If you have ever envied someone with a dazzling set of pearly whites, then you’ve probably wondered what they know that you don’t know. What is the secret to noticeably white teeth? Teeth whitening treatments and excellent oral hygiene are two means of achieving the sparkle effect, but if you really want to look like someone who belongs in a toothpaste commercial, then you should watch what you eat. A white teeth diet that precludes and counteracts staining will set you on the way to a squeaky clean smile.
Firm, crisp foods like apples, pears, celery, raw carrots, and popcorn actually help clean the teeth while you are eating them. Citrus fruits, cheese, and milk increase salivation which counteracts the bacteria and acids that cause tooth discoloration. The malic acid and vitamin C in strawberries work as buffering agents to neutralize and dissolve plaque on the surface of teeth. Drinking lots of water is also important to rinse the mouth of the debris that causes plaque.
Black tea, coffee, dark colas, and sports drinks should be avoided since they easily stain the teeth. Certain foods that are good for your health, such as beets, blueberries, blackberries, grape juice, cranberry juice, and red wine also leave stains. It is not necessary to cut out these healthy foods from one’s diet; rather as soon as you have finished eating, you should brush your teeth, or at least rinse your mouth with water, to prevent staining.
A white teeth diet is not limited to foods. Other things you ingest, such as tobacco (cigars or cigarettes), certain antibacterial mouthwashes, and certain medications (tetracycline antibiotic notably) can cause discoloration of the teeth and should be avoided as much as possible.
In the past decade, teeth whitening (also called teeth bleaching) has become a very popular cosmetic dental treatment. Teeth whitening treatments fall into three categories: treatment professionally applied in a dental office, treatments prescribed and dispensed by a dentist for patient home use, and over the counter bleaching trays.
The effectiveness of each of these varies and they all have the same possible side effects. Gum tissue irritation is a possibility with all three types of treatment and some patients experience tooth sensitivity that usually goes away as soon as the treatment is ended.
The most effective whitening treatment is a professionally applied treatment. This treatment is done in a dentist’s office using stronger bleaching agents which may be accelerated by using ultraviolet light. Results are immediate and the patient’s teeth will be several shades lighter after a single treatment. Gum irritation is minimized by protecting the gums with a rubber dam or by applying a protective gel.
Treatments prescribed and dispensed by a dentist are the next most effective treatment. These treatments use customized bleaching trays that do a better job of keeping the bleaching agent against the patient’s teeth and can have bleaching agents that are stronger than those available over the counter. In addition, because the trays are custom fitted for each patient, irritation of gum tissue is usually less of an issue. Four to six treatments are usually needed to achieve several shades of whitening.
Over the counter bleaching products are least effective, but also the least expensive option. These products can achieve noticeable results, but take somewhat longer than products prescribed by a dentist due to lower concentrations of bleaching agents. In addition, since the bleaching trays are designed to fit any patient, gum irritation is more likely to be an issue.
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