Step by step guide:
- Let’s start with the basics. Brush frequently and correctly. Whether you use an electric or manual toothbrush, opt for a soft head. Hard brushes can damage your enamel and cause recession and sensitivity. Brush for two minutes at least twice a day – gently and floss daily also. You can use whitening toothpastes, but they may not be strong enough to dramatically whiten teeth on their own. A DIY alternative is mixing one part hydrogen peroxide to two parts baking soda and brushing your teeth with the mixture. The peroxide lightens stains over time with use. Be sure to use this sparingly though as it may cause tooth sensitivity with overuse.
- Come in for your dental cleaning at a minimum twice a year. More frequently if the dentist deems it necessary for those patients with gum disease or periodontal problems. Regular dental appointments are so important to ascertain if there are any underlying diseases before you do a whitening procedure. In other words, you want to be working with as white a canvas as possible before you start any treatment.
- Avoid tooth staining foods and drinks, such as coffee, tea, red wine, soft drinks, most berries, ketchup, soya sauce, pomegranates, barbecue sauce, spices such as turmeric, curry or paprika, balsamic vinegar, basically anything that is darkly pigmented. When unavoidable, chase the staining drink or food with water to rinse away the acids and staining properties of these foods. Rinsing with water should be within 30 minutes of consumption. Eating calcium rich foods such as cheese with your wine helps to neutralize the acids that yellow teeth also .
- Get your teeth whitened at your dental office. With a combination of hydrogen peroxide and LED light treatment you can lighten your teeth professionally. I would personally recommend waiting until at least age 13 where all permanent teeth are in, and the teenager can accept a little tooth sensitivity during or after treatment. Here in my office we use Opulescence Boost 40% hydrogen peroxide treatment. I usually numb up patients so they rest comfortably during the process and watch their favourite shows on the operatory t.v. Sensitivity afterwards can be managed with over the counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil. Typically sensitivity lasts 24-48hrs and is tolerable, especially for such dramatic results. If you’re looking at immediate results this is the way to go!!
- Take home professional kits are my next recommendation for those looking for a cost efficient way of doing their whitening. For about $100 you take home premeasured trays with the whitening gel at a lesser hydrogen peroxide concentration to wear daily until you achieve your desired results. We sell these kits in our office and are happy to help you apply your first set of trays. This is so you feel secure on how to take this home and do the kit by yourself.
- Ladies…a tip… Wear blue based lipstick colours. Colours with names like cherry, wine, and berry tend to have blue undertones, which make teeth appear whiter. As much as I love fun Red orange shades, they don’t do us a service. And since my daughter has officially banned me from buying a single tube more of lipstick after tidying up my makeup counter, I have been trying to use up the ones I have. Apparently I have a teeny tiny lipstick buying addiction. Ok fine. I have a problem. Lets just own it.
- Here is the BIG one. The one no one wants to hear. Quit Smoking. At your check ups, whether I inform you or not, I am checking for oral cancers and other harmful side effects of smoking. The tar and tobacco found in nicotine rapidly yellows teeth. It is not a crowd favourite to say it but , yes, you should quit smoking friends.
- Sometimes regardless of all whitening efforts, the only solution to discoloured teeth are crowns and porcelain veneers, especially if these teeth were previously traumatized with injury or decay. A dentist is the only one qualified to let you know if this is an advisable option. But know this folks, most of the celebrities you see with chalk white teeth have had these types of permanent porcelain veneers placed and or it’s photoshopped to death. I literally have seen two different movie posters of the same well known action heart throb movie star with two different sets of teeth . Each poster was clearly photoshopped with different results. ( A little known fact : A Dental Occupational hazard of all dentists, is staring at movie stars teeth and thinking what we can do to fix that)
So There you go: My best advise on tooth whitening. Some of it clinical some of it from personal experience. And if something seems like a fad and is not tested and approved by well known organizations such as the ADA or CDA, go with your gut feeling. Don’t bother wasting your money. Talk to your dentist and we will happily let you know what we think about that instagram pop up ad.
Fixing one smile at a time… your friendly neighbourhood dentist, Dr. Karen.