Pearly white teeth are something we all secretly want at a reasonable price, and with zero sensitivity. In the current market, there are a ton of whitening products – toothpaste, whitening strips, gels, charcoal, baking soda, lemon/vinegar juice. Some products are harmful, and others cause sensitivity. However, there are a few at-home teeth whitening tricks, which have no side-effects. Keep reading, to learn more about teeth whitening from a cosmetic dentist, Dr. Sanya Arora.
Before whitening, get A DENTAL CHECK-UP
I recommend everyone to get a dental check-up before starting teeth whitening at home, for the following reasons:
- Ensure you have healthy teeth and gums. The worse thing you can do is waste your time and money trying to ‘whiten’ black holes (aka cavities), which need to be drilled and filled rather than whitened.
- Tooth sensitivity after whitening is common for most patients for 1-2 days. However, if your teeth have receding gums (decrease of gum height) due to gum disease or tooth brushing too aggressively, then you may already suffer from severe tooth sensitivity. In that case, using whitening products may worsen your sensitivity issues. Consult a dentist before starting whitening, ESPECIALLY if you have sensitive teeth prior to starting whitening.
- Get a full mouth clean and get rid of tartar (calculus) build-up before starting any whitening products. Tartar will not be whitened by whitening products…you’ll just end up wasting your time and money.
- Whitening products ONLY whiten natural teeth. The bleaching agents in whitening products (hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide) work on the outer tooth layer called enamel. So, if you have any crowns, veneers, dental implants or filling materials in your mouth (even if they are tooth coloured), they will NOT be whitened with over-the-counter products OR whitening services from your dentist. If you don’t like the colour of your fillings/crowns/veneers, then don’t waste your time and money on whitening products. Instead, discuss other options for improving the colour of your teeth by booking a consultation with your dentist.
At-Home Teeth Whitening Tips & Tricks
❌ BAD Teeth Whitening Products ❌
1. Scrubbing your Teeth with Charcoal Toothpastes or Baking Soda
Both products are quite abrasive (aka rough). Initially, you may see an improvement because the protective outer layer of enamel which is stained, will be scrubbed away by the charcoal or baking soda. However, in the long run, this will not only lead to sensitivity issues, but it will also start exposing the second yellow layer of teeth called dentine, making your teeth appear more yellow instead of white. These abrasive products give you temporary results and are linked to severe long-term side effects.
2. Lemon Juice or Apple Cider Vinegar as a Mouthwash
Initially, you may see an improvement in the colour of your teeth because the acidity from lemon or vinegar will dissolve away the outer protective enamel layer, which is most likely stained. But once again, in the long run, your teeth will become more sensitive and discoloured once the enamel (white) layer completes dissolves away.
✅ BEST Teeth Whitening Tips ✅
1. Use a Straw to Drink Acidic or Heavy Staining Drinks
The best way to avoid tooth discolouration is to prevent heavy staining drinks from touching your teeth in the first place. At the moment, most people’s diet is far from their normal routine. Lots of people are having fancy coffee at home (Dalgona coffee), tea, sodas, sugary juices, and wine to keep their spirits uplifted during this Coronavirus chaos. But if you keep up those habits, your teeth are going to be extremely stained and start to appear yellow. To minimize staining, drink all acidic and heavy staining drinks with a STRAW. Consider buying reusable stainless steel straws online or in-store, so you can save the planet, and save your teeth. Amazon and eBay have plenty of stainless steel straws at a great price!
On a side note, it’s generally easier to drink COLD coffee through a straw, versus a hot coffee. Moreover, hot coffee makes your tooth enamel softer due to its temperature, thus, making your teeth more susceptible to staining. So, it’s time to start adding in ice cubes and a straw to your new coffee routine.
2. Water Rinses
After drinking anything acidic or heavy staining, take a sip of WATER and swish it around your mouth (vigorously) for 10-15 seconds before swallowing or spitting it out. Water rinses are convenient, cheap and easily accessible – do a water rinse especially if you haven’t used a straw in the first place. Examples of acidic or heavy staining foods include coffee, tea, wine, tomatoes, strawberries, chocolate, acidic salad dressings, citrus drinks, sodas. I recommend all my patients to do a water rinse after every meal as well. Basically, the LAST thing to ever touch your teeth, should be water.
On a side note, as a dentist, I see A LOT of staining when patients smoke. After smoking, rinse your mouth with water to prevent the tobacco from staining your teeth. Or, better yet, just quit smoking altogether…save your teeth and your lungs!
3. Chew Sugar-Free Gum
There’s a common misconception that chewing gum is bad for teeth…but the truth is: chewing gum is GREAT for your teeth!! It promotes saliva production, which has great protective and buffering properties. It balances the acid in your mouth and prevents the staining particles from sticking to your teeth. It’s best to chew gum after a meal, or during a time frame when you want to avoid snacking. Being under lockdown and staying at home all day gives you access to the fridge and unhealthy snacks in the cupboard 24/7. This can be super dangerous for your teeth and unhealthy for your overall body. Therefore, use chewing gum to distract your brain from constantly thinking you’re hungry. Chewing gum will also prevent a dry mouth, which can be a risk factor for developing cavities.
Side note: The only time I don’t recommend chewing gum is if you suffer from pain in your jaw joints & facial muscles, also known as TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction).
4. Snack on Healthy Food and Drinks
You may be tempted to reach for the chocolates, coffee, wine, sodas because you’re trying to cheer yourself up during isolation period. However, imagine the damage you’ll do to your teeth if you maintain those unhealthy habits for weeks (potentially months) of social-distancing still to come. There are plenty of snacks that won’t stain your teeth. Some of my favourites are apples, almonds (basically all types of nuts), dark chocolate, carrots & hummus, cheese and crackers, celery, yogurt. Most of these snacks also require a lot of chewing, which will promote saliva and protect your teeth against cavities. Moreover, healthy drinks that won’t stain your teeth are, milk, vodka and soda (since it’s clear), mineral/tap water, tea (white, ginger or herbal/green tea). However, it’s ideal that you use a straw even you’re drinking low-staining teas or drinks, to avoid the acidic drinks from touching your teeth.
5. Brush & Floss Your Teeth
The best way to prevent tooth discolouration is to remove plaque and staining particles off your teeth throughout the day. I know it sounds like common sense…but a lot of people overlook the importance of toothbrushing for achieving a bright smile. Remember to replace your toothbrush every 3 months to get the best results of plaque removal.
There are plenty of “Whitening Toothpastes” found in supermarkets, however, most of them are quite harmful for your teeth. Therefore, please read my article on “SUPERMARKET WHITENING PRODUCTS”, by clicking here, where I discuss safe whitening products found in supermarkets.
Important Take-Home Messages for At-Home Teeth Whitening:
- AVOID using acidic products like lemon juice and vinegar to whitening your teeth.
- AVOID scrubbing your teeth with abrasive charcoal toothpaste or baking soda.
- GOOD tooth whitening habits include regular water rinses, using a straw, chewing gum, eating healthy snacks that promote saliva production and brushing your teeth twice a day.