A healthy smile can make you feel great and boost your confidence. Unfortunately, lifestyle choices such as what we choose to eat and drink, and how we look after our teeth can, over time, create a smile we are less than happy with. Our teeth naturally age, the enamel gets thinner, and the dentine layer underneath gets darker, which all adds to the teeth being less white than would be liked and can make us look older than we are. A visit to a specialist can help restore the whiteness but at a price. Fortunately there are ways to maintain and restore the brightness of your smile at home, without visiting the dentist.

How to Whiten Teeth without Seeing a Dentist

Brushing and flossing

Keep teeth brushed and flossed clean to prevent staining and tooth decay which both contribute to discoloration. Always wait for 30 minutes to an hour after eating before brushing teeth. The acids in food soften the enamel, which takes a while to recover. Brushing too soon after eating will be too abrasive on the softened enamel and will cause damage, as well as creating a surface more easily stained.

Rinse with water

Rinse with water after eating to remove the sugars and acids that cause damage. Remnants of foods will break down in the mouth releasing the sugars and acids that cause damage and discoloration to teeth. Rinsing the mouth will physically remove these.

Chew gum and avoid dehydration

Chew gum to stimulate the production of saliva. The bodies natural defense, it helps reduce the levels of acid and harmful bacteria in the mouth. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and prevent a dry mouth and lower amounts of saliva.

Limit certain foods

Avoid staining by limiting the amount of foods that are likely to cause stains, such as tomato sauce and balsamic vinegar. Tannins in tea and coffee, also found in red wine, stick to the tooth enamel, causing an unsightly staining that is harder to remove. Try limiting the amount you drink, and choose tea and coffee with milk rather than black, and drink white wine rather than red. Limit the amount of sugary drinks such as sodas, and using a straw when drinking them will help limit their damage to your teeth by bypassing them altogether. Eat more crunchy foods, such as raw carrots and celery, that will work at clearing away bits stuck to your teeth, effectively gently scraping your teeth as you eat them.

Eat dairy products

Dairy products are high in calcium which is essential for strong bones and teeth and helps prevent bone loss. The lactic acid in dairy products helps strengthen enamel and prevent decay, and the fat found in cheese helps prevent bacteria bonding to teeth.

Stop smoking

Smoking not only stains the teeth, it affects the immune system and causes gum disease which can lead to bone and tooth loss. Whitening teeth will be counterproductive if smoking is continued and should be considered a vital first step in better oral health and a healthier smile.

Home whitening methods

Strawberries and apples

Strawberries contain malic acid which has been shown to prevent and remove stains. There are various ways of using strawberries, such as slicing and rubbing on your teeth or crushing them up and adding to baking soda to form a paste. Apples also contain malic acid and act as a gentle abrasive when eaten. As both contain fruit acids, that can soften enamel and cause decay, it’s important to rinse with water after using, and limit the use of baking soda as in the instructions below.

Baking soda

Baking soda cleans as well as whitens, but is abrasive, so use it infrequently (just once or twice a month). To use baking soda as a teeth cleaner and whitener, mix a small amount with water into a paste consistency and use in the same way as regular toothpaste. This method had been used for centuries, since way before regular toothpaste became commercially available. Some brands promote it as an active ingredient in their paste. Alternatively, sprinkle a small amount straight onto a wet toothbrush or onto your regular toothpaste to improve its whitening qualities.

Hydrogen Peroxide

A useful disinfectant with antiseptic qualities and the ability to bleach teeth, hydrogen peroxide is used in many commercial toothpaste brands as well as in mouthwash, and is an effective way to whiten teeth. The best way to apply this method is to use a whitening kit. These can be bought inexpensively and use either a brush or tray to apply the solution to the teeth, lifting the stain from the enamel. Hydrogen peroxide can be mixed with water in equal parts to create a whitening mouth wash. After spitting out, leaving for two minutes to allow the whitening properties to take affect before thoroughly rinsing mouth out with water.

Oil pulling

This is an ancient ayurvedic remedy that involves swishing oil (sunflower and sesame are recommended) in the mouth, round and between teeth for twenty minutes before spitting out. The oil should have changed to a thin, white consistency. The oil attracts and removes bacteria and dissolve plaque and tartar, resulting in the teeth becoming healthier and whiter.

If you have any concerns regarding any of the methods listed, speak to a oral health professional before trying.

While most people don’t select coffee or tea based on their health benefits, it is still interesting to examine the benefits and drawbacks to each.: Which One is Healthier, Coffee or Tea?

Featured photo credit: White sink tap and liquid soap in the bathroom via Shutterstock

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