Everyone wants white, healthy-looking teeth, but professional teeth whitening can be expensive. No wonder home teeth whitening is such a hot search topic. We’re all looking to save money without (hopefully) sacrificing our pearly-whites!
Even in tough times, though, people are apparently willing to spend a little extra to ensure a winning smile. Industry analysts at IBISWorld report that, in the face of a difficult economy during 2012, the Teeth Whitening Product Manufacturing industry was still able to grow. The analysts estimated the industry’s revenues for 2012 at nearly $383 million, a 3.7% increase over 2011.
Having your teeth professionally whitened by a dentist is always the safest way to keep your teeth their brightest. But for those who are looking for a more affordable alternative, home teeth whitening products and a few homemade alternatives may be able to help. Here’s a rundown.
The basic ingredient in most whiteners: peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the key bleaching ingredients used in most tooth whitening products. Whichever type is used, the peroxide safely bubbles away on the surface of tooth enamel and helps to scrub away stains. Teeth get whiter when the concentration of peroxide is higher and when the peroxide is left in contact with teeth longer.
…gums can become irritated if the peroxide solution they contain is trapped against the gums.
There are some possible side effects of using teeth whitening products that contain peroxide, though. For example, some people temporarily experience increased tooth sensitivity after using products that contain peroxide. In addition, when using trays and strips with peroxide (see below), gums can become irritated if the peroxide solution they contain is trapped against the gums.
And here’s the kicker: after bleaching teeth with a peroxide-based product, the enamel is more receptive to new stains for 48 hours.
Home teeth whitening products for routine care
With more and more home teeth whitening products available, whitening teeth can be part of anyone’s daily oral care routine. Today, there is a variety of toothpastes and oral rinses that can help make teeth whitening at home easy and practically automatic.
Typically, toothpastes that help to whiten teeth are made with slightly abrasive particles. The abrasives help to scour away stains. However, because the abrasives used in home whitening products are not as strong as those used by dental hygienists, it may take a few days before you see noticeably whiter teeth when using whitening toothpastes alone.
…a variety of toothpastes and oral rinses can help make teeth whitening at home easy and practically automatic.
Whitening mouthwashes and rinses are also available for daily use. These generally contain a small amount of peroxide that washes away minor surface stains before they have a chance to become more permanent. Whitening rinses stay in contact with teeth for a very short time, though, which means their effectiveness is typically lower compared to whitening toothpastes. Still, using the two types of products together may help you maintain a healthy smile.
Breaking away from the routine: trays, strips, and paint-on teeth whiteners
In addition to using whitening toothpastes, mouthwashes, and rinses as part of the daily tooth care routine, a variety of additional home teeth whitening products are available. These include trays, strips, and paint-on teeth whiteners.
Dentists generally agree that using teeth whitening trays or strips delivers the most dazzling results at home. Unlike toothpastes and rinses, trays and strips keep the tooth whitening solution in contact with teeth longer, so the results are more dramatic. Achieving results that are more striking also requires a greater time commitment. To achieve the desired shade of whiteness, most manufacturers recommend using trays or strips for a specified period each day for several days.
…paint-on teeth whiteners offer yet another option.
For those who find trays and strips uncomfortable (due to sensitive teeth, for example), paint-on teeth whiteners offer yet another option. The whitener is painted directly onto the surface of teeth, so no trays or strips are needed. The paint-on whitening solution is less likely to get on the gums, where it can cause irritation.
Can you whiten your teeth using walnut tree bark or with banana peels? It turns out there are a few natural teeth whitening recipes you can experiment with at home.
One of the most widely recommended home tooth whiteners is baking soda. Baking soda is a safe, mildly abrasive powder that can help scour away surface stains on teeth. Similar to the solution in teeth whitening trays, baking soda can be rubbed on teeth after being mixed with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. Let it remain on the tooth surface for a few minutes, and then rinse it away.
Be careful to keep the baking soda solution on your teeth only…
You can also whiten teeth by brushing with a solution of three parts baking soda and 1 part water. Be careful to keep the baking soda solution on your teeth only, though. In combination with a toothbrush, baking soda can be hard on your gums and may cause irritation.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can find numerous articles online about whitening teeth using exotic ingredients, such as fresh sage leaves, hardwood ash, and walnut bark. A word of caution, though: check with your dentist or dental hygienist before you go too far out on a limb, so to speak.
Easy does it!
