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Turn your Teeth into True Pearly Whites with the Colgate Optic White Collection

Whenever Hilary Duff smiles (or, for that matter, Suze Orman), I feel like reaching for my Ray-Bans so as to protect myself from retinal damage. Sure, a tooth that sparkles is cute in the context of Saturday morning cartoons but, in the real world, no one wants to encounter teeth so white that they feel like a visual assault. And yet, while I don’t covet these celebrities’ blindingly bright smiles, I do wish my pearly whites were a lot more, well, pearly. See, there’s a line between staring-directly-into-the-sun  bright chompers and grizzly, yellowish, coffee- and cigarette-ravaged teeth. Even though I quit smoking over three years ago, I’m still trying to correct years of damage. After all, no matter how often you floss, brush your teeth, and reach for your mouthwash, the combination of tar and nicotine can lead to serious enamel breakdown and, as  a result, a less-than-stellar smile. Because I’m a bit self-conscious about my less-than-perfect smile (and I’m ridden with guilt over the money my parents spent on braces, only to have me disregard my dental health for a quick nicotine fix), I’ve tried nearly every teeth whitening product on the market — from the Luster Weekend Tooth Whitening System  and the Supersmile Gum to the Crest Whitestrips Advanced Seal. But, rather than chew weird-tasting gum or bite down on a dental tray filled with an icky gel, I’ve long hoped for toothpastes and mouthwashes with whitening properties, products that I could integrate into my daily dental care routine and that wouldn’t prove overly pricey or time-consuming.

Fortunately, more and more companies have started formulating toothpastes and mouthwashes that are specifically designed to whiten teeth while also, of course, cleaning them and protecting them from cavities and decay. As over-the-counter teeth whitening products flood the market, then, it’s important to know how to navigate your way through the crowded and often confusing drugstore aisles.  As you saunter down the oral hygiene line at your favorite drugstore, scoping out the plethora of dental floss and picks, not to mention toothpastes and motorized toothbrushes on display,  you’re likely to encounter a number of products from the recently launched  Colgate Optic White collection, which itself incorporates toothpastes, toothbrushes, and mouthwashes.

The collection’s claim to fame: according to  the company’s clinical trials, women who abided by a strict oral hygiene regimen consisting solely of Colgate Optic White products witnessed a change within 5 days’ time, with their smiles looking one shade lighter. What exactly is considered one shade lighter? Well, there’s no universal gradient scale when it comes to teeth pigmentation so a lot of these claims are subject to the individual parameters and overall whimsies of each company’s marketing department, not to mention that contingent’s perception of a marketing strategy that can lure customers and thus bolster sales.

Ever the skeptic, then, I started testing some products from the Colgate Optic White collection expecting to witness  minimal change — if any at all. I started out with the Colgate Optic White Enamel White Toothpaste ($3.49 at mass food and drug retailers), available  in Luminous Mint. What makes this a “whitening” toothpaste? Well, it incorporates hydrogen peroxide, the very same bleaching agent used in professional whitening treatments at dentist offices. This bleaching agent is paired with the highest amount of tooth-strengthening fluoride available over the counter — 1,500ppm MFP — so as to strengthen teeth and prevent enamel decay.

The bad news: the toothpaste has an unusual and unsavory taste and, even after thoroughly scrubbing your teeth thoroughly, your breath might not feel completely minty fresh. Sure, you won’t be walking around with potentially lethal morning breath, but it also might not be that minty, cooling, invigorating scent to which you’ve become accustomed. Furthermore, the toothpaste also has a bit of an unorthodox aftertaste that tends to linger, making it less  appealing on a sensory level than traditional minty toothpastes. That being said, if you brush your teeth 2-3 times a day using this toothpaste, you will notice a difference in the brightness of your smile relatively quickly. While it’s possible to detect a difference within five days, chances are you’ll really be impressed after 2 weeks have elapsed. If brighter teeth are your end goal then and you don’t mind a few bumps on the road to that objective, you’ll be thoroughly pleased.

To maximize the potency of the toothpaste, I’d recommend using the Colgate 360 Optic White Manual Toothbrush ($3.79 for 4 oz. and 4.29 for 5.5 oz. at mass food and drug retailers), which features rubber whitening cups that effectively remove surface stains by holding the toothpaste in place instead of simply dispersing it, thereby allowing for a more controlled cleansing experience. The polishing bristles, meanwhile, are soft enough to save you from any discomfort or enamel damage while being long and flexible enough to access hard-to-reach areas.

The powerhouse in the Optic White collection, however, is the Colgate Optic White Mouthwash ($2.99 for 8 oz., 5.99 for 16 oz. , and $7.29 for 32 oz.  at mass food and drug retailers), which features a 2% concentration of hydrogen peroxide. If you complement your teeth cleansing routine with this mouthwash, you’ll notice a significant difference within a shorter period of time (significantly shorter than if you use the toothpaste alone, mind you), but do be advised that the mouthwash is neither tasty nor gentle. When you swill it around inside your mouth, you might feel a bit of a burning sensation against the inside of your cheeks and within your throat and, again here, the aftertaste is far from pleasant. Also, the consistency is surprisingly thick for a mouthwash, which can prove a bit disconcerting given how we normally conceive of mouthwashes  as refreshing bursts of germ-fighting, breath-refreshing, ultra-light, water-like liquid. Even after you swirl it inside your mouth, gargle, and spit, you might feel  like chewing gum or popping a mint inside your mouth to attain that familiar sensation and that tingling, refreshing, minty fresh breath. That being said, the mouthwash is, in fact, effective, so I’d highly recommend this product when searching for an affordable and accessible road to a brighter smile – whatever its shortcomings may be.

Overall, the Colgate Optic White products I’ve tested have proven effective in helping me achieve a brighter smile. Granted, the process has taken more than 5 days (I started seeing a difference 2 weeks into testing), but their effectiveness can’t be questioned. Still, they didn’t necessarily yield the most pleasant sensation. Ideally, I’d love if the formula could be tweaked a slight bit so that the toothpaste and mouthwash felt mintier and left one’s breath fresher. But, again, there’s no arguing that these products do whiten teeth.

Praise aside, do be careful when applying any product featuring hydrogen peroxide as this bleaching agent can lead to increased tooth and gum sensitivity. Yes, hydrogen peroxide is the same substance dentists use in their offices, but let’s be clear: it’s also the same chemical that is used to remove surface blood stains, to bleach hair, to sanitize bathroom toilets and tubs, and to clean floors. So, while the ADA has pronounced this chemical safe, they are first to admit that very little scientific research exists on the side effects of long-term hydrogen peroxide use within a personal hygiene context, so they advise using treatments containing these chemicals for a limited amount of time (1-2 weeks per session).

With that in mind, then, I wouldn’t recommend tossing your regular toothpaste into the garbage and replacing it with the Colgate Optic White one but, rather, complementing your routine with these products on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

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