using the strips on their own, or following a professional whitening, since teeth are most susceptible to staining after a full bleaching treatment.
Use Whitening Toothpastes
Whitening toothpastes may promise to keep your pearly whites sparkling, but the truth is, toothpaste itself doesn't whiten teeth—it only helps scrub away stains before they settle in and discolor your enamel. (Always remember to brush before bedtime, since neglecting to do will give stains a chance to set overnight.) That said, certain toothpastes are more effective at removing stains; according to Dr. Levine, "Anything with baking soda is a safe bet."