An attractive smile is something to cherish, but not everyone has a set of pearly white teeth. Whether it’s yellowing as a result of ageing or stains from years of smoking, whitening teeth gives an immediate boost to one’s appearance, making a person look years younger and more attractive.
The practice of teeth whitening dates back thousands of years ago, when ancient Egyptians, known for their beauty used a paste made from white vinegar and powdered pumice stone. The mix was put on a frayed piece of stick which served as a tooth brush. The whiter their teeth, the more prosperous people were perceived to be.
Before dentists, the job of whitening teeth was taken care of by barbers who sometimes used metal files to file the teeth before coating them with nitric acid to get rid of the stains. This was an uncomfortable process and caused damage to the enamel which led to tooth decay.
The Chemical Process of Teeth Whitening
Tooth colour is a combination of natural colour and stains caused by external factors such as excessive smoking or drinking wine. It can also be caused by the consumption of foods rich in tannin and cationic agents like chlorhexidine, or metallic salts like iron and tin.
It wasn’t until the 1980’s that dentists came upon a new way of whitening teeth. They realised that hydrogen peroxide, which was used in the treatment of gums also made teeth white. This led to the development of gels and trays for whitening teeth.
The enamel of teeth contains microscopic dental tubules which are open nerve endings of the teeth. When hydrogen peroxide is applied to the teeth it gets into the crevices of the microscopic dental tubules and eats away at the stains by breaking down and releasing oxygen radicals which are in an unstable state.
These radicals stabilise themselves by withdrawing electrons from molecules found in the dentin-enamel junction. This calcified layer exists between the tooth’s pulp and the enamel. When the pigment molecules are broken down, hydrogen peroxide can effectively bleach the teeth.
Dangers and Potential Side Effects of Chemical teeth Whitening
According to Dr Peter Alldritt, Chairman of the Australian Dental Association’s (ADA) Oral Health Committee, more Australians are bleaching or whitening their teeth using chemicals. Unfortunately few of them care to educate themselves about the potential risks of using different treatment to whiten their teeth.
Dr. Alldritt goes on to add, “Whitening your teeth can cause side effects such as heightened tooth sensitivity, gum problems and uneven coloured teeth, and some of these changes can be irreversible”
Using hydrogen peroxide can affect the surface and structure of the tooth. The low molecular weight allows hydrogen peroxide to easily penetrate the enamel, resulting in inner tooth damage and subsequently causes damage to the outer layer as well.
There are several side effects caused by teeth whitening. Some of these side effects are temporary while others are irreversible and can cause permanent damage.
Common effects of chemical teeth whitening side-effects are:
– Intense tooth sensitivity
– Weakening of the enamel surface
– Gum Inflammation
– Blistering of gum and mouth tissues
– Damage to filling materials
– Uneven colouring arising from crowns and veneers which do not change colour
– Severe irritation or burns to eyes and skin when exposed directly
– Bleeding in the stomach if swallowed accidentally
Habits to Keep Your Teeth While Naturally
The best way to keep your keep your teeth white is through good oral hygiene them and following some simple rules:
Regular Brushing: Although brushing teeth after every meal is recommended, brushing at least twice a day is important to keep the teeth clean. You could consider using a natural toothbrush for a more effective cleanse.
Flossing: Brushing on its own may not always get rid of the tiny bits of food lodged between your teeth, which is why dentists recommend regular flossing with a good quality dental floss as part of your oral hygiene.
Water: Saliva protects teeth by maintaining the right pH balance in your mouth and fight bacteria. Drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of water a day helps in getting rid of acidity caused by food reducing the chances of stains.
Eat and Drink Sensibly: Coffee, red wine and spicy food such as curries can cause ugly stains and it is advisable to consume these in moderation. Teeth stains caused by smoking can be extremely hard to remove and cutting down on cigarettes can help if you’re a smoker concerned about the stains on your teeth.
Use a Straw: An easy way to prevent damage to your enamel, especially if you consume a lot of colas, is by using straws when drinking beverages. While you wouldn’t want to drink tea or coffee out of a straw, brush your teeth after you finish your cup or when you’ve finished drinking your wine.
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Home Remedies to Whiten Your Teeth
While you can expect your teeth to change a little over the years, there are things you can do to avoid stains and embarrassing discoloration—and fortunately, these natural teeth whitening home remedies solutions don’t require hundred dollar bleaching trays, dentist visits, or unknown chemical solutions.
Strawberries contain an enzyme known as malic acid and also Vitamin C. The astringent in strawberries helps in removing surface stains and the Vitamin C gets rid of plaque. Try mashing some strawberries and using the mixture as a toothpaste a few times a week. Of course, there’s nothing like chewing on strawberries and enjoying the taste, while they work in giving your teeth a whiter look.
Coconut Oil Pulling
Coconut Oil Pulling is an inexpensive and harmless remedy to whiten teeth, which is easy and convenient. The process involves swishing organic coconut oil around in the mouth for around 15 minutes. While moving the oil around, suck and pull your teeth, then rinse the mouth with water. Later consume 2 to 3 glasses of water.
Although you would be careful with turmeric because it can easily stain your clothes, it is a subtle but effective teeth whitener. Dip a toothbrush in some organic turmeric powder and apply it to your teeth. Let it rest for about 3 minutes and rinse well before brushing with your regular toothpaste.
You will require repeated applications as results using this method takes time and aren’t dramatic. Make sure you use a separate toothbrush though as your bristles will get stained.
Activated Charcoal is charcoal which has been purified through treatment with some gasses. This makes it porous and helps it absorb impurities easily from the environment. The porous activated charcoal is like a magnet for tannins found in food items such as tea, coffee and wine.
What’s good about using activated charcoal as a tooth whitener is, while the tannins are adsorbed and retained in the porous material, it does not adsorb calcium salts in tooth enamel. This leaves the teeth unharmed.
Another advantage of activated charcoal is that it is a lot less irritating to the gums compared to hydrogen peroxide. An added benefit is that it also cleans the tongue, which can hold a lot of bacteria.
Activated charcoal is easy to use and you can use it the same way as you would your toothpaste. Wet your toothbrush, apply some activated charcoal and brush your teeth gently. Once you’re done, make sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly to get rid of any residual charcoal left over. After a few applications you’ll find your teeth so clean and white, you just won’t able to keep from smiling.
To get improved results in a short amount of time you could consider combining two or more strategies, for instance Activated Charcoal and Coconut Oil Pulling.
Mix some activated charcoal with the coconut oil you use for your oil pulling. This way, you will benefit from the benefit from the stain removing power of oil pulling and activated charcoal . Make sure you spit out the oil in a place where it doesn’t cause a mess, unless you’re prepared to spend hours cleaning your bathroom sink.
Finally, whatever you decide to do for whitening your teeth, make you consider how it will affect your enamel. If chemical teeth whitening treatments were the only way you could whiten your smile, you would have to carefully decide whether you were willing to risk your health for the sake of pearly looking teeth. Fortunately there are many natural alternatives to help you to get a bright and white smile which doesn’t compromise the health of your gums and teeth.