Sometimes, brushing twice a day simply is not enough (although it is a great start). You can brush all you want and it will not do much to reverse the stains left behind from your favorite coffee or tea. If you are unhappy with the appearance of your teeth, you are not alone. As much as 68% of adults feel the same and are looking for answers to both improve and maintain the shade of their teeth. It’s time to stop hiding your teeth in photos, learn how to take control of your smile with these simple techniques.
A word of caution: Crowns, fillings and veneers cannot be whitened. This should be kept in mind as they will begin to stand out a lot more as your surrounding teeth become whiter.
1. Whitening strips
Strips can be effective if applied properly, but are generally considered a cheaper alternative to whitening trays provided by dentists. They can be a bit of an annoyance as they frequently slip around your mouth from excess saliva. The fact that they don’t adhere perfectly to your individual teeth may also result in blotchy results.
2. Whitening Trays
When I mention whitening trays, I’m referring to the custom fitted ones made by your dentist. The over-the-counter alternative trays often do not fit well, and will cause gel to leak, irritating the gums and producing less than ideal results. When fitted properly, custom trays will adhere to your teeth, matching your bite seamlessly.
In our practice, we use polawhite solution, which not only has great whitening properties but contains a desensitizing agent. Many whiteners will make your teeth sensitive, but polawhite seems to minimize this effect.
3. Whitening toothpaste
There are many toothpastes on the market that claim to whiten teeth. Try to stick with products that are ADA approved, which often contain chemicals that remove stains by binding to them. Toothpastes also contain particles that rub against your teeth to polish them.
A relatively new chemical that is considered a breakthrough in toothpaste whitening is now found in many toothpastes. This chemical is known is blue caravine, which works by depositing itself onto tooth surfaces where it changes the optical properties of the teeth. Studies have shown that teeth are considerably whiter immediately following application.
For best results, remember to brush at least twice a day.
4. Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda
This combination has been used by many to whiten teeth, and hydrogen peroxide is commonly found in many commercial mouthwashes as well as toothpastes. The home alternative is not nearly as effective as store bought solutions, but it does have some whitening (mild stain removing) effects. A homemade paste can be produced by mixing a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide with baking soda. Then, just brush with the paste as you normally would, rinsing well after.
Use this method with caution, as there is some debate that it can lead to tissue irritation, increased tooth sensitivity, as well as disrupting the balance of natural mouth flora.
5. Brush or scrape your tongue
It’s not all about having good breath. Brushing your tongue helps to prevent the accumulation of bacteria that cause discoloration and decay. For those of you who are serious about wiping out the bacteria on your tongue, you can purchase tongue scrapers that are more effective than brushing.
6. Banana rub
Yes, believe it or not there is some evidence showing that banana peels have properties that can help whiten your teeth. They are rich in minerals like manganese, magnesium, and potassium which aid in removing stains on enamel. This approach is quite simple, just follow these steps:
- Get one ripe banana, remove the peel
- Cut out a small section of the peel
- Rub the inside of the peel along the visible surfaces of your teeth for 1-3 minutes
IMPORTANT – Always brush your teeth after a banana rub because bananas also contain a high amount of sugar which should not be left on teeth.
7. Activated charcoal paste
Charcoal has really come into the spotlight as it binds to toxins in the body and eliminates them in waste. However, it is now known that activated charcoal also binds to bacteria and chemicals that stain teeth. It might not be immediately obvious that rubbing a black substance on your teeth will lead to whitening, but it does really work.
The application is simple, place activated charcoal in a little water and mix it. Apply the solution to your toothbrush, and rub it into all surface of your teeth. Leave it in place for 1-2 minutes and then rinse well with water. Activated charcoal comes in both powder and capsule form. We recommend getting the powder version simply for the convenience.
A note of caution: Activated charcoal will bind and remove medications from your gut if swallowed close to when you took the medication. Do not swallow the charcoal any regardless of whether or not you are on medications.
