We’ve all seen the products and infomercials on television expounding the benefits of having whiter teeth. Sure, everyone wants their smile to be the whitest and brightest it can be, until you walk into the grocery store, pharmacy or drug store and see those hefty prices on the teeth whitening products sitting on the shelf – ouch!
Having white teeth is simple
So let’s talk a bit about how you can have whiter and brighter teeth, without buying expensive whitening products or visiting your dentist and spending an hour in the chair and shelling out hundreds of dollars for laser or tray bleaching.
First, let’s talk about prevention and then we’ll move on to how to brighten up an already dull smile. Prevention is really the key to keeping teeth healthy looking and white.
Genetics play crucial role in this
I was surprised to learn that genetics played a role in determining the color of your teeth. From birth, some people will just have darker teeth and some people will have whiter teeth than others. After genetics, things such as the type of water we had as babies, while our teeth were still forming, can play a role in the base color of our teeth. Fluoride in American public water systems used to be found in too high of quantities. While those exposed to the high quantity fluoride in the public water have very healthy teeth, the fluoride was found to darken and even stain the natural color of the teeth – usually permanently. Today, fluoride is used in much smaller concentrations in public water, and more and more people are using bottled water without additives to feed their babies.
As a child, the biggest concern isn’t whiter teeth, but rather healthier ones. Most of the foods young children eat do not stain teeth and as long as a child properly brushes and cleans their teeth after meals, a child should have no problem with keeping whiter teeth, provided genetics gave them whiter teeth to begin.
Watch what you eat, what you drink and when
Yet, as we get older, we consume foods and beverages that are bad for the color of our teeth, no matter how much we brush. Coffee is a big culprit in preventing whiter teeth. Coffee stains. Just leave a white cup filled with coffee overnight and you’ll see how quickly and sometimes permanently coffee stains. Teeth aren’t smooth, they are porous and therefore will absorb things such as coffee and can be permanently stained from them.
“What!” you ask. “You are telling me to give up my coffee?” Well, if you want the whitest teeth possible, yes, I am. However, if you absolutely can’t live without coffee, then I suggest that you learn to drink it a bit differently. First, drink the weakest coffee you can manage. The stronger the brew, the darker the color, and the more likely the coffee is to stain your teeth.
Secondly, don’t hold the coffee in your mouth or swish it around. Swallow it as quickly as you can so that it doesn’t come in contact with your teeth for as long a period of time. When sipping coffee, if you will wait until it cools a bit and drink it with your mouth more open, you will avoid sipping coffee through the front teeth, which can stain them over time.
Next, if you can, brush your teeth after each cup of coffee. If this is not something you can do, then at the very least drink some water and swish it around your teeth after a cup of coffee to help keep your teeth whiter and prevent the coffee from sitting on your teeth and staining them. The same can be said for dark sodas and other dark drinks like teas. Red wine is also a culprit in causing duller and darker teeth.
Tobacco products are really bad at preventing whiter teeth
Cigarette smoke turns teeth yellow – there’s no way to prevent it except to quite smoking. Chewing tobacco and snuff will stain your teeth yellow or brown, and will do so more quickly than smoking because the brownish liquid from the tobacco stays in your mouth and in direct contact with your teeth. For whiter teeth, don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
If you must use tobacco products, then try to brush your teeth after each dip or chew or after each cigarette. Using a smoker’s toothpaste, which is only slightly more expensive than a regular toothpaste, can help brighten your smile and protect your teeth somewhat against future stains.
In fact, for those who want whiter teeth, even if you do not smoke, a smoker’s toothpaste or a whitening toothpaste is a lower cost alternative to expensive whitening products. Brushing two to three times per day or more, brushing after every meal or snack, and after every drink or use of tobacco products with a whitening or smoker’s toothpaste not only can promote good oral hygiene but will help having whiter teeth.
There are a lot of over the counter products that vary in price and effectiveness for whitening teeth, and while they do work to some extent, you have to use them regularly and consistently to see any results, and if you don’t change your eating and drinking habits, teeth can become stained again and lose any whiteness they had gained. Some of these products whiten teeth by polishing them and removing the surface layers, and this can actually cause your teeth to become sensitive and to stain more easily if you continue to drink and eat things that stain teeth.
If you really want a more permanent solution, you can pay between $500-1200 to go to your dentist and have laser or tray bleaching, have your teeth bonded or veneered, or choose other teeth whitening options. These last much longer than other over the counter products and some of them actually help protect your teeth from decay and cavities too, but this is a very expensive option for a whiter smile.
Your best bet is to really change your lifestyle habits or start out with good ones from the beginning. To sum it up, the best way to have the whitest teeth without costing a fortune is to do the following:
- *Don’t eat foods that will stain your teeth
- *Avoid coffee, teas, red wines, and dark sugary sodas.
- *Don’t use tobacco products
- *Brush and clean your teeth regularly
If you follow these simple instructions for having whiter teeth, and especially if you do this from an early age, your teeth will stay whiter longer and your smile will be brighter and healthier. If you’ve already had some bad habits that have dulled your smile, you can reverse some of the damage by changing these habits now, and using a good whitening toothpaste or over the counter whitening product to get your smile back to it’s whitest.