For many of us, oral care can be an afterthought until we start to see discolouration or have that event where we need our smile to shine. So, you have probably wondered what the best ways are to whiten your teeth. Here we will discuss the dos and don’ts of teeth whitening to show you the best ways to brighten your smile.
Don’ts: Beware of Online Trends
Teeth whitening systems such as charcoal pastes and whitening gels on ready-made trays have become very popular online over the last few years. With their flashy lights and clever marketing these may seem like attractive quick fixes. However, the Australian Dental Association actually recommends avoiding these products as they often do more harm than good.
Charcoal paste is extremely abrasive and damages your enamel, the outer layer that provides protection to your teeth. Preserving this layer of enamel is extremely important as it is one of the few tissues in your body that doesn’t regenerate, so once that enamel is gone, it is gone for good. We would even recommend avoiding charcoal-based toothpastes that can be found in supermarkets, as the charcoal can absorb the fluoride in toothpaste which is meant to strengthen your teeth.
Whitening gels in trays found online should also best avoided. These gels will often have unsafe levels of the peroxide agent that whitens your teeth and can cause toothaches. The trays for these products also come in generic sizes and not custom fitted to your teeth. This can cause the whitening gel to spread around your mouth causing ulceration and burns on your gums, lips, cheeks and tongue.
So, if these products aren’t safe, what can you do to whiten your smile?
Do’s: Our 7 Tips for a Whiter Smile
1. Cut Down on Coffee
Surface stains on teeth are often caused by food and drink, with the main culprits being coffee, tea and red wine. You don’t necessarily have to stop drinking your favourite beverages, but cutting them down or rinsing your mouth with water after drinking them is a good alternative. If your coffee is iced, drinking it through a straw will also help minimise the staining effect.
2. Cut Down on Smoking
Cigarette stains are one of the worst offenders when it comes to staining teeth. In addition to all the health benefits of quitting smoking, such as reducing your chances of lung cancer as well as most oral cancers, your teeth will also appear much whiter.
3. Brush your Teeth!
Most tooth stains are extrinsic surface stains on the outside of your teeth. These build up over time as our teeth collect plaque, and become stained from food and drink. So when we are brushing our teeth in the correct manner, we’re also removing a lot of these extrinsic stains.
Be sure to brush at least twice per day for at least 2 minutes, in small, gentle circular motions. It’s important to make sure you’re also brushing near the gum line. If you want to remove more of the stains, an electric brush will do a better job than a manual brush, and the soft bristles on the electric brush are less likely to damage your enamel. In addition to keeping your teeth whiter, brushing regularly will also help in preventing cavities and gum disease.
4. Getting a Clean at the Dentist
Not all stains will come off with just brushing, with some being quite tricky to get rid of. Visiting your dentist every 6 months for a check-up and clean will allow you to get rid of these tougher stains with a professional polish. With regular check-ups, your dentist will also be able to pick up on any other issues while they are still minor, so that you can avoid major work down the line.
5. Whitening Toothpastes
There are many whitening toothpastes on the market to choose from. These toothpastes are a bit more abrasive than your regular toothpaste allowing them to remove some external surface stains, but not too much to the extent that they will damage your enamel. These whitening toothpastes also have a small concentration of peroxide gel which is used to whiten intrinsic stains that go deeper than surface stains. The peroxide gel is the same type of gel used in professional whitening treatments that your dentist will do, but at a much lower concentration. It’s enough to whiten your teeth by a shade or two, but if you’re looking for a significant improvement in shade there are better options.
6. Whitening by a Pro
For significant whitening results, we would recommend getting your whitening done by your friendly dentist. A dentist will use professional whitening gels containing carbamide peroxide, which actually changes the colour of your tooth rather than just removing external stains. Your dentist is also allowed to give a precise concentration of the peroxide that is high enough significantly whiten your teeth while still remaining safe, unlike online whitening kits. Your dentist will also either make custom fitted trays for the whitening gel that will only fit your mouth, or if you are whitening your teeth in the dental chair, place protective barriers around your gums. The protective barriers and custom fitted trays will prevent the whitening gel spilling onto your gums, lips, cheeks and tongue to avoid burns and ulcerations.
Get a Smile Makeover at the Dentist
Whitening treatments, especially professional treatments are great for improving the shade of your natural teeth, however if you have fillings or crowns at the front of your smile, these will not change colour. In this situation we would recommend veneers, which are custom made thin porcelain shells that are glued on top of your teeth. With veneers, we are able to pick the exact shade wanted, as well as change the shape of your teeth. So if you want a drastic smile makeover that significantly brightens your smile and tweaks the shape of some teeth, this may be the option for you.