At-home teeth whitening – should you do it?
Looking at your old photos, comparing the old you and now you, you are shocked to see that those white, shiny teeth of yours are far gone. For that reason, you plan on whitening your teeth to get your confident, bright smile back. You consider trying at-home teeth whitening first instead of going to your dentist. However, is it safe to whiten your teeth at home? And what are the best ways to do it?
Why teeth become yellow?
The aging process is the first reason why your teeth turn yellow over time. Besides the wrinkles on your skin, the presence of gray hairs, and weakened bones and joints, the more you age, the yellower your teeth turn. No matter how frequently you brush and how good your oral hygiene is, you just can’t help this aging process.
The second cause – and also the most common one – is poor oral hygiene. Being too lazy to brush and clear food particles off your teeth after eating with dental floss will enable the plaque to form, resulting in tartar and yellowing of the teeth.
The third one is the exposure of the darker colored dentin – part of the tooth root - occurring when your teeth are damaged.
The fourth cause is the side effects of certain antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline, among others. Antipsychotic drugs and medications used to treat hypertension also can discolor your teeth.
The last “culprit” is smoking. Not only does it harm your health, nicotine, and tar in cigarettes can build up on your teeth and lead to discoloration. That is why 99% of long-term smokers have “not very nice-looking” teeth.
Ways to whiten your teeth at home
If you don’t want to involve your dentist in fixing your teeth with professional techniques, you can whiten your teeth at home. However, make sure to go with a safe teeth whitening method so your enamel won’t be damaged. Some of the most frequently used teeth-whitening methods include:
Teeth-whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes
These function as detergents to remove stains on the tooth surface. They are rather safe and can be used on a daily basis. However, some side effects – such as sensitivity or erosion which can lead to gum degeneration – may occur.
Apply this strip on the tooth surface for a certain time and your teeth will turn 3 to 5 shades brighter right away. Hydrogen peroxide in whitening strips will remove all the stains and plaque from your teeth. The drawbacks of this method include uneven teeth color and gum damage. In worse cases, hydrogen peroxide can cause oral cancer if you overuse these teeth-whitening strips.
Teeth-whitening kit (OTC)
An at-home teeth whitening kit contains carbamide peroxide which helps remove tough stains and change the shade of your teeth. This kit usually consists of a teeth-whitening gel and a brush. Put a fine amount of gel on the brush and apply it to your teeth. In addition, there are also kits which include a tray containing teeth-whitening chemicals. You only need to press them against your teeth for 30-45 minutes. Do this regularly in a week for the best results.
Natural teeth-whitening remedies
If you are still concerned about the safety of the aforementioned teeth-whitening methods, natural remedies can be a good alternative. Although the results won’t be seen immediately, these remedies are completely safe even with long-term use.
Oils like coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil. Apply the oil on your teeth and the surrounding area. Not only does this help clean all the plaque and bacteria, but it also gradually whitens your teeth.
Baking soda. This is a commonly-used ingredient in teeth-whitening toothpastes for its natural whitening properties. Baking soda is an abrasive agent that can remove stains off the tooth surface. Moreover, baking soda can also create an alkaline environment in your mouth, which helps keep oral bacteria from developing.
- Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with 2 teaspoons of water to create a paste. Use it to brush your teeth twice a day.
- Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has long been used as an antibacterial and natural cleanser for many centuries. Acetic acid – the main active ingredient in apple cider vinegar – can effectively kill bacteria. It also has antibacterial properties that help clean the mouth and whiten teeth. However, as acetic acid can erode the tooth enamel, do not overuse apple cider vinegar by whitening your teeth every day. Dilute it with water to create a mouthwash and make sure to swish it in your mouth for a few minutes only.
- Fruits and vegetables. A diet with plenty of fruits and veggies is very beneficial for your body as well as your teeth. Although they can’t replace brushing, they help remove plaque as you chew. Strawberries, pineapples, celery, and carrots have been shown to efficiently aid teeth whitening.
- Salt: Salt helps supplement the missing minerals to your teeth, returning their natural shiny, bright look. Mix a few grains of salt with your toothpaste for your morning and night brushing.
Things to keep in mind when whitening your teeth
- Only whiten your teeth when they are healthy and have no sign of swelling, pain, inflammation, and bleeding.
- Avoid too hot or cold foods and drinks for a few days following teeth whitening because your teeth will be quite sensitive during this period. Limit smoking, coffee, and red wine because they can stain your teeth back.
- Limit your sugar intake and include more calcium-rich foods (to protect your teeth from wearing out).
- Don’t expect your teeth to remain white, shiny forever after whitening them just once. Normally, this white shade of your teeth will only last from 6 months to 2 years. After that period, if you want your teeth shiny again, you need to whiten them again.
- Practice good oral care (brush 3 times a day and use dental floss after eating) and visit your dentist regularly after teeth whitening to maintain the results.