A bright smile is a sign of health and, increasingly, is being seen as a symbol of wealth and success. 75% of people in the UK are now asking their dentists for teeth whitening treatments to make their teeth two shades whiter.
Of course, not everybody can afford or want to go down the route of getting teeth whitening procedures. It can be quite costly. Some will risk it and go to beauty salons offering illegal whitening treatments while others may purchase DIY at home teeth whitening kits – both of which can be ineffective and potentially damaging to your teeth.
If you’re on a budget, there are dentist-approved oral hygiene products e.g. whitening toothpastes and other natural remedies out there to help you get the sparkling smile you’ve been longing for. If you want to find out more, we will go through all the different options below – go on, get your teeth stuck in!
There are many reasons why our pearly whites become less pearly and white, and identifying the cause can help you to choose the best tooth-whitening treatment. Here are the three main types of tooth discolouration:
Teeth whitening, aka teeth bleaching, is the process of bleaching your teeth to make them lighter. ‘Brilliant white’ may be hard to achieve, but teeth whitening should be able to lighten your teeth by several shades.
The best teeth whitening method will always be performed by a dentist, or other regulated dental professional - like a dental therapist or dental hygienist – on prescription of a dentist. When performed by a professional, teeth whitening treatments can be safe and healthy. However, not everyone offering to whiten your teeth will be able to say the same thing.
You should be wary of beauty salons that offer teeth whitening procedures as it may put your oral health at risk - and is actually illegal if there is no dental professional involved! The same goes for even the best at home teeth whitening kits on the market – some of which can carry serious risks to your dental health.
If you’ve made the decision to go through with a teeth-whitening procedure, it will likely be one the of the following (both will require several visits to the dentist’s over a few months):
One of the most common faults of DIY teeth whitening kits, e.g. teeth whitening strips, is not having enough whitening product inside them to be effective! To further the blow, kits requiring you to use a mouthguard will most likely be generic (one fit for all) and may not fit your mouth correctly – which may cause some of the bleaching gel to leak out. If bleaching gel gets onto your gums and into your mouth, it may cause increased sensitivity and blistering.
Similarly, getting your teeth whitened by untrained staff without dental qualifications in beauty salons not only puts your oral health in danger – it is also illegal. It’s really not worth the risk!
Yes! The problem with some of the more mainstream teeth-whitening methods is that they rely on chemicals, bleach and acidic methods to strip your teeth, sometimes causing long-term damage to your tooth enamel. And these methods don’t appeal to everyone.
If you want to protect your teeth and get a whiter smile the natural way, here are our top natural teeth whitening tips:
The first step to whiter teeth is to protect them from stains in the first place:
A healthy diet will help your body produce strong tooth enamel, so introduce more leafy greens (kale, spinach), cheese, almonds and sugar-free yogurts to your diet. These foods contain plenty of calcium, which may help to protect your teeth from enamel erosion. Tooth discoloration is sometimes caused by too much enamel being eroded away, which can expose the yellow-coloured dentin underneath.
A good tooth brushing routine at the correct time can make a big difference. If you brush too soon before or after eating or drinking, you risk more staining to your tooth enamel. Drink some water and leave at least 30 minutes between brushing your teeth and eating or drinking.
Your much-loved cups of coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and red wine may be staining your teeth. This isn’t to say that you should completely cut them out of your diet, but if you’re looking to whiten your smile, it’s sensible to try and limit how much contact they have with your teeth.
Try drinking them with a straw to avoid direct contact with your teeth and to brush your teeth ASAP after consuming. Smoking and chewing tobacco can cause discoloration, too.
Switch to sugar-free gum if you’re a fan of chewing gum or minty sweets. Some chewing gum and mints contain a lot of sugar, which will damage your teeth (especially if you have them every day). Instead, look for chewing gum or freshening mints sweetened with Xylitol, a very low-calorie sweetener which helps neutralise plaque acidity to look after your tooth enamel.
Choose natural whitening products that use gentle plant ingredients to lighten your teeth.
Peppermint oil helps to remove plaque and gives you fresher breath - which is why it’s such a popular toothpaste ingredient! Most toothpastes with peppermint oil will also have hyaluronic acid in them to complement the peppermint oil as well as help to moisturise and protect your whole mouth.
However, you need to be careful if using this method. Acetic acid could erode your tooth enamel so you shouldn’t use it every day. When using it as a mouthwash, you must limit the amount of time it is in contact with your teeth and dilute it sufficiently with water before use. Always rinse with plain water afterwards.
Oil pulling involves swishing oil around your mouth for up to 20 minutes every day. The habit might take some getting used to, so build up from a few minutes until you have incorporated it into your morning or night-time routine. If you can’t get used to oil pulling, try an oil pulling mouthwash that has activated charcoal.
Please note: there are risks that come with any teeth whitening treatment. Your gums could be sensitive to the chemicals in teeth whitening, especially if you already have sensitive teeth. Your gums can also suffer burns, and some at home whitening kits can even harm tooth enamel – so please be careful and always reach out to a professional if you encounter any problems.
Last updated: 22 June 2020