Having white teeth helps to maintain a healthy dose of self confidence, so it makes sense that you want to do what it takes to keep your teeth bright between professional whitening treatments at the dentist's office. But many of the whitening options you may have learned about can actually deteriorate your oral health rather than help it. Here are a few teeth whitening fads you're better off limiting or avoiding altogether, and a few tips and tricks for what does work:
Whitening with Lemon Juice
It is thought that the acid in lemons helps to brighten smiles by bleaching teeth and getting rid of stains. But the truth is that the acidity in citrus fruits like lemons can quickly erode enamel and leave teeth vulnerable to problems like chipping. In fact, erosion can take place for quite some time (potentially hours) after brushing or gurgling with lemon juice unless thorough rinsing is completed afterward.
And juices containing lemons often include sugar too, which further corrodes teeth. So it's best to stay away from lemon-based solutions and drinks altogether aside from the occasional summer refreshment, followed by a good rinsing of course, if you want to keep your teeth both healthy and white.
Brushing with Baking Soda
Baking soda is often included in commercial toothpastes due to its abrasive qualities that help to scrub teeth clean of stains, but only a small amount of it is actually incorporated into most brands. This is because while baking soda does a good job of removing stains, it also tends to damage teeth due to abrasion wear and tear which can lead to poor gum and enamel health. So to keep teeth strong and healthy it's a good idea to steer clear of homemade toothpastes that incorporate baking soda as the base ingredient, or limit its use for special occasions and important life events.
Using Whitening Strips
Most commercial whitening strips do offer noticeable results. But like baking soda and lemon juice, whitening strips can erode enamel and break down the composition of teeth if they're used too often or when treatment sessions are extended longer than what is prescribed. And while whitening strips are effective on yellowish stains, they more often than not fail to work when it comes to brightening up grey or brown tinged teeth.
If you choose to go ahead and use whitening strips to maintain a bright smile, consider limiting your treatments to about once a month which will minimize any possible enamel damage. Ask your dentist for recommendations or for direct access to an at-home whitening treatment that will meet your specific dental needs.
So What Does Work?
The most effective way to make your teeth gleam on a consistent basis is to have your dentist professionally whiten them a couple times a year. In addition to professional whitening treatments, there are some things you can do at home to minimize plaque and stain buildup that effective and healthy:
- Incorporate strawberries into your diet! They contain an astringent that removes surface stains and they're full of vitamin C which actually reduces plaque buildup. And they won't stain your teeth like darker blueberries and blackberries do.
- Gargle with hydrogen peroxide, which acts as a natural bleaching agent, once a week or so. If you experience sensitivity or gum irritation, dilute one part peroxide in three parts water before gargling.
- Snack on nuts and seeds throughout the day to keep your body fueled and to give your teeth a natural scrubbing – they'll help ensure that stains don't have a chance to accumulate.
These are easy lifestyle habits that don't require any special preparations or lengthy time commitments.
By understanding your specific oral health issues and identifying any special needs that you may have, your dentist should be able to work with you in creating a simple daily plan that helps to keep your teeth white and healthy for many years to come.