What do strawberries, red wine, coffee, and cigarettes have in common? They’re just a few of the many things that can stain your teeth. When our smiles start to lose their glisten, many of us turn to teeth whitening. But which option is the healthiest for our teeth?

The best bet for a whiter, brighter smile is to schedule an appointment with your dentist. These sessions usually last for about an hour. The dentist applies a gel or rubber barrier over your gums, and uses bleaching products that contain between 25 and 40 percent hydrogen peroxide. Sometimes lasers are used, but there’s no evidence that they have any additional effects, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

According to Tarek Halim, DDS, of the Beverly Dentistry, the results of a tooth whitening procedure can vary somewhat from person to person. But patients typically experience much better results than over-the-counter alternatives. There are little to no side effects to this popular procedure if done annually, except that your teeth might feel a little more sensitive for up to two weeks.

Pro: more effective and longer-term results

Con: teeth feel sensitive for up to two weeks

A dentist can create some teeth whitening trays for you at their office. These trays are another safe and reliable option for whiter teeth, says Dr. Halim. You can also buy tooth trays at most drug stores or online. While this could prove a less expensive option, it may not be as reliable.

Many over-the-counter trays are one-size-fits-all, and hydrogen peroxide is the main whitening ingredient. An ill-fitted tray can cause discomfort and gum irritation. The peroxide can also cause irritation as well as increase tooth sensitivity.

Pro: cheaper than a dentist procedure

Con: trays are one-size-fits-all

Like any tooth whitening product, whitening strips can range in price, from less than $20 to well over $100 for a high-quality product. Some are more effective than others, and almost all whitening products can cause increased tooth sensitivity.

Consult your dentist when sampling different whitening strips because they may be able to offer some important insight. Dr. Halim, for example, cautions that many whitening products can actually damage your teeth, gums, and soft tissue.

Pro: easy to use on a daily basis

Con: can only fix minor discoloration

There are countless toothpastes that claim to have whitening powers. Many don’t actually contain any bleaching ingredients. Instead, they counteract surface stains through minor chemical reactions and gentle polishing. Some of the most popular options are Arm & Hammer Advance White, Opalescence Whitening Toothpaste, and Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening Toothpaste.

These toothpastes are more for day-to-day maintenance than a total mouth makeover. Professionals don’t often highly recommend toothpastes for severe discoloring.

Pro: an incentive to brush your teeth more often!

Con: won’t fix any major discoloration

Another option is to avoid the extra expense of whitening altogether. Or, if you do choose to use whitening products, get the most for your money by implementing a few simple but important habits.

Periodontist David Genet, DMD, PA recommends sipping your favorite beverage through a straw, so that drinks are less likely to stain your teeth.

When you eat or drink something that might discolor your teeth, rinse your mouth with water or brush your teeth soon after.

Schedule regular visits with your dentist. Even if you’re just going for a regular cleaning, these appointments are essential in preserving your white smile.

If you are feeling self-conscious about your yellowing smile, do not worry. There are lots of options to choose from if you want to brighten your teeth. Always use the guidance of your dentist first!