Looking as though you have naturally white, healthy teeth is great. Looking as though you have a mouth full of Chiclets isn’t. So how to do you given yourself a brighter smile without looking like you’re channelling Simon Cowell? Dr. Debra Glassman, creator of Star Brite whitening toothpaste fills us in.

Some people – like Simon Cowell – have bleached their teeth so much that they seem almost blue. What are those people doing wrong? Sometimes they have porcelain veneers and they choose a shade that’s too opaque. If you’re thinking of doing veneers it’s really important to have your dentist look at your whole palette. Think about your eyes and skin tone. And think about your personality, too! You want your teeth to blend in so it looks as though you were born with a natural, beautiful smile. Otherwise, it looks like the teeth are walking into the room before the person.

How can you help your dentist do that, beyond pointing to the fact that you have brown hair, and enjoy long walks on the beach?

One great thing you can do is bring in your high school photo. I also ask my patients to bring me in photos from magazines of smiles they DON’T like, as well as smiles they like. I do have some clients who really want that incredibly white smile, and I try to educate them on what’s important. You want someone to say, “wow, you have a beautiful smile” not “wow, you just got your teeth done.”

If you don’t want to do veneers, is bleaching a good alternative?

Bleaching is a great way to whiten your teeth. I really recommend the Zoom process. Look for Zoom 2.6. It’s a 45 minute procedure. We apply gel to the teeth in three 15 minute sessions. The process takes out all the impurities on the outer level of teeth and it will get you 8 to 10 shades whiter. I ask patients to use gel trays at home. Pop it in once a week and you’ll keep up that white color. Because it does still require some upkeep – after all, you’ll have blueberries, red wine, even soy sauce can stain your teeth a bit.

What’s the price difference between bleaching and getting veneers?

Zoom is $500 for all teeth, for veneers it starts at $1,500 a tooth. It’s more of an investment. If your teeth are nice and in alignment whitening will get you to a point where you’re happy. But if you have a very deep grey color and misshapen teeth you’ll want to do veneers. Porcelain veneers take two visits and a full smile can run you around $10,000. Though sometimes you just want a few veneers right in the front, and that’s less expensive.

What accounts for the price difference?

Porcelain lasts forever. Whitening is a major change, but how well it lasts depends on your habits. Can you have white wine instead of red? Sprite instead of Coke?

How well do any of the whitening toothpastes sold in drugstores actually work? Do they work at all?

I have my own toothpaste called StarBrite. It’s a great way to keep the whitening going. And StarBrite makes a huge difference by itself. Within two weeks your teeth will get whiter. And it fights cavities and gum disease. When you’re fighting gum disease that will help get your gums pinker, so your enamel will look whiter. When your gums are unhealthy they turn red, which makes your teeth look more yellow. By getting your gums healthy with a good toothpste and flossing will give you a nice pink frame around the picture. And at the same time the whitening agent will mean you’ll see a change in the tooth’s actual color as well.