The Best Way to Whiter Teeth
Your favorite celebrity’s online photo shows very bright, very white teeth. In the mirror at home, yours aren’t as close to that as you’d like them to be. Some of the things that you do can, over time, dull your teeth and diminish the beauty of your smile.
Food and beverages that can stain teeth include:
- Red wine
- Dark fruit juices
- Dark sodas
- Tomato sauce
- Soy sauce
Even the berries we all look forward to enjoying each summer. Not to mention tobacco – smoking or chewing. Our teeth take a beating, stain-wise, every day. And they naturally darken as the enamel ages. Can anything be done about this? Well, yes. Something can.
First and foremost: if you want bright, white teeth, avoid food, beverages, and other items that cause stains. Of course, that’s easier said than done. You may be able to give up coffee and red wine for a week or two, but not forever. So your teeth will stain. Brushing and flossing daily is the next best thing to never getting a stain, and your efforts in this regard are bolstered by regular visits to your dentist for a cleaning. A professional cleaning and polishing by a dental hygienist will leave your mouth feeling refreshed and your teeth looking significantly brighter than they did when you came in.
Ways to Whiten Your Teeth at Home
Even if you visit your dentist every six months, and brush and floss thoroughly every day, your teeth lose their whiteness with age and can acquire stains in between dental visits. If you want a brighter smile for a specific occasion or because a particular stain is quite noticeable, you can try several natural remedies at home. They won’t take highly stained or significantly yellowed teeth back to white, but they could make a difference if your teeth just need a little boost.
Brushing your teeth with baking soda and/or hydrogen peroxide once or twice a week, or using a highly diluted mixture of hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash, can perk up lightly stained teeth over the course of a few months. There’s some evidence that rinsing with a diluted mixture of water and apple cider vinegar can make some difference, too. These natural remedies are safe but should not be used every day. Baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and vinegar can all damage your teeth if you use too strong a mixture or use it too often.
Over-the-Counter Whitening Products
One step away from mixing your own products are whitening solutions you can find at retail stores. They take the guesswork out of mixing ingredients, giving you a standard proportion of active ingredients to reduce the risk of doing damage while you whiten.
Of the dozens of kinds of toothpaste on the shelves in your local drugstore or grocery store, only those that contain the ingredients listed here — baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, or both — have the potential to make a noticeable difference without exposing your teeth to harsh, may be harmful, chemicals. So, be sure to read the labels before you buy. Results may not be dramatic and they’re not immediate. Depending on the extent of stains or discoloration, getting a result you are satisfied with may take weeks, or even months, of consistent daily use.
Among non-toothpaste options available in drugstores are teeth whitening kits. They usually include a plastic tray and a solution containing one or more of the ingredients noted above. These kits are safe to use, and they do work to a degree, but they don’t offer any options. You can’t adjust the size or depth of the tray to fit your own teeth, and you can’t control the level of chemicals in the solution provided. In addition, although they produce improvement, they can cause discomfort or even damage to your teeth and gums.
Professional Teeth Whitening
Home remedies. Special kinds of toothpaste. Over-the-counter kits. Any and all of them may work for you, depending on the level of staining and the degree of whiteness you’re looking for. Still, the most reliable means to whiten your teeth is with a professional tooth whitening procedure performed by your dentist. Professional teeth whitening can make your teeth as much as eight shades whiter, regardless of how badly they’re stained. In addition, it’s safer than drug store or homemade remedies and you can have it done in the dental office or at home with custom materials your dentist provides.
For a professional tooth whitening procedure, your dentist first records the current shade of your teeth. Most teeth are not pure white, ever, and for treated teeth to look natural, they need to reflect what’s natural for your mouth and your overall coloring. The goal should be for your teeth to appear bright and clean, not to be so bright that your smile looks artificial.
After a thorough cleaning, teeth are coated with a whitening solution that contains peroxide (hydrogen or carbamide) as a bleaching agent. Treatments are left to work until the desired tooth shade is reached or the maximum safe time is passed. A fluoride treatment may be applied at the end of treatment to lessen the risk of mouth sensitivity, which is a common, short-lived side effect of whitening, whether done by a dentist or at home with store-bought products. When the treatment is completed, your teeth are rinsed clear of the solution and your bright new smile appears.
Whatever method you choose for whitening your teeth, it’s important to consult with your dentist before you do anything. Be open and honest about why you want whiter teeth and the result you expect. Your dentist can evaluate the level of staining or discoloration, and assess which method has the potential for giving you what you’re looking for. At O’Connor Dental Care, we can also explain the pros and cons of each option and help you determine which path is most likely to leave you pleased and smiling, brightly.