5 Secrets to a White Smile
Let’s be honest: no one wants to flash a smile with “pearly yellows.”
Even the Ancient Romans were vain enough to want white teeth … so much so that they used urine as a natural teeth whitening solution. (EWWW!)
Fortunately, we don’t have to do anything quite so unsavory today to achieve a dazzling smile.
Check out these 5 secrets to a white smile …
1. Protect Your Enamel
If you have one AHA moment today, make it this one: strong tooth enamel does not stain. It’s true. If you have strong enamel, you can sip that coffee and red wine to your heart’s content (and not through a straw, mind you) without worrying about teeth stains. That means now is the time to protect your enamel … because once it’s gone, it’s gone for good!
How to Protect Your Enamel
- Don’t brush your teeth too hard. It’s not making them cleaner … it’s making them weaker. Weak teeth = yellow teeth.
- Switch to an extra-soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Wait 1 hour to brush after consuming acidic food or drinks, such as citrus fruits.
- Use a low-abrasion toothpaste.
- Eat plenty of calcium-rich foods.
- Swish each day with a non-staining fluoride mouthwash.
- Limit sugary food and drinks, as well as sports drinks, which soften the enamel.
If you’re worried that you already have weak enamel, making your teeth susceptible to stains, check out 3 foods to avoid for a whiter smile.
2. Oil Pulling
Don’t let the name fool you. Oil pulling is simply the act of swishing oil throughout your mouth to remove bacteria. This ancient Ayurvedic practice dates back more than 3,000 years, and fans of it claim that oil pulling helps with everything from migraines to cavity prevention to – you guessed it – whiter teeth.
For the best benefits, you’ll want to use unrefined (virgin) coconut oil. Keep in mind, coconut oil solidifies at 76 degrees, so you may need to liquify the coconut oil before you swish.
Here’s what you do: Gently swish 1 T of the oil throughout your mouth for 15 minutes. If this sounds like a long time, it is! You can work your way up by starting out at 2-minute intervals. It also helps to do something while you’re swishing, like watching a favorite show or sneaking onto Facebook.
When you’re done, be sure to spit what’s in your mouth into the garbage, as coconut oil can clog the pipes. Then swish with water (what you expel at this point can go down the drain), or for an extra-clean mouth feeling, rinse with salt water.
Oil pulling is gentle and can be done every day.
3. Don’t Get Burned by Charcoal Teeth Whitening
Charcoal teeth whitening is all the rage these days, but most dentists advise to proceed with caution. While activated charcoal (note: this is a different kind of charcoal than you’d use to grill up your backyard burgers) will remove surface stains quickly, its abrasiveness could damage your enamel. If you try this DIY teeth whitener, never scrub it onto your teeth. Instead, follow product direction and just dab the charcoal mixture onto your teeth, swishing with water to remove.
4. Pony Up for Professional Teeth Whitening
To understand how teeth whitening works, a little anatomy lesson is in order. The interior of your tooth is called the dentin. Dentin naturally yellows with age. The outside of your tooth is the enamel. As your enamel wears down (see secret #1 for prevention) it exposes more of the dentin.
Most teeth whitening toothpastes and other home solutions only focus on surface stains, which usually yield a result of one shade lighter in tooth color. Professional teeth bleaching, on the other hand, targets the color of the dentin, yielding a result of three to eight times lighter, with results lasting for a few years.
Yes, professional teeth whitening costs a bit ($100–$650 depending on the type of treatment), but most people find it worth it for the results, as well as the safety versus at-home bleaching, which can cause tooth and gum sensitivity.
Tip: A good dentist is like a good hairdresser. Once you find one you like, stay loyal. However, if you’re in a new city or you’ve moved to a different part of town, there are many dentists who offer free teeth whitening for new patients.
5. Baking Soda for White Teeth
Guys, we can’t say this enough: less is more when using baking soda to brighten your smile. Yes, it removes surface stains and supports a more alkaline pH in the mouth for a healthier smile. However, baking soda is also a natural abrasive, which can lead to damaged enamel and tooth sensitivity if you use it more often than you should.
Use this teeth whitening remedy no more than twice per week, and discontinue if you run into any tooth sensitivity. You should notice a brighter smile within a couple of weeks.
Mix a few drops of water with ½ tsp baking soda in a small bowl. Form a paste, and then apply it to your teeth with your toothbrush or fingers. Let it sit on your teeth for 1–2 minutes and then lightly brush your tooth surfaces. (No death grips on the toothbrush, please!) Rinse with water.
Word to the wise: Before you begin any home teeth whitening treatment, it’s always best to consult with your dentist.
What teeth whitening remedies have you tried? Share your before-and-after pics!