We associate white teeth with beautiful and healthy teeth. We find a bright smile more appealing and approachable, and, in consequence, having white teeth can increase self-confidence. It is no surprise, then, that the internet and family traditions are filled with methods of DIY teeth whitening. However, are these tricks of the trade protecting your teeth as they brighten them?
Why Are Teeth White?
Many things can cause discoloration of the teeth. Coffee, red wine, soda, tobacco, nicotine, dark foods, and time itself are just a few, and some people just naturally have whiter teeth than others. The pearly sheen is created by calcium levels in tooth enamel, the outer layer of teeth. Beneath it lies dentin, which is of a more yellow tint. When enamel wears down, that dentin layer peeks through.
Common DIY Teeth Whitening Methods
Every aunt or girlfriend seems to have her own method of whitening her teeth, and it’s likely that she swears by it. While the principles behind these whitening methods do achieve results, sometimes the harm they do overshadows the pearly white sheen they deliver.
The goal of cosmetic teeth whitening is to remove stains from tooth enamel through gently scraping them away or by bleaching the enamel to a lighter shade. Over-the-counter teeth whiteners often use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide as their primary active bleaching ingredients.
While DIY teeth whitening methods are more accessible, such home remedies are less permanently effective than professional methods, and the likelihood of an uneven application (and consequent yellow or super white patches) is significantly higher. They can also have harmful side effects, including gum irritation, damage to soft tissues, tooth sensitivity, and damage to teeth.
Sodium bicarbonate, commonly called baking soda in the US, is a leavening chemical common in baking. It has absorptive properties that make it useful in removing unwanted smells and stains. Because of this, it is often used in whitening toothpastes and on its own as a DIY teeth whitening agent. While it is natural and generally safe, think twice before you use it to whiten your teeth.
Despite its other good qualities, baking soda is highly abrasive. When used in the mouth, it can cause gum irritation and incrementally erode tooth enamel. Enamel, once gone, does not return, so using baking soda as a tooth whitener can permanently leave your teeth with an increased risk of damage or decay.
The active ingredient in lemon juice is citric acid, which is a natural whitening agent. Lemon juice and other sources of citric acid are common DIY teeth whitening agents. Unfortunately, the corrosive nature of citric acid can strip off enamel in a way similar to baking soda. This calls into question whether or not eating citrus fruits is detrimental to your teeth. However, it is only prolonged exposure to the corrosive acid that eats away at tooth enamel. Drink plenty of water the next time you eat an orange.
Activated charcoal acts by absorbing toxins and stains, though the exact mechanism and even its true effectiveness have not yet been determined. It is also abrasive and can, unsurprisingly, gradually weaken and strip away tooth enamel, leaving teeth vulnerable to cavities. Like the others on this list, activated charcoal is a short-term solution that actually causes long-term damage.
The concept of oil pulling has its roots in Ayurveda, a natural system of medicine dating back 3,000 in India, but the mechanism is not entirely understood. The general idea is to “pull” bacteria from the mouth by swishing oil—often sesame or coconut—around in the mouth. Its efficacy is under debate. While it may be helpful in improving oral health and whitening teeth, it can also cause sensitivity in the teeth and jaw, and swallowing the oil by accident can cause digestive discomfort.
Keeping Your Teeth Safe
These DIY teeth whiteners have their uses, but use wisdom and discretion in their usage. Even though they have their flaws, there are safe ways to use their active ingredients. Be sure that the toothpaste you use is certified with the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance.
Professional Teeth Whitening
When you leave the DIY teeth whitening tricks behind and allow a professional dental clinic to manage the process, you can receive personalized levels of teeth-whitening agents. Our teeth whitening services at Covington Dental Arts use elements in the proper concentrations to whiten your teeth evenly without overloading them. In this way, you receive a healthy treatment that lowers your risk of gum irritation and tooth sensitivity. You also have access to a wider variety of treatment methods not found on Walgreens’ shelves. Give us a call today to get started.
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