Good-looking teeth play an important role for both sexes. Their appearance influences who we choose as potential mates, as well as everyday interactions between people, on conscious and subconscious levels. Whether we find someone likeable or trustworthy is often determined by how their teeth look.
Unfortunately, teeth discolor as we age, particularly due to the consumption of coffee, black tea, red wine and of course cigarettes; in advanced cases, even professional bleaching cannot undo this trend. Yet everyone is able to whiten their teeth somewhat, even without professional help.
There are many videos on the internet promoting tips for whiter teeth. Some of these methods damage the enamel, and, in the long run, worsen the problem. You should always talk to your dentist first before trying out any teeth whitening methods.
Bleaching teeth with baking soda is probably the oldest method in the toolbox of dental cosmetiques. Baking soda is composed largely of sodium bicarbonate, which has a "grinding" effect on teeth. The mechanism at work here is therefore a mechanical one, and not one of bleaching at all; it attacks not only the enamel but also gums. Immediately after application, your teeth may indeed appear whiter. However, this method also leaves them susceptible to renewed discoloration, because the top layer of your teeth becomes rough and porous. Furthermore, the effects of baking soda extend only to the topmost layer of enamel, whereas yellowish dentin remains underneath, which is then exposed through continued application. Therefore, the baking powder method is clearly not recommended!
Lemon juice has similar effects as baking soda. It contains citric acid, which dissolves the top layer of the enamel, resulting in a short-term whitening of your teeth. In the long run though, this method is inappropriate and even harmful. After consuming lemon juice, you should rinse out your mouth with water, as citric acid can cause tooth decay within minutes.
There is an urban myth that strawberries can whiten your teeth. However, aside from the natural acid found in these fruit, most of the effect seems to be an optical illusion - strawberries make your teeth appear whiter than they actually are due to their red colour staying on your lips.
Here is another fruit-related one. If you rub the inside of a banana peel against your teeth, and then wait for 10 minutes, rumor has it that they will appear whiter. It is said that this is due to the minerals contained in bananas, such as potassium and calcium, which supposedly return enamel to its original colour.
In reality though, enamel is mostly made up of hydroxyapatite, which in turn is composed of calcium and phosphate. The banana peel theory is clearly an urban myth, since teeth do not absorb significant amounts of minerals through their surface.
Some home remedies really do bleach your teeth, though not by as much as a dentist's hydrogen peroxide treatment is able to do. However, this can be precisely what people want, since hydrogen peroxide can lead to an unnatural-looking hue of white.
Turmeric is a wonderful spice that, in addition to providing a number of health benefits, is also used as a yellow-orange food dye. What few people know, though, is that tumeric also acts as a natural bleaching agent for teeth. The exact mechanism for this is unknown, but the effect has been repeatedly verified by trained dentists. There is a [short documentary] (https://www.rtl.de/cms/gesunde-zahnaufhellung-im-test-ein-ergebnis-zaubert-uns-definitiv-ein-laecheln-ins-gesicht-4119472.html) on RTL about this.
People with dental implants, crowns or the like should not use the turmeric method, as the orange dye gets caught in these, causing permanent discoloration.
To make turmeric toothpaste, mix 1 teaspoon of oil (preferrably coconut oil, for reasons of taste), with 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder. If you like, you can add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil or peppermint oil, and stir it all up. The effects should should set in after the third or fourth application. Just as with normal toothpaste, do not swallow the mixture, but spit it out after brushing.
The seemingly strangest, yet most effective, home remedy is probably pitch black activated carbon. The only commercial toothpaste on the market right now that uses this ingredient is “Black & White" by Swiss manufacturer Curaprox. It will make you look like a pirate when you brush your teeth, but it also has a whitening effect in the long run. The exact mechanism of action for this is not know, but what we do know is that the activated carbon also gets rid of bad breath!
Discoloration can have many causes - tea, red wine, cigarettes and coffee are the biggest culprits here. It is difficult to do anything about this once the upper layer of enamel has been worn down by age or bad nutrition, revealing the yellowish dentin underneath. The only effective method then is bleaching with hydrogen peroxide.
This bleaching agent breaks down molecules responsible for yellow and darker colors, making your teeth appear radiantly - even unnaturally - white. The effect only lasts for 2-3 years however, after which the treatment has to be repeated.
There are a number of commercial products available in the cosmetics department which promise to facilitate tooth bleaching at home. Strips that are placed on the teeth, gels that are applied like nail polish, or moulds that sit firmly on the denture can be used for rapid bleaching.
However, over-the-counter products can only contain a maximum of 5% hydrogen peroxide, which generally produces poor results. For cases of stronger discoloration, a higher concentration of bleach is needed, which may only be applied by a qualified dentist.
Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical that has the potential to cause unwanted side effects.
Caries or cracked teeth can lead to the chemical causing nerve damage, resulting in severe pain. Therefore, have your teeth checked by a dentist prior to commencing treatment.
Hydrogen peroxide attacks the enamel, resulting in an increased risk of tooth decay. Teeth should be professionally polished by a dentist after bleaching, as the chemical roughens their surfaces, making them more susceptible to renewed discoloration.
There is a potential for discoloration or severe irritation of the gums.
If discoloration is severe, a consultation with a trained dentist should be sought to discuss possible options. Costs for hydrogen peroxide treatments vary from € 300 to € 1600. Unfortunately, very few health insurance policies cover such treatments.
There are a number of commercial products on the market that promise permanent teeth whitening, the most well known of which are toothpastes specifically designed for this purpose. But there are also other options available.
Whether Blendamed, Colgate or Oral-B - all major brands have toothpastes for whitening on offer, which, using pictures of blindingly white smiles, create high expectations on the side of the customer. Yet actual results are generally sobering, because according to EU Cosmetics Regulations, toothpastes may only clean, protect and build teeth, but not bleach them.
This means that toothpastes, at best, contain small particles that are moderately effective at removing deposits or dental plaque. Current legislation does not allow toothpastes to contain actual bleaching agents, which is why these products generally fail badly in consumer product tests.
Of course, it makes sense to brush teeth several times daily so that discoloration does not occur in the first place. However, standard toothpastes work just as well for this. Much more important is the choice of toothbrush.
It is very time consuming to get your teeth clean using conventional toothbrushes; I would thus recommend the use of a sonic toothbrush instead. This will allow you to clean your teeth thoroughly enough so that no roughness can be felt by the tip of the tongue at all, much like after a professional cleaning at the dentist’s. Unlike electric toothbrushes, the head of a sonic toothbrush vibrates extremely fast, which allows a deep cleaning of all tooth surfaces in record time, without the need for much pressure to be applied, or hard bristles. This, in turn, protects gums and enamel, which are often irritated by conventional toothbrushes.
Flossing unfortunately plays only a minor role in most people’s oral hygiene routines. This is despite the fact that most severe discolorations occur at the edges of tooth gaps, which can be effectively treated by regular flossing. Yellowish tartar is also removed in this process.
Some foods play a significant role in the discoloration of teeth. That does not necessarily mean that you have to cut out these foods, but you should get into the habit of brushing your teeth immediately after meals, or eat items like vegetables, herbs or cheese, in order to balance out acidity levels.
The biggest culprits here are coffee, black tea, red wine and of course cigarettes. However, balsamic vinegar, fruit juices, dark chocolate, curry and dark sauces can also cause strong discolorations.
Basically, all acidic foods attack the enamel, which can result in discoloration becoming permanent. Citrus fruits, carbon dioxide, alcohol, vinegar, sugary soft drinks and sodas fall into this category as well.