You might enjoy your daily cup of coffee, but have you ever stopped to think about what it’s doing to your teeth? If your pearly whites are starting to look a bit discoloured, it could be time to whiten them.
What Causes Teeth to Discolour?
There are two main causes of staining – extrinsic factors and intrinsic factors. Tooth discolouration through extrinsic factors takes place when the enamel is stained by your favourite dark-coloured drinks such as tea, wine and coffee and regular smoking. Intrinsic stains are caused when the inner structure of your tooth darkens or becomes yellow in colour.
If you’ve started to notice your teeth aren't as white as they could be and want to do something about it, read on to find out more about the different methods of teeth whitening and which technique will work best for you.
How to Stop Your Teeth Becoming Discoloured
Before you reach for the whitening tray, it’s advisable to think a little about how you actually treat your teeth. If you want to avoid them becoming discoloured, your best bet is to quit smoking and limit the amount of “dark” drinks you consume.
Foods with lots of colouring, such as curry or soy sauce, can also contribute to staining, so eat plenty of raw vegetables like carrots and apples to help keep your teeth clean.
Remember to replace your toothbrush every three months, brush every morning and at night, make a habit of using mouthwash and use dental floss to prevent plaque build-up. Regular visits to the dentist will help highlight any issues you may have with discolouration and professional cleaning can be offered as treatment.
Different Methods of Whitening Teeth
If you want a quick fix for surface stains caused by your morning brew, whitening toothpaste can be an effective remedy but it can’t change the natural colour of your teeth or improve discolouration beneath a tooth’s surface.
While many other tooth-whitening products contain peroxide, whitening toothpaste usually contains other chemicals and abrasives that polish the teeth more gently, making it a better option for those of you with sensitive teeth. Typically, use each time you brush for at least two to six weeks for best results.
These flexible strips of plastic coated in whitening gel tend to be slightly pricier than whitening toothpaste but you will see results quicker. To apply simply take a strip and mould it to the row of teeth that you’re looking to whiten.
They can be a handy solution if you have a special occasion coming up and want to brighten your smile, but remember that results vary depending on how discoloured a person’s teeth are to begin with. Usually though, results can be seen between three and seven days.
As whitening strips contain hydrogen peroxide, it can cause discomfort for those with sensitive teeth, so it’s advisable to use this method as a temporary rather than long-term solution. Always remember to consult a dental professional before experimenting with products containing hydrogen peroxide to ensure your teeth are strong enough and will not suffer any long-lasting damage.
Whitening Gel Trays
If you don’t want to fork out for expensive treatments like laser whitening, many people find that whitening gel trays are an affordable alternative that can also produce excellent results.
Ideal for using at home, you mould the tray to your teeth and wait for it to set. Then you line the inside of the tray with whitening gel, which usually contains hydrogen peroxide, and fix the trays to your teeth so that they are fully covered in gel.
Whitening gels come in different strengths, so the length of time you leave the tray on your teeth will vary depending on which gel you have. Typically however, dentists advise patients to wear the trays for approximately four hours a day over one to two weeks. Some people do report heightened sensitivity from using whitening gel trays, so this is something to bear in mind if you’re prone to sensitive teeth.
How to Whiten Teeth Naturally
Alongside the treatments we’ve already mentioned, there are other effective ways of whitening your teeth naturally.
If you really don’t like the idea of using bleach on your teeth, oil pulling is popular with those that prefer natural methods of teeth whitening.
This is a really easy technique that involves swishing a tablespoon of oil (usually coconut oil, olive oil or sesame oil) around your mouth for around 20 minutes and then rinsing. If you choose coconut oil, which contains Vitamin E, it doubles up as a superb antioxidant to help keep your mouth bacteria-free.
Take care not to swallow the oil towards the end of your swishing though – by this point the oil will be full of toxins from inside your mouth. For best results, repeat this procedure every day for two weeks.
Baking Soda and Lemon
Try mixing a quarter of a cup of baking soda with the juice of half a lemon until you get a paste. Apply the mixture to your teeth with a toothbrush and leave for one minute – then rinse. Repeat the process a few times a week.
Activated charcoal is also a hot trend amongst those looking to get the Hollywood smile. The charcoal absorbs tannins found in staining culprits like tea and coffee, fights against cavities and plaque, and helps to keep your gums healthy. Simply mix a small amount of activated charcoal with water until it turns into a paste, coat your teeth with the mixture and leave for three minutes. Rinse and repeat the procedure every few days over one to two weeks for visible results.
Ways to Avoid Sensitivity After Whitening
If you want to whiten your teeth but are worried about dentin hypersensitivity, otherwise known as sensitive teeth, follow these top tips:
- Use a treatment that contains a lower concentration of whitening product;
- Limit the amount of time you wear whitening gel trays;
- Whiten your teeth at home every few weeks rather than every few days;
- Avoid overly hot and cold foods for a couple of days following your treatment;
- Rinse your mouth with lukewarm water to reduce any immediate discomfort.