Smile and the whole world smiles with you, especially when your teeth are pearly white. Yet everything from your morning latte to your evening glass of shiraz can contribute to teeth discolouration (and a reluctance to smile). “In general, as we age, our teeth get darker in colour – mostly due to what we eat and drink, but also due to internal changes in the tooth structure,” says Professor David Manton, chairman of the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Committee.
Your first line of defence is your daily brushing and flossing routine, but you may also want to chew on the following.
DIY at home
Manton suggests the best option to start with is specially formulated toothpastes. “Most whitening toothpastes are safe to use, especially those with the ADA seal of approval, as these products have gone through testing to show that they are effective and safe,” he explains.
Whitening toothpastes work by using more abrasives or detergents than normal versions. But they are not a quick fix, often taking weeks of twice-daily brushing to take effect. Bleaching can also be done at home using products that contain hydrogen peroxide. Some toothpastes may contain this bleaching agent, but if they do it will be at a low concentration of around 1 per cent.
For something more powerful you will need a home whitening kit, but safety regulations keep the peroxide levels in these products between 6-18 per cent (dentists can use bleaching products with up to 35 per cent peroxide). It is a chemical, though, so carefully check labels and follow directions.
At the dentist
As with any major change to your health regime, if you’re wanting to improve the colour of your teeth it’s a good idea to chat to an expert first. Your dentist will have professional products at hand but can also diagnose the reason for the discolouration and its type, advising the most appropriate treatment. They can also help with issues such as sensitivity, which is a common problem as we age and can be exacerbated by bleaching. Manton says that while sensitivity affects everyone differently, remineralising products such as GC Tooth Mousse crème can help decrease the discomfort.
Try these teeth whitening remedies for teeth that gleam.
This two-step system is made up of a fluoride toothpaste to protect against cavities and whitening gel. Teeth are brushed using both pastes twice daily for effective results. $19.99
They're thin, flexible strips coated with a tooth whitening gel containing hydrogen peroxide. Designed to conform to the shape of your teeth, they work by holding the whitening gel to your teeth. A great option to use when sitting in front of the TV at home.
This at-home kit uses LED light to activate its whitening agents: baking soda and glycerin (no peroxide). Peppermint oil freshens breath and cranberry is said to help dissolve plaque. $64.95, mrbrightsmile.com.au
If you live in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth, all you have to do is make a booking then wait for your qualified technician to show up. This service uses peroxide gels activated by a laser accelerator lamp. From $300