People want beautiful, healthy smiles and getting their teeth whitened is one of the more popular ways to achieve this! In fact, it is the number one requested cosmetic dental procedure in Canada.
50 Shades of White
Teeth come in many shades of white and in dentistry we use shade guides to select or determine the colour of teeth. Natural teeth range from light greyish to yellow in colour, but there are many factors that affect the appearance or perception of these colours such as lighting, skin tone and staining.
While there is no shortage of teeth whitening solutions available to consumers, increasingly, people are asking about natural ways to whiten teeth. If natural is the way you want to go, our disclaimer helps you to be informed because knowing the truth is the best thing you can do for the health of your teeth.
Before discussing treatments that naturally whiten your teeth, we must caution you. We’ve noticed that because whitened teeth has become so popular, many people are determined to use any means necessary to achieve a whiter, brighter smile despite the warnings.
You may have noticed that almost all webpages offering information on how to whiten your teeth naturally also mention the acidic nature of some of the remedies suggested. Results may not always be as immediate as one would like to see and this can lead to over use of a home treatment.
We cannot emphasize enough how important it is not to dismiss the damaging effect of acids in the mouth. If acids can cause cavities, which are essentially holes in your teeth, then it stands to reason that the repeated, daily use of some of these treatments will also cause your enamel to begin to soften and have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve – great looking teeth!
There is not some world-wide conspiracy amongst dentists and dental product manufacturers to steer you away from natural whiteners in an attempt to convince you to use professional products. It’s a matter of simple science. When too much acid or abrasive substances are used on enamel, erosion (wearing away) occurs.
Enamel does not grow back! Once you have scrubbed it off, it’s gone – along with it’s shine. Believe it or not, we want you to be happy and keep teeth for life. It’s as simple as that.
There are four main ways to whiten teeth naturally:
1. Good oral hygiene
2. Home remedies
3. Avoiding stains
4. Professional care
The rule of thumb for natural looking white teeth: “If you would like to have white teeth that still look natural, your teeth should ideally be no whiter than the whites of your eyes.”
Nothing is more affordable or easier than brushing your teeth 2-3 times a day and flossing daily. It is the only way to rid your teeth of food and plaque and takes so little of your time. There are many whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes on the market that have been approved by the Canadian Dental Association. You can visit their website to find the list of toothpastes and mouthwashes that are safe for your teeth and gums.
Crunchy Foods – There are some foods like apples, celery and carrots that are crunchy enough to act as a natural toothbrush by scrubbing away plaque and stain from the surfaces of your teeth. These types of foods also cause the body to produce more saliva in the mouth to help naturally cleanse teeth.
Cheese – Eating cheese will leave a fine film on your teeth that can protect them from foods that stain or are highly acidic. Get in the habit of adding cheese cubes to your packed lunches or choosing them at the buffet table.
Malic Acid* – Some foods, like apples and strawberries contain a low acid called malic acid which can dissolve stains on your teeth. A pasty mixture of the mashed up fruit and baking soda can be used as a toothpaste to whiten teeth. However, like most acids, it is capable of eroding enamel. If you are determined to use this type of natural whitener, make sure that you do so only every 3 months or so and rinse with water or a neutral mouth rinse immediately afterwards.
Lemons* – are highly acidic and can erode enamel quickly if used frequently. It is mixed with salt and used as a toothpaste for a couple of days 2-3 times a year. You must remember to rinse with water or a neutral mouth rinse immediately afterwards.
Apple-Cider Vinegar* – is used as a watery toothpaste, but results can take up to a month or later. It is an effective method, but is a highly acidic way of whitening teeth and will erode enamel away over time.
Banana Peels* – this involves peeling one strip of the banana’s outer covering and rubbing the fleshy side of the peel against the front surfaces of your top and bottom teeth. You are to do this until your teeth are completely coated in a layer of banana paste and then you must try to leave your mouth slightly open with your lips away from your teeth for approximately 10 minutes. After this time, you take your toothbrush and gently brush this paste against your teeth then rinse your mouth out with water.