While you can use simple ingredients at home to get teeth whiter, getting them their whitest (especially if there is any moderate to severe staining to begin with) will probably mean making a trip to the dentist. If you do try whitening your teeth at home using natural ingredients, be sure to go slowly and allow your teeth and gums to rest and recover between treatments.
…never repeat a natural teeth whitening treatment more than once a week until you reach the shade of whiteness desired.
A good rule of thumb is to never repeat a natural teeth whitening treatment more than once a week until you reach the shade of whiteness desired. After that, reduce treatments to once a month at most, or better still, every other month. Otherwise, you run the risk of wearing down tooth enamel, increasing the risk of cavities, and developing tooth sensitivities.
Do you have a favorite home teeth whitening solution? Let us know what has worked for you in our comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!
If you ask your favorite search engine, you’ll discover there are about 27 million reasons why having white teeth is important. However, we think one reason stands out: looking and feeling your best.
The trouble is: many of the foods that promote tooth stains are also among the best choices for the vitamins and minerals essential to strong teeth and bones. Intensely colored foods such as dark red beets and many kinds of berries can leave behind substances that weaken or cling to tooth surfaces and lead to stains.
Let’s take a look at some foods and habits that can contribute to yellow or brown teeth. We’ll also look at ways you can minimize the potential for staining without cutting vital nutrients out of your daily diet.
The compounds that stain and discolor teeth
There are three primary components that contribute to tooth staining. These are: intense color, acidity, and the presence of tannins.
- Intensely colored foods and beverages: As a general rule of thumb, foods that are more intense in color have greater potential for staining your teeth. The reason? Dye-like molecules called chromogens that love to cling to enamel tooth surfaces.
- Acidic foods and beverages: Acid erodes and softens dental enamel, which makes it that much easier for chromogens to latch on and stain teeth. The foods and beverages that contain relatively high levels of acid may not be intensely colored at all – think white wine – but the acid-based erosion contributes to staining all the same.
- Tannins: The third member of the unholy trinity of stain-promoting agents is tannins. Tannins are found in a wide variety of foods and beverages (red wine is the poster child here). They work together with chromogens and boost their ability to adhere to enamel and stain teeth.
October is National Dental Hygiene month! Learn more at ADHA.org
Foods and beverages that stain teeth
Intensely colored, acidic, and tannin-rich substances come into contact with your teeth through a broad assortment of foods and beverages. Here’s a roundup of the types of food that are most likely to stain and discolor teeth:
- Colas and sports drinks: The combination of acidity and chromogens in many colas and sports drinks give these items considerable staining ability. The beverages may be light or dark in color and still contribute to staining simply due to the enamel softening effects of the acids they contain.
- Dressings and sauces: Like other deeply colored foods, some dressings and sauces can contribute to brown or yellow teeth. For example, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, ketchup, mustard, tomato sauce, curry sauce, and other deeply colored sauces can leave behind stains due in many cases to the dental double whammy: both acidity and chromogens.
- Intensely colored produce: Vegetables and fruits – and the juices, pies, and other foods and beverages made from these items – are rich in chromogens and can therefore contribute to tooth staining. Included in this category are beets, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, grapes, pomegranates, and raspberries, to name only a few.
- Tea and coffee: Most people know that frequent coffee consumption can stain teeth. They may not know the reason: coffee is rich in chromogens. Black tea, though, gets even worse marks from many dentists, not because of chromogens, but because it is so loaded with tannins.
- Wine: Red, white, rosé – whatever the shade of your favorite wine, there’s a good chance it may help dim the appearance of your teeth. That’s because even if they do not contain tannins (as red wines notoriously do), wines are acidic and can therefore weaken tooth enamel, making it easier for chromogens from other sources to do their dirty work.
5 tips for minimizing tooth stains
There are certain things that you can and should do to help prevent tooth staining and discoloration. If you don’t smoke or have quit smoking, congratulations! You’ve already taken one giant step towards keeping your smile as bright as possible.
Avoiding sweets and other foods and beverages with high amounts of intense coloring (such as coffee and tea, red wine, candies, popsicles, jams, jellies, and pies) makes sense for any number of reasons, not least of which is the effect these items can have on tooth color and whiteness.
But what can you do to minimize the staining potential of all those other things that are so good and, often, so good for you?
Here are our top 5 tips for minimizing tooth stains:
- Eat your greens first: According to some sources, certain foods like broccoli and lettuce help to protect teeth against staining when consumed first.
