Even if you take amazing care of your teeth, surface stains accumulate over time. If you can’t live without a few cups of coffee every day, you really need a glass of red wine with dinner, or you have a diet soda habit that you just can’t kick, your habits will take a toll on your teeth.
Cosmetic whitening treatments are expensive and often produce results that are, well, a little too white. Most of us don’t want our teeth to glow under a blacklight. We just want a naturally whiter smile that looks healthy. If you’re willing to work at it, it’s completely possible to achieve a naturally whiter smile at home.
It Starts with Your Diet
Many foods and drinks can stain your teeth, particularly if your enamel is on the weaker side. As the enamel erodes, the tooth becomes a little more porous. Your tooth will absorb the pigments in the foods and drinks you consume, allowing them to leave behind a little bit of their hue every time you indulge.
Be mindful of strongly colored foods and beverages that may stain. If they’re capable of staining a white shirt, they’re capable of staining your teeth. Eat and drink these things with caution. When you do ingest them, don’t allow them to sit around your mouth for too long.
Using a straw for dark colored beverages like coffee or red wine will reduce their ability to wash over your teeth and be absorbed, but only minimally. Straws are incapable of completely preventing exposure and aren’t an adequate substitute for avoiding these beverages altogether, but they’re slightly better than nothing.
Be Militant With Your Oral Care Routine
Part of keeping your smile white comes from proper oral care practices. Flossing, brushing, and using mouthwash twice a day every day will prevent plaque and stains from accumulating on the surface of your teeth. Tooth whitening is undoing damage. A strict oral care routine is preventing damage.
Brush your teeth for two minutes a day, twice a day. One two minute session in the morning and one two minute session in the evening will keep your mouth clean. Floss before your bedtime brushing session. Swish mouthwash for thirty seconds either before or after you brush - it all depends on personal preference and whether or not you use fluoride products in your oral care routine.
Even when you’re really tired or running late for work, don’t skip your oral care routine. The bacteria in your mouth won’t take a night or a morning off, and they’re continuing to do damage when they’re left unchecked.
Using the Right Toothbrush
There’s a million different toothbrushes on the market, some more expensive than others. There are fancy, costly, electric toothbrushes with bluetooth capabilities. None of this is really necessary. A toothbrush is a very basic tool designed to achieve a simple purpose. While luxury premium toothbrushes may motivate you to brush more, they’re not going to improve the overall health of your teeth.
Your best option is a manual toothbrush with soft bristles. Hard bristles are very abrasive to your teeth and your gums. Damaging your gums and wearing your enamel off of your teeth are the exact opposite of keeping them healthy. If you use an aggressive approach with a hard-bristled sonic toothbrush, you’re only going to hurt yourself.
You should be replacing your toothbrush at least every three months. If you’re getting over a cold or flu, you might want to replace your toothbrush sooner. The bristles may be holding on to the germs that your body just finished fighting off.
Because toothbrushes are supposed to have very short lifespans, you might want to consider the amount of waste they generate. Billions of plastic toothbrushes will sit in landfills for centuries. A compostable toothbrush with a sustainable bamboo handle is better for your planet and better for your wallet. Compostable toothbrushes are generally very inexpensive, and they won’t harm a thing.
Peroxide Whitening Products
Peroxide is the most popular dental bleaching agent. It seeps inside of skin, hair, and teeth to trap bacteria and particles inside, neutralizing them and removing pigment. It is highly effective in all concentrations. Most tooth whitening products contain very high concentrations of peroxide. Whitening treatments performed by dentist contain even higher concentrations of the active ingredient.
Peroxide will undoubtedly create whiter teeth, but it does so at a toll. Peroxide is far from gentle. It works by seeping into the tooth, and it can’t do that without breaching the enamel and leaving the tooth vulnerable. You’ll absolutely have beautifully white teeth. They’ll also be more vulnerable and prone to future staining, which makes it necessary to use peroxide again. The cycle can continue forever.
Over time, you’ll be left with little to no enamel on your teeth. Teeth without enamel are painfully sensitive and highly fragile. When your enamel is gone, it can never be restored. All dentists can do is recommend veneers, crowns, or dental bonding procedures that will prevent your weakened natural teeth from ever coming into contact with anything that might cause further damage.
While a single mild peroxide treatment on relatively healthy teeth won’t be the end of the world, the goal is to avoid high concentrations of enamel damaging substances as often as possible. If you’re still interested in whitening your teeth with peroxide, you can achieve subtle results with home remedies that use very low concentrations of peroxide. You’ll need to be patient, but the compromise is worthwhile.
Gentler Peroxide Whitening
Peroxide whitens the inside of your teeth, and mildly abrasive agents whiten the outside of your teeth by buffing off surface stains. Hydrogen peroxide that has been diluted to 3% or lower, like the kind in your first aid kit, is one of the gentlest kinds of peroxide you can find. Baking soda, like the kind you use in your fridge to absorb odors, is one of the gentlest abrasive natural substances.
Peroxide and baking soda’s powers combined can help you whiten teeth without posing a significant risk of damage. Equal parts of peroxide and baking soda can be mixed and gently swabbed onto the teeth with a soft bristled toothbrush. Allow them to sit for a minute, and rinse them away with water.
Treat this way once every other day for a week. If you experience painful sensitivity, you should immediately stop. This is a sign that your enamel is already significantly worn away and that the peroxide is further damaging your teeth. If you don’t experience any side effects, you may choose to use this slow and gentle approach to gradual whitening every few months.
Whitening Toothpastes That Won’t Cause Damage
Natural toothpastes can help to whiten your teeth, although less dramatically than peroxide based treatments. Toothpastes that are slightly abrasive and contain mineral complexes derived from calcium can help to make your teeth cleaner and stronger. Weaker teeth are porous and stronger teeth aren’t as susceptible to staining. Anything you do to whiten your teeth is likely to cause enamel damage, so choosing a toothpaste that will also replenish lost minerals is a must.
Some whitening toothpastes use ingredients like activated charcoal. Charcoal is a natural ingredient that can work to whiten your teeth in two ways. The first way charcoal works to keep your mouth clean and healthy is the mere virtue of its absorbent properties. Charcoal can absorb anything in your mouth that causes stains or tooth decay, like residue from drinks and bacteria.
Charcoal toothpaste is also helpful due to its mild scouring properties. Charcoal has a slightly grainy texture, making it mildly abrasive. Charcoal will softly buff away surface stains on your teeth. It may take some time to see results, but that’s the best best approach. Harsh abrasive agents may remove surface stains quickly, but they’re also taking your enamel with them. Since charcoal is gentle, the damage it causes will be minimal.
When it comes to teeth whitening, the best defense is a good offense. Consistently taking excellent care of your teeth will drastically minimize their susceptibility to stains and yellowing over time. The unfortunate reality of the matter is that most people don’t think about teeth whitening until it’s a bit too late to reverse staining without causing damage.
If you opt to use professional whitening treatments or at-home whitening products containing peroxide, try to keep your use to a minimum. Once you’ve achieved a natural shade of white, it’s best to stop. Artificial shades of white will cause far more damage to your teeth.
When you’re satisfied with the realistically white appearance of your teeth, call it quits. Focus on maintaining that shade of white through proper oral hygiene, and use a mineral rich toothpaste to help restore your enamel after the ordeal that it’s been through.