Teeth Whitening: What You Need to Know

Teeth Whitening: What You Need to Know

Do you long for beautiful, pearly white teeth? Personal habits such as coffee drinking or tobacco use can cause discoloration over time. It’s no wonder that teeth whitening agents have become so popular. This can be a procedure performed by a professional, or as simple as using whitening strips at home. However, have you ever experienced pain while using them?

Most of us have probably heard some not-so-great, or downright scary stories about teeth whitening! However, despite popular misconception, most whitening products have not been deemed officially dangerous by professionals. Regardless, people with sensitive teeth should use caution. It has been reported that the chemicals in teeth whitening products can be harmful if left on for too long. This is because agents such as chlorine dioxide can wear down tooth enamel in the process of removing stains. This causes the nerve to be more exposed; which leads to heightened sensitivity and ultimately pain. While enamel can be reinforced with calcium agents in our diet and certain enamel toothpastes, a tooth remains the only part of the body that cannot fully repair itself.

This may go without saying, but teeth whitening agents are never recommended for little ones and kids who still have baby teeth (12 and under). As adult teeth tend to discolor over the decades, baby teeth should have no problem sparkling as long as they are taken care of! If you have found that your child’s chompers are looking a bit off-color, chances are they are not disciplined in taking care of their teeth by brushing twice and flossing daily. Permanent correction such as whitening should only be conducted with permanent teeth.

Chemical-Free Ways to Whiten Teeth

  1. The dentist: sometimes all you need is a good deep-clean! Your twice yearly dental visit can clear off build-up of plaque in certain areas and polish teeth in ways department store toothpaste cannot. After your dentist visits, really make sure to be strict about flossing and rinsing daily and see if you notice a difference long-term. For an even stronger effect using this process, purchase whitening mouthwash, used to brighten teeth (not recommended for children!)
  2. Oil-pulling: an ancient practice, beneficial in countless ways; one of them being teeth whitening! Using organic coconut oil, swish a tablespoon in your mouth for 20 minutes a day. This is a chemical-free way for layers of plaque to be broken down as oils have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. It also acts as a trap to pull and collect bacteria. (Don’t have 20 minutes? Try it while in the shower or answering emails. It goes by very quickly!)
  3. Sugar-free gum with xylitol: chewing gum increases saliva production which cleanses your teeth of bacteria. As we clench down, it can also get those hard-to-reach places, a bit like flossing does.
  4. An apple a day: a cliche that is nevertheless true! Apples can be beneficial to our teeth as well, because their flesh fibers can act as little toothbrushes in our mouths, washing away plaque and brightening teeth. Research also shows that celery has a similar effect.

One last note:

If you have sensitive teeth and are hesitant about using a whitening product, and have attempted these home remedies to no avail, discuss options with your dentist. There may be a particular product he or she would recommend that would be best for your teeth and your level of staining. Dentists know best!

Image by Davisdentalcare (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons