- Dr. John Addison
Patients are constantly asking what they can do to have a whiter smile or keep their smile bright. Here is a brief list of some common do's and don't's I often recommend...
1) Do use a high quality automatic toothbrush.
My favorite is the sonicare... There is simply no comparison between brushing with a high quality automatic toothbrush vs a regular manual toothbrush. Ask your dentist to demonstrate to you and you will see the obvious difference. A toothbrush like the sonicare has a vibrating action that helps remove stains and keeps teeth bright. The power of a high quality automatic toothbrush simply cannot be replicated using a manual toothbrush. It's your number one daily defense and nowadays they come with timers so you know you're working long enough and hard enough to keep those pearly whites gleaming.
2) Don't avoid foods that stain - manage their effects!
I know this seems counter-intuitive but to be completely honest there are so many foods and drinks out there that can stain the teeth, it is ludicrous to try and live in avoidance of them. Teeth have a crystalline porous structure and anything we eat or drink that has color can stain the teeth. Coffee, tea, red wine and foods that are acidic are the worst offenders. But, your teeth are there to be used so I tell patients to eat what they want and smile when they want. The key is how you take care of your teeth. If you need your morning coffee to get started each day, don't avoid it. Instead have the coffee but consider brushing your teeth immediately after with a whitening toothpaste or swishing with a whitening rinse. This way you are keeping the stains from settling into the deeper pours of the teeth. Most whitening agents contain peroxides which help to dissolve stains away and are most effective immediately after the food or drink has contacted the teeth.
3) Do visit your dentist more regularly
I know, I know... no one likes going to the dentist. But its really very important to keep a healthy, bright white smile. Research shows the most healthiest among us need to go to the dentist for a checkup and cleaning at least two times a year. However, a lot of folks don't realize they might need to be going three or even four times per year. A good dentist concerned with health and esthetics has special instruments that can remove harmful deposits and stains. When you miss a regular visit, the deposits and stains start to layer upon one another and work their way deeper into the teeth. Eventually, the teeth go from having more surface stains to actually changing their characteristic color. Technology has helped us quite a bit too. Look for a dentist with a tool called Prophy-Jet. It's a lot like a mini sand-blaster for your teeth that the dentist or hygienist uses to remove surface staining. It can make a truly dramatic difference!
4) Don't be afraid to whiten.
Whitening has been around for decades now and is very safe. Professional whitening is the best because your dentist can make you a custom tray that will hold the whitening solution in close contact to your teeth without harming your gums. The dentist can also use a stronger whitening solution that can get teeth quite a few shades brighter. Having said that, there are many good over-the-counter white strips that can work effectively too. The key is to start using them immediately after you have had your teeth cleaned. The strips will not be effective if they are placed over surface deposits. Professional whitening has been the most effective for a long time but people used to be afraid because it would cause so much sensitivity. There are some great desensitizing gels now that allow us to do our whitening without the sensitivity so you can get the gain without the pain.
5) Do use a straw!This last one is such a simple concept but it can have huge effects. Anyone that can get into the habit of using a straw when they drink is doing their teeth a big favor. Drinks are loaded with sugars and in a solution especially with carbonation, these sugars, acids and pigments essentially bathe the teeth. This increases staining and also increases cavities. Using a straw transports the beverage away from the teeth and to the back of the tongue and palate. Someone that regularly uses a straw will have teeth that stay brighter longer!