White teeth look much healthier than yellow teeth and are an essential part of a "Hollywood smile," but how can you get whiter teeth without damaging your enamel in the process? If you want to enjoy a beautiful smile, there are a few failsafe methods for whitening teeth safely and effectively.

Avoid Damaging Your Tooth Enamel

The healthy appearance of whiter teeth comes from a strong layer of tooth enamel. The dentin inside your teeth is yellow, so if you want whiter teeth, it makes sense to do everything you can to protect your enamel and avoid exposing the dentin underneath.

While adults usually have some amount of enamel loss, there is a lot you can do to protect your remaining enamel:

  1. Consume fewer foods and beverages that weaken tooth enamel. These include sugar, citrus fruits, coffee, and tobacco. The more frequently you consume these substances, the less time your enamel has to remineralize and the more likely you are to suffer from tooth decay. 

  2. Drink acidic drinks through a straw. If you must drink coffee or the odd sports drink (you know, to enjoy life!), drink through a straw to minimize the contact between the liquid and your teeth.

  3. After consuming something acidic, rinse your mouth out with water. This can help to wash off the acidic substance and increase the production of remineralizing saliva.

  4. Wait a while after eating and drinking to brush your teeth. It takes a while for the acid attack after consumption to calm down, and if you brush immediately, you risk removing some of the already-weakened enamel. Wait at least 30-60 minutes after eating to brush.

  5. Swish saliva around your mouth. As mentioned, saliva has properties that help to remineralize your teeth. Think of saliva as nature’s mouthwash.

  6. Use toothpaste with fluoride. Even if you don’t want to drink fluoridated water, consider using a fluoridated toothpaste. When applied to the teeth, fluoride teams up with calcium and phosphate to keep your tooth enamel strong.

  7. Consume enamel-friendly foods. Studies show that consuming certain foods can help to strengthen your teeth and tooth enamel.

Remove Plaque Buildup

Plaque and tartar buildup also have a yellow appearance, which can affect the brightness of your teeth. To prevent and remove a buildup of plaque:

  • Brush your teeth for two to five minutes using the correct technique, twice or three times a day. Remember to brush your tongue, too.

  • Floss once daily to remove stubborn food debris from between your teeth.

  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash to kill bacteria that can build up in your mouth.

  • Try oil pulling first thing in the morning to remove plaque and kill bacteria.

  • Go for a professional cleaning once every six months to remove stubborn calculus and clean those hard-to-reach areas of the mouth.

Prevent Surface Stains

Let's presume that you have strong enamel and excellent dental hygiene, and let’s presume that your teeth aren't yellow from a buildup of plaque. The main thing you need to worry about now is preventing surface stains.

Substances That Stain

As far as dietary and lifestyle habits go, there are several pigmented foods, beverages, and substances that can stain teeth, whether or not they weaken the enamel. The list includes wine and grape juice, fruit juices, coffee, tea, barbecue sauce, ketchup, curry, cola, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, tobacco, and cannabis—among others.

The same advice goes for these substances as for foods and beverages that weaken enamel:

  1. Enjoy these treats less frequently throughout the day.

  2. Use a straw when consuming highly pigmented drinks.

  3. Rinse out your mouth with water after consuming a substance that can stain.

  4. After rinsing, wait at least an hour after eating, drinking, smoking, or vaping to brush your teeth. Take advantage of this time to swish saliva.

Scratches Can Harbor Stains

It becomes much easier for pigmented substances to stain your teeth if you have scratches on the surface. Scratches—known as tooth abrasion—can happen if your natural teeth are physically scratched by metal retainers or dentures or if you brush your teeth with charcoal, baking soda, or a strong whitening toothpaste too often. While these latter techniques can whiten your teeth, going overboard with abrasive whitening substances can end up being counterproductive.

Mild At-Home Whitening Techniques

Natural Teeth-Whitening Foods

Eating crunchy fruits and vegetables can help you to naturally whiten teeth by removing plaque. Some of the best foods to clean your teeth include apples, carrots, cucumber, and celery. If you have children, these foods offer another advantage, too—studies show that eating hard foods stimulates the correct growth of the jaw, helping to prevent crooked teeth.

Homemade Whitening Toothpaste

If you want to remove surface stains at home, you can try squirting some hydrogen peroxide on your toothbrush, dipping the brush in baking soda, brushing as you usually would for two minutes, and rinsing with lukewarm water. Over time, this technique can remove superficial tooth stains and help to lighten your teeth. Don't try this more than once a week, however, as this mixture can damage your gums and enamel if used too often.

Commercial Whitening Toothpaste

Instead of baking soda, some people prefer to use a specially formulated commercial whitening toothpaste. These toothpastes usually contain mild abrasives or a chemical bleaching agent such as hydrogen peroxide (faster-acting and more abrasive) or carbamide peroxide (slower-acting but less abrasive) and can be used for several days in a row. To avoid damaging your tooth enamel, it's advised not to use whitening toothpastes for more than one week at a time. With any commercial or homemade formula, discontinue its use immediately if you notice tooth sensitivity, as this is a sign of enamel erosion.

Professional Teeth Whitening

If your goal is ultimately to have the whitest teeth, take a trip to the dentist's office. Whitening treatments offered at a cosmetic dentistry practice can brighten your teeth by several shades in a single session and only take an hour or less to complete.

Zoom! Laser Teeth Whitening

One of the most effective in-office whitening systems is Zoom! laser teeth whitening. A combination of blue light and strong hydrogen peroxide brightens your teeth quickly while your gums are safely shielded from the paste. After the session is complete, you will be given custom whitening trays to use at home to maintain the new, whiter shade of your teeth.

Porcelain Veneers

If your teeth are affected by deep stains or otherwise damaged, you might be an excellent candidate for porcelain veneers. As veneers are made from high-quality ceramic, they can be created in any shade and are extremely resistant to stains. As veneers can't be whitened further after the fact, many patients choose to start with laser teeth whitening and have the veneers matched to the whiter shade of their natural teeth. A skilled Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist can help you achieve the perfect aesthetic with a balanced blend of whitening and veneers.

A Whiter Smile Is Possible

Whether you opt for at-home techniques, cosmetic dentistry techniques, or a mix of both, whiter teeth are much more achievable than you think.

Before you start any tooth whitening program, consult your dentist about the options given your unique oral health needs and goals to choose the whitening treatments that are right for you.

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