On a Sunday afternoon, the football game on TV switched to a commercial showing a model who had sparkling white teeth and was holding a tissue. The ridiculously exaggerated commercial advertising Crest whitestrips asks “Would you pass the tissue test?” Even though the tissue test is a complete sham, I realized that my teeth weren’t as white as I’d like them to be. There are many products and treatments to help whiten teeth; a few friends and I have set out to find which over-the-counter whitening product works the best.
The products tested were activated charcoal, Crest whitestrips, Colgate optic white toothpaste, and Colgate optic white mouthwash. Soph. Emily Peckham tested the whitestrips, Soph. Ella Stoel tested the toothpaste, Soph. Andrea Kennedy tested the mouthwash, and I tested the charcoal. The experiment took place over the course of five days. We used each product as directed; the charcoal and whitestrips were used once a day (charcoal for 20 minutes and whitestrips for 30), and the toothpaste and mouthwash were used twice a day. I reviewed the success of each product by comparing of the starting shade of white to the ending shade based off of the color palette below.
At the end of the five day trial, I compared each product’s success based on the number of shades changed over the course of the experiment.
Charcoal – $9.50
In order to use the charcoal, I had to break open the charcoal pill (which created a black mess on the counter) and pour the contents into a small container. Then, I would mix the powder with a few drops of water and use an old toothbrush to smear the mixture on my teeth.
The mixture did not stick to my teeth and mixed with my saliva. Even though I did not swallow any, the mixture had a charred taste. I had to reapply the mixture several times throughout the time limit. When the time ran out, I spit out the black liquid into the sink and cleaned my toothbrush and teeth.
It was so messy that the mixture ended up temporarily staining my toothbrush, the container, the sink, and a hand towel at the end of the five days. That said, I thought it started working by the second use. On the fifth day, my mother complimented me on how white my teeth looked.
My teeth started at the fourth shade; by the end, my teeth were at third shade.
Whitestrips – $20
Each day, Peckham opened a package of whitestrips, peeled two plastic strips off of a sheet of plastic, placed them on her teeth, and set a timer for 20 minutes. The whitestrips tasted bitter and would sometimes slide off. They caused a strange tingling sensation that hurt her teeth. After the second day of use, Peckham complained that her teeth felt sore during the day, even when she wasn’t wearing the whitestrips.
Peckham’s teeth started off at the sixth shade; by the end of the trial, her teeth were at the fourth shade.
Mouthwash – $5
Twice each day, Kennedy poured a reasonable amount of the minty mouthwash into a small cup and swished it around in her mouth. “It feels like my teeth no longer have any plaque at all,” Kennedy said. The extremely minty taste didn’t bother her. It was a very simple process that required little time or attention, but it created a strange sensation. “It feels like bleach on my teeth, but I think it’s working,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy’s teeth started at the fifth shade; by the end, her teeth were at the second shade.
Toothpaste – $6
Stoel brushed her teeth with Colgate whitening toothpaste twice each day. “It felt very hygenic,” Stoel said. She feels more confident about how her teeth look after using the whitening toothpaste. Stoel believes the whitening toothpaste works because her teeth are whiter than they were before. She also agreed with Kennedy about her teeth feeling plaque-free.
Stoel’s teeth were at the fifth shade before the experiment; afterwards, her teeth were at the third shade.
Charcoal was the messiest, most time-consuming product tested, whereas whitening toothpaste was the simplest. Both the toothpaste and mouthwash were very functional products because they not only whiten teeth, but they also clean them. The charcoal is definitely not worth the hassle considering it improved by only one shade. The toothpaste and whitestrips improved by two shades. Working the best and being the cheapest, the mouthwash changed three shades. Next time you’re looking for whiter teeth, stick to the basics and use whitening mouthwash.