Baking Soda* – Good old baking soda mixed with water and a pinch of salt to make a paste is a common “homemade toothpaste.” In fact, people used this recipe long before commercial toothpastes were invented. It works wonders, however, there’s truth to the saying, “too much of a good thing.” This baking soda mixture is abrasive and can actually wear your enamel away if it is used too often. We recommend only once a week, being careful not to scrub your teeth too hard during brushing.
Hydrogen Peroxide – This is considered one of the most effective bleaching agents available and is an active ingredient in most mouthwashes and toothpastes. Again, you can make a paste by mixing equal parts of water and hydrogen peroxide (some people add baking soda also) and apply it to the front surfaces of your teeth with a toothbrush or with your finger. Let it sit for a few minutes then rinse your mouth with water immediately afterwards. Claims that hydrogen peroxide is carcinogenic and can weaken teeth have been dispelled and it has been declared safe to use.
We do not recommend that you brush your teeth immediately after any of the home food remedies that contain acid. This is because the enamel surface of your teeth has been softened by the acid and any further brushing action within the next 60 minutes will continue to erode and damage your weakened tooth.
How teeth become discoloured.
There are many things that can contribute to the discolouration of teeth. Although, teeth tend to darken with age, items like coffee, tea, red wine, soft drinks, dark fruit juices, colour-dyed foods/drinks, tobacco products, and some spices can easily stain tooth enamel. Poor oral hygiene results in the buildup of plaque and tartar into which food and drink can deposit. As professionals, we have seen a whole host of other colours, such as orange or green, appear on teeth.
Tobacco Products – Some of the ingredients in smoking and chewing tobacco products leave behind deposits that work their way into the surface of the teeth causing an unsightly, brownish/blackish discolouration. Most times, the stain is so stubborn that it can only be removed by professional cleaning.
The Wine Trick!
They don’t make it a wine and cheese party for nothing! Eating a piece of cheese before taking a sip of your wine will coat your teeth and help protect them against the staining and acidic erosion effect of wine.
You may not have considered professional care as a way of naturally whitening your teeth, but the fact is, when plaque hardens on your teeth or stains cannot be removed by regular home brushing, your natural course of action should be to see your dentist or dental hygienist. The better your home care routine and lifestyle habits are the less time will be spent needing professional cleaning.
Whitening should never be used as a substitute for professional dental cleanings. Maintaining regular visits to your dental hygienist is the only way that tartar buildup and stubborn stains can be removed and is an opportunity to ensure that your home care routine is effective.
Caring for your teeth is a “team effort!” Without regular dental check-ups by your dentist, there is no other way to ensure that your teeth are healthy and cavity free. A white smile is of little importance if your teeth are not healthy. Your overall health depends on a healthy mouth.
A Word about Realistic Expectations
It is important to know that whitening techniques are not for everyone. Teeth that are stained permanently because of medications like tetracycline or have been repaired with white filling material, veneers or dental crowns cannot be whitened with products. If your teeth are not suitable for whitening there are plenty of other options available such as veneers or crowns.
While most tooth whitening procedures are safe and effective, it is also important to consult with your dentist to ensure that your teeth are in a clean, healthy, and cavity-free condition before whitening. Your dentist will be able to give you some realistic expectations about the degree of whitening you can expect depending on your natural tooth colour, your degree of staining and the type of whitening treatment you choose.
A white, healthy smile is a tremendous confidence booster and If you would like more information regarding teeth whitening or any of the our other smile options we offer, give us a call today. You’ll be glad you did!
Yours in Better Health,
The Your Smile Dental Team
Added Bonus Tip
By simply switching your lipstick colour you can downplay the colour of your teeth. The trick is to off-set the natural yellow colour of teeth which is considered a warm tone by choosing a lipstick that has a cool tone. So, colours that contain a hint of blue like reds and wines or have a cool, neutral tone rather than shades in the coral or orange range will make your teeth appear whiter in appearance. Also, to help your teeth look moist and shiny instead of dingy and dull, shop for lipsticks that are glossy rather than one that are matte in their finish.