With 7 out of 10 patients concerned about discoloured teeth, teeth whitening is often a question we are asked about. Nowadays you can buy countless whitening toothpaste, strips and gadgets for the DIY whitening experience. Unfortunately, a lot of these have minimal benefits and can often result in sensitive teeth and more issues down the line. For example SHDC Dental Hygienist and Therapist Victoria Fleet does not recommend whitening toothpastes to her patients as they can often be very abrasive and cause more sensitivity in teeth.
But before we get further into the do’s and don’ts of tooth whitening let’s start with the 101. The tooth is a semi-permeable membrane; the colour of the tooth is the dentine (calcified tissue making up the body of the tooth) shining through the enamel (the outer layer of the tooth). The thinner and more translucent the enamel the darker the tooth appears. What this means is that everyone has an ‘end point’ where their teeth will not whiten any further. But on the flip side, it also means there are some simple steps we can take to protect tooth enamel for whiter looking teeth.
Avoiding sugary drinks is important for healthy, white teeth. When the bacteria in the teeth break down the sugars in soft drinks they produce acids, it is this acid that can erode tooth enamel. Keep in mind that it isn’t just your carbonated soft drinks that are the problem, some studies even single out sports drinks as the worst for tooth enamel erosion. While we are on the topic of sugar, avoid sugary snacks and candy, for the same reason. Regular consumption of sugar increases the amount of erosion in the teeth and increases the likelihood of staining on teeth.
Dark compounds found in products such as coffee, tea, wine and tobacco can also increase acid levels and lead to weakened enamel. Because these beverages are often sipped slowly it may increase acid levels over a longer period of time, increasing the risk of erosion.
Food isn’t the only thing that can lead to the staining of teeth. Genetic factors and age also play a role in the colour of a person’s teeth. Fluorosis (caused by excessive intake of fluoride) results in chalky-white or even brown spots, patches or lines across a tooth’s surface. Internal tooth changes or tooth decay can also result in discolouration.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. There are simple and easy preventative measures you can take right now to improve the colour of your teeth now and for the long term. The best thing you can do is practice good oral hygiene. This means brushing and flossing daily to protect against tooth decay and gum problems. Regular 6 monthly check ups with the hygienist will also ensure your teeth are cleaned and receiving the professional care they need to avoid tooth decay and gum disease.
In addition, a balanced diet with good nutrition helps promote healthy teeth and gums. Minerals and vitamins such as Vitamin C, Vitamin D, vitamin B and iron are all important for good tooth and gum health. Eating a diet rich in good quality proteins, good fats, and a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is the best thing you can do for your oral and general health. Some examples of great foods to eat may be a colourful salad of spinach, tomatoes, beetroot, carrots, red onion and a boiled egg with an olive oil and lemon dressing. Another great meal would be sardines served in witlof leaves with some parsley and olive oil dressing. Meals like these are rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, are a good source of protein and provide you with good quality fats without being high in sugars or refined carbohydrates. Eating food as close to how nature intended it is the best way to get all of the wonderful nutrients and benefits. A well-balanced diet not only improves your oral health but results in better energy levels, clearer skin, shiny hair, better health…the benefits are pretty endless.
At SHDC we also offer our patients a Whitening for Life program. The program includes a custom-made whitening tray followed by free whitening gels with every 6-monhtly hygiene visit. We believe the benefit of this program is we are able to personalise your whitening program while still keeping an eye on your teeth and oral health. Click here for more information on Whitening for Life at SHDC.