My teeth had become discoloured and I hated them.
There started my obsession with teeth whitening.
Big white teeth have absolutely saturated our culture. Image via Getty.
In an ideal world, we'd just accept the colour of our teeth (healthy teeth come in all different shades) and get on with our lives.
But right now I'm going to take the position of a wise mother: you are beautiful just the way you are. But if you're going to do something, then I would prefer you did it safely.
So, with some expert advice from the Chair of the ADA's Oral Health Committee, Dr Peter Alldritt, and Deputy Chair of the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Committee, Professor David Manton, here's everything you need to know about whitening your smile.
Watch: Some people, like our publisher Mia Freedman, just get lucky in the white teeth stakes. Dammit. (Post continues below.)
Baking soda was one of the first remedies I tried as a teenager. Logically it makes sense, as sodium bicarbonate is abrasive so it works to gently remove any surface stains on the tooth. This should theoretically leave teeth looking whiter.
- Mix several teaspoons of baking soda in with about half a teaspoon (or however much it takes to make a paste) of water.
- Wipe any residual saliva off teeth.
- Put a liberal amount on a toothbrush and apply.
- Leave on for about three minutes, and then rinse.
Pros: It won't damage your teeth like many other whitening treatments do. Also it's super cheap.
Cons: The change won't be drastic. My teenage self expected to look like Hilary Duff overnight, and that is not what happened. Note: I still do not look like Hilary Duff.
Expert opinion: "This is not a reliable source of bleaching, " Professor Manton insists. "The best way to avoid stained teeth is not drinking too much of products that cause staining, such as tea or coffee, or red wine. Regular effective brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste and regular cleans by your dentist can also help keep your teeth white."
Dr Alldritt adds, "Never use lemon juice or other acidic 'natural remedies' to whiten your teeth. They can abrade and erode (dissolve) the enamel from your teeth, making them thinner and more yellow."
Experts say this is not a reliable source of bleaching. Image via iStock.
When I first heard about this as a teeth whitening method I thought it was hoax — similar to 'step on your iPhone and it works as a set of scales!' or 'charge your phone by microwaving it!'
But, no. There is 'research'.
It's claimed charcoal pulls toxins from the mouth and removes stains. It has an adhesive quality so binds with surface stains caused by coffee, tea, wine and so on.
- Break up one to two tablets of activated charcoal and pour contents into a cup.
- Add water and mix until it forms a thick paste.
- Apply paste to teeth.
- Wait three minutes, and then rinse with water.
Pros: Although I've never personally tried it, testimonials all over the Internet claim charcoal really works. It's cheap and super quick.
: Some dental professionals have expressed concern over the practice, stating that it could be too abrasive for teeth. It is therefore advised you do not brush or scrub the charcoal onto teeth, but rather dab. Also, the whitening power of charcoal stops at superficial stains. If your teeth have always been darker (which could be genetic) you'll need a product that is stronger.
Expert opinion: "There is no good evidence that charcoal is an effective way to whiten one’s teeth – you are better off having a dentist bleach your teeth for you or trying a whitening toothpaste." Dr Alldritt has concerns for the protective enamel coating on your teeth, stating that such a treatment can cause "irreversible damage."
White Glo Express Teeth Whitening System ($13.95)
After years of trialing, I swear by this product.
The gel claims to "lift stains and yellowing on the surface of tooth enamel". It comes with a set of mouth trays, which are designed to sit on your teeth for approximately five minutes and hold the gel in place. I've found the gel can be applied directly to the teeth, with no mouth trays needed (they are bulky and slightly uncomfortable). You can buy them online here.
My concern, however, was safety. The product is cheap, and I was once told by a dental assistant that supermarket options damage enamel.
- Apply gel to mouth guard (or directly to teeth).
- Leave on for maximum five minutes.
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