They say that the secret to a beautiful smile is great teeth and while this may not be perfectly true, a gleaming set of pearly whites certainly looks fantastic. But for many of us, gleaming white teeth is more of a dream than a reality, especially with the daily exposure to substances like cola, tea, smoke, acidic juices and highly pigmented foods. However, there are some simple things you can do to minimise and remove teeth stains.
In fact, teeth are never naturally completely white – they tend to be a light yellow. However, they do tend to darken as they age and with constant use. This is because the surface enamel cracks and erodes, which exposes the dentine – this is more porous and thus absorbs food colours and pigmentation. In addition, stains can also grip onto the plaque and tartar build-up on teeth.
For certain severe stains, you will need to consult a dentist for professional tooth whitening treatment but for many common stains – such as cigarettes and coffee – you can follow a few simple steps at home:
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after every meal. This is especially important if you consume large amounts of caffeine (eg, coffee, tea, cola) as these are a leading cause of stains. The water will wash away and dilute the damage from these beverages. Even if you can’t get to a bathroom sink, swill some water around your mouth and swallow.
- If at all possible, try to brush your teeth after every meal – ideally with an electric toothbrush as these can remove 98.2 percent of plaque, which holds stains. Similarly, mouth washes with antibacterial action and plaque dissolvers will help in the prevention of stains. However, be careful of brushing too hard as violent scrubbing will not make your teeth cleaner but it will strip off the surface enamel that will then expose the darker dentine, which is also more vulnerable to staining.
- Try to eat lots of crunchy foods, such as celery, apples and other similar fruits and vegetables – as opposed to sticky, sugary foods. The former group has a gentle rubbing action on the teeth which help to keep it clean and unstained.
- Try to limit your intake of caffeine-rich and heavily-pigmented foods. Stop smoking!
A Simple Home Whitening Treatment:
Mixing 3 teaspoons of baking soda mixed with a teaspoon of table salt makes a very effective whitening paste for your teeth. Brush it gently onto your teeth and gums twice a week, rinsing thoroughly afterwards.
What About Commercial DIY Bleaching Kits?
Be very careful about using these – despite their promises, many can actually do more harm than good. Some can be so abrasive that while they may remove the stain, they will also strip the enamel off your teeth, resulting in even darker teeth in the future. Furthermore, some studies suggest that they may magnify the effect of other carcinogenic substances – for example, if you smoke, using home bleaching kits may increase your risk of mouth cancer. Nowadays, many toothpastes offer whitening along with their other abilities and while these also contain mild abrasives or chemical polishing agents, they are generally considered to be safer than bleaches. However, make sure you use a toothpaste from a reputable company, which has obtained seals of approval.
Lastly, while lemon juice is a natural bleach and whitener and a very good general purpose stain-remover, 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.