We spend thousands of rupees every month on the art of looking good, investing in everything from the right outfit to the perfect make-up to the IT handbag of the moment. But how many of us actually give a thought to maintaining what is considered to be a person’s best accessory – our smiles? Unless you’ve been blessed with really great genes and are extra careful about your diet, a look at your teeth in the mirror is likely to reveal a loss of its pearly shine at the least, or yellowish staining at the most.
Our teeth are naturally prone to staining, as they are made of a porous material that absorbs what we eat and drink. While a little bit of discolouration is inevitable as we age, it is a well-known fact that cigarettes, tea and coffee greatly exacerbate the situation. However, Dr. Fatima Ishtiaq, who runs her own dental practice in Lahore, reveals that there are several lesser-known causes of staining that most of her patients don’t know of. “Fruit juices, energy drinks, dark coloured fruits and vegetables and even some antibiotics can cause discolouration.” She advises to rinse the mouth as soon as one consumes any of these offending eatables.
Dental intervention can be sought by those who suffer from a case of major discolouration. Professional bleaching is the most common teeth whitening method used by dentists and is an effective way of removing stains using the bleaching agent carbamide peroxide. Dr. Ishtiaq recommends going for the newer procedure of laser whitening, which is faster (one-time treatment as opposed to the three visits required by regular bleaching) and shows more dramatic results. You can choose the shade of white you want your pearlies to be, which is decided in a consultation beforehand.
But if the thought of sitting in a dentist’s chair makes you squeamish, there are several ways of maintaining a glowing smile at home. These are cost-effective, and easy but obviously require a bit of patience for the results to be visible. Even if you opt for a professional whitening treatment, the following methods will help you maintain the results.
There is an abundance of whitening products available in the market. Most dental clinics will be able to provide you with a whitening kit to use at home, which contains prescription-strength gels that have to be applied for a period of 30 minutes for about 5 days. Brushing your teeth with a whitening toothpaste can also help. While these pastes don’t actually contain peroxide in amounts large enough to cause actual whitening, they contain mild abrasives that help in removing superficial stains and keeping plague at bay. Forgoing a regular toothbrush in favour of an electric one is also a step in the right direction, recommends the doctor, as electric toothbrushes have a stronger abrasive action to clean the teeth.
Raid you kitchen
Cleaning teeth with baking soda to whiten them isn’t just an old wives’ tale. According to Dr. Ishtiaq, the baking soda provides the same cleansing action as a toothpaste, helping scrub away stains. Mix a little baking soda with water and rub the paste on your teeth using a toothbrush or finger. Leave on for a minute and then rinse off. Apple cider vinegar is also an effective home remedy for cleaning teeth. Just rub it around vigorously on your teeth and rinse well.
Eating crunchy fruits and vegetables such as celery, apples and pears is a good way to naturally exfoliate the teeth. The hard texture of the fruit will rub against your teeth and create a polishing action. Chewing on sugar-free gum can also have teeth-cleaning benefits. Chewing triggers saliva which helps to neutralize the acid in the mouth responsible for causing tooth decay.
Other than tobacco, caffeinated beverages and sugary treats, foods that cause staining include citrus such as lemon and grapefruit, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and tomato paste.