Family & Children HealthGeneral Health › Teeth Whitening – How To

   A bright gleaming white smile is one of today’s iconic images of beauty. Celebrities know the impact that a gleaming set of pearly whites can have on their careers. A dazzling set of teeth can help prolong their careers as it helps them look younger and more attractive. Whilst many of us don’t have this need, a healthy set of sparkling white teeth can help us look and feel better about ourselves.

   It must be remembered that teeth are never naturally completely white. They are usually a light yellow that tend to darken with age. This is because the surface enamel cracks and erodes, which exposes the dentine. The dentine is more porous and absorbs more food colours and pigmentation. The stains can then grip onto plaque, causing a build-up of tartar on the teeth.

   The internet is packed with ‘advice’ about how to have whiter teeth. Much of this advice is to be avoided, or at least given careful consideration, as most of them can cause damage to the teeth in the long term. Here’s a quick run through on some of the most common pieces of ‘advice’…

   One of the most common forms of advice is to rinse the mouth with hydrogen peroxide every day. Please do not do this. Whilst you may see some positive results, Hydrogen peroxide has been found to cause tissue hyperplasias, which are precancerous tissue changes, if used for more than 5 days.

   Lemon juice is a natural bleach and whitener, and a very good general purpose stain-remover. However it should never be used on teeth as the high Vitamin C content will strip the teeth of calcium and damage it faster than anything else. In fact avoid using any acids, even it is from relatively harmless ingredients such as strawberry’s or other fruit. You do not know what quantity of acid you are applying, so it is difficult to calculate a safe level of usage. If you must use these methods, then rinse the mouth thoroughly with water, then brush with a fluoride toothpaste about 20 minutes later, when the enamel has hardened.

   Brushing with salt and baking soda is also commonly recommended. You may indeed see some whitening results, but the prolonged ‘scrubbing’ of your teeth will eventually wear down the enamel, causing far greater problems than simple staining. If you do decide to go down this route, then limit its use to about once every two weeks.

   There are some effective and far safer methods to get those white teeth you dream of. Here’s a run down of some top tips…

   Avoid, or a least reduce the consumption of coffee, tea, cola, red wine, tobacco – anything that stains.
   If possible, try to brush your teeth after every meal. - Ideally with an electric toothbrush. These can remove 98.2 percent of plaque, which holds stains. Mouth washes with antibacterial action and plaque dissolvers also help in the prevention of stains. Remember to be careful of brushing too hard as it will strip off the surface enamel, exposing the darker dentine, which is also more vulnerable to staining. 

   If brushing your teeth after every meal is impractical, which it is sure to be at times, then try chewing gum. Chewing gum has two beneficial actions helps to clean the teeth in a by removing the debris, and it also stimulates the production of saliva. (Drinking plenty of water also helps improve the function of the salivary glands.)

   This is important as saliva has the ability to neutralise acid and remineralise the enamel, strengthening the teeth. Less damage to our enamel means fewer discolourations. Gum that contains Sorbitol has a therapeutic anti-bacterial action which helps kill decay-causing bacteria. However even gum with sugar is beneficial as the sugar quickly dissolves making it effectively into a sugar-free gum after a few minutes.

   Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after every meal, if brushing or chewing gum is not an option. This is especially important if you do consume drinks that stain. The water will wash away and dilute the damage. If you can't get to a bathroom sink, swill some water around your mouth and swallow.

   Try to eat more crunchy fruits and vegetables such as apples carrots, celery, radishes, and peppers. Your teeth will benefit from the gentle rubbing actions that helps to keep the teeth clean without causing them any damage.

   Teeth grinding can add to micro-cracking in the teeth and can cause the biting edges to darken. This is usually caused by stress, so listening to relaxation sessions can actually help keep your teeth white!

   You can also use ‘tooth bleaching’ to whiten the enamel of your teeth. Dentists and tooth whitening kits use a form of hydrogen peroxide. However this is far safer than simply rinsing your mouth out with it yourself. The hydrogen peroxide in the whitening kits is buffered and there are devices in the kits, such as trays and strips, which minimise tissue exposure to the peroxide.
   If you have really serious stains, then your dentist might suggest you apply a veneer. A Veneer is usually made of porcelain that is attached to the surface of your natural tooth with a type of durable cement. Veneers are custom-made to the desired shape and
colour of your tooth. The application is painless and the veneer itself should last around 7-10 years.

   Bonding is also a process of applying a cover over a discoloured tooth surface. Here a dentist applies a tooth-coloured plastic resin to the tooth that is then bonded and sculpted to the proper shape.

   There is also the process of lazer bleaching. A dentist uses a laser along side a whitening gel. The gel is applied to the teeth and a laser light is used to activate the crystals to absorb the energy from the light and penetrate the teeth enamel to increase the lightening effect on the teeth. This is one of the most expensive remedies, but is usually the quickest.

   There are many ways to help you get a brighter whiter smile. Use your head and make sure you are not actually doing more harm than good. Look after your teeth in the traditional sense, with regular brushing and avoiding sweet, acidic foods, and staining foods. If you have more serious stains, then visit a dentist, or buy products from a reputable dealer. Be very careful when using the common household remedies, such as hydrogen peroxide, acids, baking soda and salt. They could cause you more harm than good in the long term.

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Article By: Jon Rhodes

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