Just when a dentist thinks they’ve heard it all and seen it all, along comes more shock horror!
It reads well on Instagram, doesn’t it? “The easy way to whiten your teeth today!” This is the kind of ‘influence’ which can turn out to be the stuff of nightmares.
So – let’s put the record straight and debunk some of these myths about ‘magic’ tricks to whiten your teeth:
Acid – in the form of citrus juices – is highly damaging to teeth. It’s what we are warned about by our dentists from an early age. We are told that fruit juice contains acid and acid eats away at the enamel of your teeth. Tooth enamel is relatively thin. It’s hard and durable, for biting and eating. Unfortunately, it is susceptible to erosion in the presence of acid. When this happens, the teeth can become sensitive and painful. Without the hard enamel coating, stains can be more readily be absorbed into the underlying dentine of your teeth, creating a more yellow appearance – the very opposite of what you want!
If you’ve heard that rubbing lemon juice or orange rind on your teeth is the answer, don’t be tempted – your teeth will become painful and discoloured. If you are a fruit lover, you could try eating strawberries, which are a natural tooth whitener, provided you eat them naturally.
To follow the science, check the pH scale. 7 is neutral, and the lower we go, the more acidic the substance. So try to limit the amount of food you ingest that has a very low pH, or better still, eliminate these altogether, and certainly never ‘apply’ them to your teeth for whitening purposes!
Another supposed solution for teeth whitening, is baking soda. The idea is that if you use this to brush your teeth after a meal, it will prevent stains. This may remove some staining but in the long run, the combination of the abrasive soda granules, paired with the toothbrush bristles, will cause removal of the enamel and sensitivity and yellowing.
You may also have seen that apple cider vinegar can be used for teeth whitening, and that you should use it as a mouthwash, or rub it on each tooth. Vinegar is extremely acidic and will cause damage, especially if you then also use a toothbrush to scrub your teeth.
Other food and drinks which are high in acid are: sweets, soda, sports drinks and most fruit juices. There is no suggestion that you should never eat any of these foods. However, it may be wise to use a mouthwash after you eat them, or restore pH by eating a piece of cheese after acidic food and drink.
How do you create a whiter smile without doing any damage?
These are the tips from our panel of dentists:
Use whitening toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash.
Brush and floss twice a day.
Use an electric toothbrush.
Replace the brush or brush head regularly.
Eat strawberries and vegetables which have a high water content.
Use a professional teeth whitening product as recommended by your dentist and only use it under their supervision.
Speak to your dentist or dental hygienist about the technique you should use if you are in any doubt. Sometimes, the technique we were taught as children is not always the best. It is worth asking what today’s advice is, and well worth asking what is best for your particular case.