You want to whiten your smile, but is there a safe, effective way to whiten your teeth at home? Or, is your dentist the only real option?
Most of us can relate. You’re out with friends, having a great time. Someone snaps a photo to celebrate the occasion. The next day, you see that very photo posted online, and you can’t help but notice that your smile isn’t as bright as you imagined it to be.
Existing in an age where photos are taken and shared constantly, we pay closer attention to the finer details of our appearance.
Whether there’s been a lapse lately in your daily dental hygiene, or you’ve simply found yourself with a cup of coffee nearby at all times, staining of the teeth is relatively normal and can be remedied.
Before you decide whether to whiten your teeth at the dentist or at home, read through this article and the further reading we have listed at the end. Take the time to learn why a natural alternative performed at home is probably the best place to start
Professional Cosmetic Procedures
Laser or Power Bleaching
Hydrogen peroxide – or its gentler counterpart, carbamide peroxide – is painted onto the surface of your teeth before laser or light exposure is applied. This normally costs a few hundred pounds but can venture into four-figure territory. The procedure is made up of a number of visits to the dentist over the course of 3 to 4 weeks, with additional teeth whitening product applied daily at home between visits.
Power bleaching lightens teeth by a few shades when the laser causes the peroxide solution to oxidize discoloration in your tooth enamel.
Having your teeth whitened by a dentist does not as some would expect give you the Hollywood, TOWIE unnatural white but rather lightens your existing teeth colour by a few shades.
In the UK and mainland Europe, only Registered Dental Professionals can legally offer teeth whitening services. And, they can only use products containing up to 6% hydrogen peroxide
Maximum Allowed Hydrogen Peroxide Levels
In Europe, the maximum percentage of hydrogen peroxide in a teeth whitening product used by Registered Dental Professionals has been set to 6%. Home solutions must not exceed 0.1%.
While there isn’t enough published evidence currently available on the long-term use of hydrogen peroxide to say for certain, there is a concern that manipulating the shade of your enamel in this way eventually strips it of the proteins that help maintain the integrity of the tooth and, ironically enough, help prevent future staining.
Teeth Whitening Products for Home Use
Peroxide-Based Whitening Kits
Kits promising whiter teeth via pre-soaked strips, fillable trays, and UV lights are harder to avoid than they are to find. The peroxide content of these, however, is infinitesimal compared to the peroxide used by your dentist, who has access to solutions that are up to 60 times stronger.
On top of being comparatively ineffective, there is much room for user error. When you whiten with trays and strips at home, you’re often left dealing with excess amounts of peroxide gel, which is exposed to the tongue and throat and unintentionally swallowed.
Teeth whitening products available to buy for home use can be 60 times weaker than those used by your dentist.
Mass-market toothpastes claiming to whiten teeth generally fall into one of two categories: peroxide-based and abrasive. Abrasive whiteners are grittier than your average toothpaste, and the abrasion factor is usually courtesy of baking soda.
Baking soda can make your teeth brighter due to the removal of plaque, but it’s a questionable choice for everyday use. Baking soda, used on a regular basis, creates microscopic scratches in the surface of your enamel, leaving behind tiny new crevices for bacteria and stains to move into.
Alternatively, hydrogen peroxide toothpastes will not do much of anything, unless you’re hoping for a little maintenance on teeth that are already bleached. The percentage of active ingredient is far too small to have any measurable impact during the brief period it’s exposed to teeth during brushing.
Natural Home Teeth Whitening
Whitening With Fruit and Baking Soda
Using lemon or strawberries, along with baking soda, has been spread far and wide over the internet as an easy and cheap way to whiten. It may work for some, but the regular usage of this method can be damaging to your teeth.
While malic acid and citric acid found in fruit can remove surface stains, direct application of it in conjunction with an abrader like baking soda, salt, or a toothbrush is a recipe for accelerated enamel erosion. If you’re going this route, it may be best to use the strawberries and baking soda separately and sparingly.
Activated charcoal has been in use medicinally for thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that modern society has figured out numerous ways to use it. It’s historically renowned for its ability to remove heavy metals from the body and is still in use today to absorb poisons and aid digestion. It’s a great tool for detox, though it shouldn’t be taken if you rely on supplements or medications for your wellbeing – it will absorb those, too. Lately, many are aware of its ability to whiten teeth.
By dipping a damp toothbrush into the black powder and scrubbing very gently, tannins left behind from foods and beverages are absorbed, leaving behind a brighter and cleaner smile. There are a few caveats. The black paste can be rather messy, and a thorough rinse after use is necessary in order to avoid leaving the house with grayish teeth and black sediment in the crevices. Some activated charcoal will be coarser, so being mindful of the abrasion is key. Finally, you should be choosy when purchasing.
Only buy ‘activated’ charcoal, which has added oxygen and can bind to the stains and toxins you wish to remove.
Like activated charcoal, oil pulling has been traditionally used for centuries, and it’s enjoying quite a renaissance at present, thanks in part to celebrity pulling enthusiasts like Gwyneth Paltrow.
It’s a daily habit that can outlast the effects of shorter-term cosmetic tooth whitening, but it doesn’t work in a purely cosmetic way. Oil pulling will not bleach, alter, or damage the enamel. It absorbs the bacteria-loaded biofilm covering your teeth, and unlike most whitening methods, it does this over the surface of each and every tooth, front to back.
Teeth will gradually appear whiter as stains are removed and they become more reflective. But for advocates of oil pulling, a whiter smile is a fringe benefit of an overall healthier and cleaner mouth.
During oil pulling, a high-quality oil is swished for a maximum of 20 minutes and then spit out, never swallowed. Suitable pulling oils have antibacterial or antimicrobial properties that reduce plaque and fight off gingivitis. This leads to fresher breath, a slicker and cleaner feel, and yes, a whiter smile.
Better still, oil pulling is safe, and requires little caution once you have selected an oil. When you’re through swishing, just spit, rinse and carry on with your routine. Your teeth will soon feel cleaner, your gums will be pinker and healthier, and over time, you may even notice other benefits, like less sinus congestion and clearer skin.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line with home cosmetic teeth whitening is that you may not get the blindingly white movie-star results you desire. Everyone is born with their enamel a certain shade, and you can only interfere with it so much. A great deal of the flawless smiles you see onscreen are the result of porcelain veneers, a costly and often irreversible dental procedure.
Home teeth whitening is a billion-dollar industry fueled and maintained by advertising, and it only grows with the advent of so many social media platforms. Cosmetic, chemical-based whitening does not address the total health of the mouth, and some of the ingredients can even have detrimental effects on your health.
Keep it simple and remember – cleaner teeth are whiter teeth. Long-term reduction of plaque and the bacteria that causes it is a healthy and safe way to keep your smile white.
Have you used a teeth whitening kit, teeth whitening toothpaste or tried oil pulling? What results did you get? Share your experiences in the comments section below.