Your smile is one of the first impressions you leave. As an intense focal point, your smile is visible from over 200 feet away and is seen as a sign of confidence, warmth and health status. It is assumed that those who have whiter teeth are more attractive and successful, so it’s no wonder that many are wondering how to whiten teeth. Luckily, there is an abundance of options available, but how do you choose the right one for you? We compare the methods to discover what will whiten teeth.
Understanding tooth discoloration
The first thing to understand is why your teeth may become discoloured to begin with. There are a number of factors that can affect the colour of your teeth including what types of food and drink you consume, your genetics and your age.
Over time, your enamel can begin to wear down, exposing the second layer to your tooth. This second layer is known as dentin and is naturally more yellow in colour. To avoid this yellowing appearance, use a soft bristle toothbrush and brush in gentle circular motions to ensure you’re not wearing down your enamel. Worn enamel can make you more prone to sensitivity so it’s important to consult with a dentist prior to any whitening methods.
Natural home methods
At home remedies are admittedly the most convenient, especially those that require one or two ingredients found in your cupboard or fridge. There has been recent interest in using fruit to whiten your teeth due to naturally occurring acids and enzymes.
Bromelain and papain are enzymes found in pineapple and papayas, a 2012 study found that solutions including these enzymes can have teeth whitening effects, however more research needs to be conducted. Some claim that rubbing lemon peel, orange peel and banana peel on teeth can help to whiten them due to the concentration of citric acid. Although this may seem like a short term fix, In Vitro trials have shown the irreversible enamel damage that citric acid can have on the tooth surface. Lemons and oranges also contain Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which is a strong and effective corrosion agent.
Other at home whitening methods include:
- Oil pulling
- Sodium Bicarbonate
- Apple Cider Vinegar
While it may seem affordable and convenient, it’s best to steer clear of some of these at home remedies due to the concentration of acid and enzymes.
In-chair dentist whitening
On the other end of the spectrum is in-chair whitening at your dentist. Most of these treatments will use Hydrogen Peroxide or Carbamide Peroxide to whiten the molecules within your teeth through the process of oxidation. There are a variety of options for in-chair teeth whitening. Your dentist could make a mould of your teeth to use with a solution over a period of 2-4 weeks or they may do a more intense 30 minute session.
Risks commonly associated with in-chair whitening include mild to chronic gum irritation and increased tooth sensitivity. The severity of these side effects have a direct correlation with the percentage of peroxide used as well as if you are predisposed to sensitivity. Laser and power bleaching can use up to 35% Hydrogen Peroxide and can cost $30-$50 per tooth. In-chair whitening does come with a cost (up to $1,000) but could be the best option to whiten deep internal staining such as tetracycline stains.
Brushing your teeth is the first point of action to improve your oral care, we encourage you to brush for at least 2 minutes twice a day. If you’re new to whitening your teeth and want something to easily incorporate into your routine, you might find that swapping out a regular toothpaste for a whitening toothpaste is best for you.
A 2018 study showed that whitening toothpastes are scientifically proven to remove surface stains from teeth, making them whiter. Some whitening toothpastes include peroxide which can lead to sensitivity when using regularly twice a day. Other whitening toothpastes use activated charcoal to gently absorb surface stains while your brush. You should aim to find a whitening toothpaste that not only improves your shade, but also holds ingredients to care for your oral health.
At home teeth whitening kits
A convenient alternative to in-chair whitening would be including an at home Teeth Whitening Kit into your routine. Most of these products use peroxide and may not have regulated percentages so you can look for a peroxide-free Kit that includes an alternative such as PAP (Phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid). PAP uses the same process of oxidation as peroxide without the associated sensitivity. A Kit that has ingredients such as Hydroxyapatite and Potassium Nitrate will also work to protect your teeth from sensitivity whilst remineralising them. Teeth Whitening Kits can be used after brushing your teeth for just 10 minutes at a time and are proven to cause less sensitivity than in-chair whitening.
These are a much more cost effective option to in-chair whitening if you’re still looking for fast results. So, the key to finding the best whitening method for you is first understanding what is causing your tooth discolouration. As much as whitening your teeth is appealing and can improve your first impressions, we still encourage regular visits to the dentist alongside brushing and flossing to ensure good oral hygiene. If you have any pre-existing dental concerns you should consult with your dentist first.