Say Cheese: 5 Dos and Don’ts of Whitening Your Teeth at Home

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Photo: Courtesy of Natascha Lindemann

When Google released its end-of-year trend data for 2019, it published a list showing what people were searching for. As well proving that people were on the hunt for guides on how to create scrunchies, friendship bracelets, and lip scrubs last year, the top 10 also revealed that people wanted to improve their appearance in one particular way – by searching “how to make teeth whiter”. And according to dentist Dr. Amit Rai, social media is largely responsible.

“Tooth whitening has become increasingly popular as some patients strive for Instagram perfection,” he says. “White teeth are in fashion – I mean almost no one would choose to have a darker shade of teeth if they were given the choice.” Plus, who wouldn’t want to emulate celebrities and their megawatt smiles? “Most celebrities have bright white teeth, but one that none of my patients try to emulate is Simon Cowell. In my opinion, that’s a little too white!” says Rai. But what if you don’t have an A-list budget for brightening your smile? DIY kits can be effective, but he has a few pointers you need to know before you get started with at-home teeth whitening.

1

Don’t Believe Viral Hacks

“As you can imagine, I’ve heard all sorts of tooth-whitening hacks, ranging from the use of banana peel to the use of coconut oil. The most unusual has to be a patient who swears by the use of rubbing their toothbrush over a piece of coal before brushing their teeth! In all seriousness, some of the methods can be dangerous and potentially damaging, such as the use of domestic toilet bleach.”

2

Don’t Use Kitchen Ingredients

“I’ve heard a lot about oil pulling to help remove plaque, but it does not whiten teeth anymore than brushing twice daily. Bicarbonate of soda may do a fabulous job of lifting stains from the tooth surface, but it is very abrasive to the precious outer enamel layer of your teeth, leaving the yellower underlying dentine visible. Once your enamel is gone, it’s gone, so be careful.”

3

Don’t Trust Quick Tricks

“Beware of blue-light whitening conducted by non-dentists in shopping centers and exhibitions. This involves keeping your mouth open, which dehydrates your teeth, making them appear whiter. These methods may appear cheap and quick, but they aren’t effective in the long term.”

4

Choose a Reputable Retailer

“At-home whitening is generally effective and, naturally, there are different formulations, some of which are safer than others. It’s best to stick to clinically effective products sold by reputable sellers, such as Boots – not the likes of eBay.”

5

Maintain Your Dental Health

“Brushing twice daily, not smoking, and regularly visiting your dentist and/or dental hygienist are all a must for maintaining a whiter smile, but it is also true that some types of food and drink can stain your teeth. Confusingly, however, they give you other health benefits, so you may not necessarily want to cut them out of your diet altogether. Tea and coffee both contain tannins, which cause staining, particularly when drunk without milk.”

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