Health & Wellness Articles

Tips for a Brighter, Whiter Smile

Preventing Stains & Whitening Teeth

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Tea, red wine, and blueberries may be chock full of antioxidants, but these health boosters may also be standing in the way of your pearly white smile.

Yellow, dingy teeth are a common complaint. The brightness of your smile is somewhat dependent on factors like your age and diet. As you get older, the outer part of your teeth wears thin, allowing the yellowish dentin to show through. And the things you eat and drink, like coffee, tea, cola, wine and berries, may also discolor your teeth. Luckily, with the variety of tooth-whitening products on the market today, removing dental stains doesn’t have to be expensive or cumbersome.

Check with Your Dentist
Even if your stains are mild, it's a good idea to check with your dentist before beginning any whitening process. People with very gray teeth or special dental work such as caps and crowns aren't good candidates for teeth whitening, but your dentist can discuss your options with you.

A dentist can help you distinguish between intrinsic (internal) and surface stains. Intrinsic stains, which occur inside the tooth, can stem from childhood antibiotic (tetracycline) use, trauma (when a tooth’s nerve dies, the tooth itself can turn brown, gray or black) or overexposure to fluoride when teeth are forming (which can give teeth a spotty, mottled look). This type of stain can only be corrected by a dentist.

Surface stains can be removed with whitening toothpastes, over-the-counter bleaching kits, and professional cleanings. Your dentist will be able to help you select a good whitening method and help prevent misuse and potential side effects.

Whitening Toothpaste
If your stains are minor, you may have good results by simply using whitening toothpaste, which contains mild abrasives that scrub away stains while you brush. Whitening toothpastes that are awarded the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance have special chemical or polishing agents added that provide extra stain removal, but do not change the intrinsic color of your teeth.

Do-It-Yourself Whitening Kits
There are many affordable teeth whitening kits available online and at your local pharmacy. Common options include:
  • Gels that you have to paint onto each individual tooth
  • Whitening solution inside mouth trays that fit inside your mouth
  • Whitening solution on flexible, plastic strips that stick to your teeth
The active ingredient in most whitening kits is carbamide peroxide, which acts as a bleach to remove surface stains from teeth. While these kits can produce a noticeably whiter smile, they tend to take about two or three weeks to get the job done. All products bearing the ADA Seal of Acceptance contain 10 percent carbamide peroxide. Although teeth whitening products are approved by the ADA, there are some common side effects. Teeth can become sensitive as long as you are using the bleaching solution, and gums can become irritated (from a poorly fitting mouth tray, for example). If side effects are a concern to you, the safest choice is to have a dental professional whiten your teeth.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • There is NOTHING more attractive than a perfect, white smile! Clean, pearly white teeth show that you like to take care of yourself, that you LOVE yourself! It is pretty much standard to have straight sparkling teeth now-a-days for us young people! - 1/22/2014 11:46:20 AM
  • NOSUGARADDED87
    I read in an article about tips from our grandmothers that rubbing one's teeth with a sage leaf once per week can help to remove surface stains. I haven't bought any sage leaves lately, but I'd be willing to give it a try :) - 6/3/2011 5:55:12 AM
  • Crest White Strips work very well for me. My dentist admires how white my teeth are. I also brush w/ baking soda once a week or so to get my tea stains off. - 3/18/2011 5:45:41 PM
  • The tip about brushing your teeth after drinking soda, not a good idea! After drinking soda with all that acid, the worse thing you can do is brush your teeth. The abrasives in the toothpaste and the brushing will help remove the enamel of your teeth. You should wait at least an hour. Rinse with water immediately and wait to brush. - 9/19/2010 11:07:45 PM
  • Why do people think they have to have a mouth full of perfection? Some just look so artificial.
    Clean teeth and mouth are what's important. - 12/1/2008 8:48:05 PM
  • Remember, wealthy people get crowns on their teeth, so they look perfect and white. Rosie O'Donnell joked about having the price of a car in her mouth, because of all the crowns she had gotten, so she had perfect white teeth. - 3/17/2008 8:04:04 PM
  • I've found professionally made trays to be the best, safest and most comfortable. The laser method is tricky and can make your teeth an unnatural color. The store-bought strips and gels are good for minor staining, or for maintaining whiteness from another method. If your dentist makes a tray for you from a mold taken from your own teeth, the gel put into the mold gets into every angle and space in your teeth, while avoiding getting on your gums, so you don't end up with white teeth on red, irritated gums. The professional tray method is obviously more expensive than the store-bought method, but is less expensive than the laser. I have sensitive teeth, and now I also have a bright smile! - 2/5/2008 10:15:38 AM
  • Who told you that the whitening toothpastes work? If they did, there would be a lot more people walking around with white teeth. My hygienist told me that the whitening toothpastes are basically a waste of money, but that Crest Whitestrips (and products like that) aren't bad. So I tried Crest Whitestrips (the basic ones, not the really expensive ones) and I found that they really worked. - 2/4/2008 2:22:21 PM
  • My dentist was honest enough to tell me that my teeth would not "take" the whitening process, so I should save my money. My only option for whiter teeth is caps, but then I couldn't eat carrots or corn on the cob. - 1/19/2008 10:51:11 PM
  • When I was on a cruise I had them whiten my teeth. They put some stuff on and had me hold a special light on them for about 45 minutes but I didn't notice a difference. I wonder if it was the same strength as a regular dentist would use? - 1/18/2008 7:04:34 PM
  • My teeth were stained before they even came in by the asthma medication I took as a young child. I have two white spots on the front of my two front teeth that are my pride and joy, proof that I would have brilliant white teeth. I just want to say that NOTHING WORKS. I've tried it all, from the toothpaste to the professional whitening, no change! - 1/18/2008 3:37:06 PM

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