By Tien Dang - Doctor of Dental Surgery
There are many ways to get brighter teeth, and equally as many reasons why our teeth appear yellow in the first place! From dietary changes to professional teeth whitening, we’ll be explaining a comprehensive, step-by-step guide that you can follow to make your teeth whiter.
Your teeth are coated in enamel, an outer layer that protects them from damage, plaque, bacteria, and acid. However, this coating is transparent and doesn’t protect your teeth from looking yellow or brown. Your enamel can be stained by the things you eat and drink, giving your teeth a discolored appearance.
As you drink dark things like soda or tea, your teeth will start to take on the color of your beverage. Additionally, eating things with very bright and staining pigment, such as curry, will also make your teeth the color of your dinner! There are many other foods that will stain your teeth, so monitor how colorful your meals are.
Typically, enamel staining can be easily fixed by cleaning your teeth regularly and visiting the dentist for routine checkups.
Your enamel can also wear away. The American Dental Association has found that in the US, 46% of children and 80% of adults experience dental erosion. When your enamel is lost because of erosion, dentin is exposed underneath. This layer of dental tissue naturally has a yellow hue, meaning that if your dentin is visible, then your teeth will appear yellow.
Dentin can also be stained, and this is called an intrinsic stain. Intrinsic stains are much harder to remove, and while it is possible to make your teeth brighter even when your dentin is discolored or blackened, we recommend that you consult a dentist for professional teeth whitening.
Step 1: Pick the Best Toothpaste
Acids in your diet will naturally wear away your enamel, and the fluoride present in toothpaste is meant to put a stop to this wear and tear. It is crucial to find a safe and effective toothpaste, as using the wrong one can do more harm than good.
A popular method of whitening your teeth is to use a toothpaste with activated charcoal in it. Activated charcoal is a negatively charged molecule, and unwanted substances in your teeth tend to be positively charged. The charcoal attracts these substances, and they are rinsed away during brushing. However, charcoal toothpaste only removes stains on the outer layer of enamel and isn’t proven to have any whitening effect on the areas below your enamel.
In fact, charcoal toothpaste can harm your teeth and make them yellow. The activated charcoal in this kind of toothpaste is very abrasive and rough on enamel. Instead of protecting and removing stains, charcoal will make the outer layer of your tooth weaker by scraping off its coating.
For the best results, your toothpaste must be able to clean and remove both extrinsic stains and intrinsic stains. Fortunately, finding a product that achieves this is not very hard. Toothpaste labeled as “whitening” should accomplish this goal.
So now we know what type of toothpaste is best for whitening, but what brand of toothpaste should you be using? Toothpaste brands are considered the right choice if it demonstrates both safety and effectiveness in clinical trials.
As a simple rule of thumb, look for a toothpaste with the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, which ensures that a product meets all the criteria listed. There are many kinds of toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance, so take a look at the full list to find one right for you.
If you have more questions about what toothpastes are best for whitening your teeth in a safe way, give us a call at (281) 560-3001, and we’ll be happy to help you make the best choice for your health.
Step 2: Brush Twice a Day
Toothpaste is only useful if you use it, so make sure you’re brushing regularly. The American Dental Association recommends this brushing technique, in which you brush two times a day for 2 minutes at a time, or as we like to call it, the “two-times-two technique”. Brushing not only applies your whitening toothpaste, but it also removes plaque and bacteria which can further break down your enamel.
When it comes to your toothbrush, it is recommended that you have a brush with soft bristles, not hard ones. Soft toothbrushes have been shown to reduce your chance of developing gingival recession, which can cause permanent damage. Plus, soft bristles are gentle on the enamel, helping to prevent enamel loss.
We also recommend using an electric toothbrush. Electric brushes are more effective at cleaning your teeth because they vibrate at high speed. This allows electric toothbrushes to scrub away more built-up plaque and bacteria. After three months of using an electric toothbrush, plaque buildup was found to be reduced by 21%, and rates of gingivitis were reduced by 11% when compared to manual brushes!
Step 3: Avoid Acidic or Sugary Foods and Beverages
We all enjoy sweet treats and splurging on a meal, but moderation is vital for leading a healthy lifestyle. If you’re looking to better your oral health and get whiter teeth, then avoiding sugar and acid is essential. Here are some food and drinks that can be detrimental to your pursuit of bright teeth!
Carbonated Drinks and Sodas
We already touched on this, but the effects of soda on your teeth are very important to understand. A recent study found that the damage soda causes to your teeth is comparable to that of using methamphetamine or cocaine!
The sugar found in soda joins forces with bacteria in your mouth and will create acid. This acid attacks your teeth and will cause damage to the enamel layer. Without this external enamel layer, your dentin will be exposed, and your teeth will appear yellow or brown. But don’t think that diet soda is safe just because it is sugar-free; in fact, diet soda is worse for your teeth than regular soda. Sugar-free drinks are high in levels of phosphoric acid and citric acid, which will degrade your teeth more than the sugar and bacteria.
Everyone knows the feeling of getting chips stuck in their teeth. It often feels impossible to get them out, and chip residue can be left to sit between your teeth for an entire day. Unfortunately, America’s favorite salty snacks are horrible for your teeth because of their high starch content. Potato chips contain a whopping 42 grams of starch per 200-calorie serving and have the third-highest starch content out of all common foods.
