Having a white, sparkling smile is an important aspect of not just dental health but also personal confidence. No matter who you are or what you do, nobody likes looking in the mirror and seeing a yellow crescent of teeth smiling back at them, and that’s why teeth whitening is big business. To that end, here are three things to keep in mind so that you can whiten your teeth safely and effectively.
Photo: Pando Hall/Getty Images
Choose Safe, Slow and Steady Methods
The most effective ways to whiten your teeth are almost always going to be treatments administered either in a dental office or under the guidance of a dental health professional.
Dentists routinely use whitening gels made from carbamide peroxide at concentrations of anywhere between 10 to 20 percent for long-term use or as high as 35 percent for in-office use. While a higher concentration will make your teeth whiter in a hurry, these supercharged sessions run the risk of dehydrating your teeth. This results in the original, darker color of the teeth returning as they rehydrate over around a week or so.
Meanwhile, lower-powered whitening gels – the type that sometimes requires the use of a custom-molded whitening tray to hold the gel in place on your teeth safely, often while you sleep – tend to be more effective in the long run. These lower concentration gels penetrate deeper over time, leading to better, more noticeable whitening.
Know Which Home Remedies Work – and Which Don’t
If you don’t have the budget for professional whitening, there are home remedies for teeth whitening that you can try. However, not all of them work as well as others – and some don’t work at all.
Remedies such as using a whitening toothpaste with baking soda (or concocting an at-home sodium bicarbonate paste) can work over time, but are better at removing surface enamel stains and won’t provide the deep whiteness of a whitening gel or strip. Relying on folk remedies such as oil pulling (rinsing with sesame, coconut, or olive oil) might help you keep your mouth clean of bacteria but won’t do much for whitening your smile.
The most effective remedies for whitening are likely over-the-counter teeth whitening strips. These contain the same ingredients as whitening gels, but often provide uneven levels of cover in comparison to gels, which can conform to the shape of your teeth better. Whitening strips can also damage your gums if applied improperly. To be on the safe side, speak to your orthodontist about safe teeth whitening treatments.
Avoid Things that Stain Your Teeth in the First Place
If you’re already struggling with teeth that are one or two shades darker than you want, it’s important to stop making things worse so that any tooth whitening methods you use have the best chance of working. This means taking steps to avoid things that cause your teeth to become stained in the first place.
Some things are unavoidable. Being prescribed antibiotics can result in a dry mouth for example, which leads to a growth in the types of bacteria that can lead to plaque, giving your mouth a darker, less attractive color. However, choosing to smoke tobacco or to consume large quantities of dark, high-acid beverages like coffee, soft drinks, or even some fruit juices can contribute to staining.
Your best bet would be to eliminate these items from your diet or daily routine. However, if even just cutting back proves too difficult, rinsing your mouth out afterward is the best way to remove any residue that might otherwise damage and darken your tooth enamel.
While teeth naturally yellow with age, this doesn’t mean we have to go around being embarrassed by our smiles. If you feel your teeth look less than their best, these tips should point you in the right direction.