- Use a straw: Sipping darkly colored, acidic, or tannin-rich beverages through a straw can decrease the amount of time the liquids are in contact with your teeth.
- Swallow without too much delay: To minimize your exposure to stain producing compounds, avoid holding stain producing foods in your mouth longer than necessary for proper chewing and swallowing.
- Brush, but not right away: Immediately after consuming acidic or tannin rich foods or beverages, tooth enamel is softer and more vulnerable than at other times. To avoid damage to the enamel and wash away much of the potentially harmful residue, swish with water and wait about 30 minutes before brushing.
- Chew sugarless gum: A good way to fight stains after eating or drinking, chewing sugarless gum mimics the mechanical action of a toothbrush or floss to help remove stain-causing substances from tooth surfaces.
It can be easy to minimize the potential for tooth stains, but just be sure you aren’t also eliminating vital nutrients in the process.
How do you keep your teeth looking their whitest? Let us know in the comment section below!
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For more information about dental health, including a glossary of dental insurance terms and articles about oral health and dentistry, visit our dental resources pages.
Everybody wants their smile to be as white as possible, right? And by now we’re all well aware of cosmetic dentistry’s various teeth-whitening options, from whitening toothpastes to bleaching.
But keeping a white, bright smile can also depend on what we eat and drink. Knowing what those foods are, and why they can stain our teeth, can provide insights about how to keep teeth white.
There are a few factors that make certain foods stain-worthy. First are molecules called chromogens. These intensely pigmented molecules can easily attach themselves to dental enamel. Chromogens are found in red wine, coffee, colas, berries and sauces.
Foods and beverages with a high acidity level can also open the door to staining. Acidic products erode dental enamel and soften teeth for easier chromogen attachment. Other chromogen enablers, called tannins, are often found in tea, wine and berries.
Cosmetic dentistry follows a pretty simple standard regarding teeth staining foods: If you think it’ll stain your white tablecloth, it’ll probably stain your teeth.
Watching what kind of stain-enhancers you consume can enhance your smile for years to come.
Foods That Stain Teeth
Here are some foods and beverages to look out for:
- Coffee/Tea: Tannins in teas are stain enablers, while coffee is rich in chromogens. Some dentists feel tea has the potential for worse staining than coffee because of the damage tannins can do to enamel.
- Wine: Red wine is both acidic and tannin and chromogen-rich. It’s a triple threat on the stain scale! White wine is a little sneakier, promoting an environment where other food compounds, like those found in teas, can better stain teeth.
- Sauces: Watch out for soy, tomato and curry sauces, as well as any sauce that appears deeply colored.
- Berries: Dark berries (blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, etc.) and the juices and foods made from them are going to contribute to teeth staining.
- Sports drinks and colas: Both these drink types are highly acidic, even when they’re clear or lightly colored. Sipping one at your desk all day long? Don’t be surprised if your teeth start to stain.
- Sweets: Cosmetic dentistry has another rule of thumb on this one: if it stains your tongue, it’s probably going to stain your teeth.
Tips to help keep your teeth whiter
So, are you going to have to give up your favorite soy sauce soaked sushi? Or cut out wine altogether? No! Here are a few simple tips to help keep your teeth whiter without having to eat or drink like a monk:
- Practice a little moderation. If you find yourself consuming a lot of the foods listed above, think about cutting back or finding a non-staining alternative half the time.
- Swallow. That’s right, when you swallow what you’re eating or drinking promptly, you minimize your teeth’s exposure to stain-causing foods.
- Try a straw. Following the theory of limited exposure, using a straw can protect your front teeth, especially from staining beverages.
- Follow up with a swish of water. Cleaning out your mouth after a meal is a good idea to avoid plaque build-up, generally. With regard to acidic foods and beverages, swishing with water is actually preferable to brushing after a meal because acids make teeth vulnerable for up to 30 minutes after they’re consumed. Brushing can contribute to damaging the enamel if done too soon after an acidic meal or drink.
- Get chewing! Sugarless gum after a meal is an effective food particle and stain-agent remover.
Of course, you need to keep brushing and flossing daily, and avoid all the other things that can weaken enamel or cause staining (we’re looking at you, smokers and tobacco chewers). Your own personal approach to cosmetic dentistry (watching what kind of stain-enhancers you consume, that is) can enhance your smile for years to come.
What are you doing to protect your teeth against stains? How’s that working? Share your experience in a comment below!
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