Starches can compromise your oral health because they are broken down into simple sugars by your saliva, and these sugars will unite with bacteria to create acid that decays your teeth. Potato chips are a particularly hazardous form of starch because they tend to get stuck between and on top of your teeth, allowing acids to eat away at your enamel for very long periods.
While some starches are good for you and often make up a large part of a person’s diet, make sure to floss after eating. Flossing has been shown to disrupt the growth of aerobic bacteria in-between teeth, stopping the production of enamel-eating acid.
We’ve all heard that eating candy is bad for your teeth, but do you truly know why? Sticky, chewy, and gummy candies are all dangerous when in pursuit of a perfect smile because they stick to your teeth and often contain high amounts of sugar. The sugar in candy interacts with bacteria to create acid, and the stickiness of candy causes it to cling to your teeth. If left unchecked, this acid will eat away at your enamel for hours on end. Of course, everyone has candy every once in a while, but it’s essential to brush and floss immediately afterward.
Step 4: Use a Metal Straw
Don’t worry; you don’t have to give up your favorite beverages to get whiter teeth. Use a straw and sip away! Straws limit the amount of contact the substance has with your teeth, making it an excellent choice for enjoying your favorite tooth-staining drinks without discoloring your teeth. While it is always better to drink water, it’s entirely okay to enjoy more flavorful choices, such as sodas or fruit juices, and still whiten your teeth.
While any straw will work, we recommend using a metal straw. Metal straws are less wasteful than plastic straws, and investing in one now will save you money in the long run. It can also be tempting for children to chew on plastic straws, which wears down their enamel and teeth faster.
Around the world, 335 million metric tons of plastic is produced each year, and most of it ends up in landfills! Protect the environment and your family’s dental health by getting a metal straw!
Step 5: Stop Smoking
As more research about tobacco use is done, we learn more and more about all the harm it does to your body. If you want better teeth, tobacco use will undoubtedly stop you from achieving that. Not only does it damage your teeth, but tobacco also stains your teeth black and prevents most whitening methods from being effective.
The respiratory impact of smoking is often discussed, but the consequence of tobacco use on your mouth is equally as severe.
Cigarettes wear down your teeth faster. Containing tiny particles that are very abrasive to your teeth, smoking cigarettes increases the rate at which your teeth are broken down, and your enamel is lost.
Smoking also damages your gums, and smokers have a 100% higher chance of developing gum disease than someone who doesn’t use tobacco. Additionally, smoking harms the immune system, making gum disease harder to treat and opening up the possibility for infection of the gums. Gum disease is the most common reason for tooth loss in adults, so protect your smile and stop smoking.
On top of causing damage in the first place, smoking also reduces the ability for health concerns to be treated. Smoking limits blood flow to your mouth and slows the growth of blood vessels. This means that patients who smoke take longer to recover after a procedure, but that’s assuming a smoker can undergo a repair procedure in the first place. Dentists must rule out specific treatments if a patient is an avid smoker because the damage from smoking weakens your jawbone and teeth. This makes it impossible to install repair options such as implants, bridges, and in some cases, crowns.
Each cigarette contains over 7000 chemicals, of which 69 are known to cause cancer. In addition to affecting your oral health, smoking is detrimental to your overall health.
Step 6: Visit the Dentist for Routine Cleaning and Whitening
The safest and most effective way to whiten your teeth and improve your oral hygiene is to go to the dentist.
Why Receive Professional Cleaning?
As you eat and use your teeth, plaque naturally builds up. While brushing your teeth using whitening toothpaste and a soft electric toothbrush can remove most of the plaque accumulated on your teeth, you’re bound to miss some of it. Routine professional cleanings are essential to get the spots that you miss and safely utilize more powerful hygiene equipment.
Routine dental visits are also crucial for detecting risks early and correcting misalignment. A dentist who practices preventative dentistry techniques will likely use X-Rays to detect early warning signs of various conditions arising in your mouth and treat them before they can become harmful. These techniques also reduce your chance of developing dangerous health conditions outside of the realm of oral health, such as diabetes and cancer.
Professional Teeth Whitening
You can also recruit a dentist for their teeth whitening services to maximize your success in achieving sparkling teeth. Professional teeth whitening is always safer than trying at-home remedies, and Dr. Dang personally recommends professional teeth whitening services because the importance of safety can never be overstated! At-home whitening products contain between 3% to 20% peroxide (the active whitening ingredient), while in-office whitening products contain from 15% to 43% of peroxide. Higher peroxide means whiter teeth, faster! If you are curious about what you can expect from professional teeth whitening, reach out to your dentist or leave a comment below to hear back from our trained professionals.
Step 7: Be Patient - Bright Teeth Take Time
As with most things, seeing results takes time, and it’s important not to get discouraged. While professional whitening only takes four weeks to complete, whitening at home will likely take longer. The first time that you try whitening your teeth, the results might not be astonishing, but staying consistent is key!
Stick with your whitening routine and consult your dentist for what will be best for you. Everyone is different, and a product that works for someone else might not yield the same results when you use it. If you continue to practice good oral hygiene and follow some of the good habits listed above (such as eating a healthy diet, cutting out sugary drinks, curbing tobacco use, and opting for metal straws), then you’ll most certainly see results if given time.
We look forward to meeting you.
Call 281-560-3001 or schedule an appointment online.