8. Whitening mouthwash
Whitening mouthwash is a great way to provide 1-2 shades of whitening over about a week’s time. If chosen correctly, the right mouthwash will provide many benefits that extend beyond whitening itself. They contain fluoride, anti-cavity properties, breath fresheners, and provide a barrier of protection from future stains. Washes like Crest 3D White Luxe also contain foaming properties to help scrub stains off teeth.
9. Balance your brushing
We all know it’s important to brush and floss twice a day. What we don’t consider sometimes though is the idea of overbrushing. If you brush too excessively, you may end up removing some of the surface enamel on your teeth. With thinner enamel, stains settle easier onto your teeth. Dentin, found beneath the enamel is naturally more yellow and will also begin to show.
This one seems out there, but it is said to work well and is targeted towards the heavy coffee drinkers. Before you have your morning cup of joe, rub a thin layer of vaseline on your exposed teeth. It will shield them from the staining effects of drinks such as coffee and tea.
11. Choose the right lipstick
You can make your teeth appear more white by subtle changes in your lip colour. Choosing a lipstick that has blue undertones will help bring out the pearly white in your smile. Red and orange tones create a warming effect, making your teeth appear more yellow.
12. Coconut and peppermint leaf
It is said the coconut oil contains a chemical called lauric acid, which acts to break down bacteria that cause teeth to yellow. It’s effects are not quick and will take some time to observe. Mixing the coconut oil with a little bit of peppermint leaf will help leave your mouth feeling fresh and revitalized. This method is safe to use regularly and can be a fun activity for DIY enthusiasts.
While it is abrasive and can harm enamel if overdone, tumeric has been used as an affordable at-home method of teeth whitening for quite some time. All you need is organic turmeric powder, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. Dip your toothbrush and toothpaste into a little bit of turmeric, and brush as you normally would. After brushing, leave the tumeric on your teeth for a few minutes, then rinse and brush again without the tumeric. Be sure to remove all turmeric from your teeth. Tumeric can easily stain clothes and other fabrics so be careful while handling the powder.
14. Eat more foods that naturally whiten teeth
There are many foods that have properties which aid in naturally whitening teeth. Let’s go over a few of them.
- Apples, pears, guavas, cauliflower, cucumbers – These help to increase salivary production, which flush out stains and stain causing bacteria.
- Cheese – High in calcium, protein and phosphorus which help strengthen protect the enamel.
- Sesame seeds – These can be used to scrub away plaque.
- Salmon – High in vitamin D and calcium.
- Shiitake mushrooms, onions – Inhibit bacterial growth that cause stains.
- Pineapple – Has properties that make it a natural stain remover.
- Broccoli, lettuce and spinach – Are high in iron, when helps to both create a barrier and scrub away stains. Since you have to chew these foods significantly, they also act as a great way to wash your teeth clean of stains.
- Ginger – A natural anti-inflammatory.
- Carrots – High in vitamin A, which is an essential component of healthy tooth enamel.
- Basil – A natural antibiotic, aids in removing bacteria that cause stains.
15. Drink lots of water
Water not only is better for our overall health, but it helps to wash away sugars and stain causing chemicals that the saliva has a hard time eliminating. Most accessible water also contains fluoride, a chemical that helps strengthen teeth.
16. Sugarless gum
Chewing gum greatly increases saliva production in your mouth, which will naturally help to clean your teeth. However, be cautious with over doing this one because some sugarless gum contains chemicals that may not be good for you. Try to aim for gum that is sweetened with xylitol, which is an alcohol that helps to eliminate bacteria in your mouth. Some gums will also help enrich your teeth with calcium and phosphate. Avoid citrus flavours as they sometimes contain acids that are not healthy for teeth.
17. Time your brushing after eating citrus fruit
Citrus fruits are highly acidic and can erode enamel over time. Pay particular attention to grapefruit, which is one of the worst for your teeth. Orange juice is much less acidic, but still should be considered. Brushing should be no sooner than 30 minutes after eating the fruit. The pH must be allowed to normalize or brushing too soon will cause damage to your enamel.