Oh to have gorgeous pearly whites! Those glistening, perfect, white chicklet looking things that we are immediately drawn to if they are perfect, and immediately repulsed by if they are bad. Teeth really are a reflection not only of our oral health- but they can also give away (gasp!) our age, our grooming practices, and sometimes even more deeply rooted medical issues.
I would like to preface this post by saying that as a young child, I would have done anything to achieve the whitest teeth. I remember asking my mom how I could get white teeth without using expensive whitening trays and she told me I needn’t look any further than our kitchen cupboard, as baking soda was her whitening tip of choice. So, for the next year or so I heeded my mom’s advice and began brushing my teeth (sometimes without even the paste, which I cringe about now) by dipping my brush into a bowl of baking soda that took up residence right next to my bathroom sink. Every day, I watched as my teeth slowly but surely got whiter and brighter. Yes! This was like the holy grail of tooth whitening- easy, quick, and cheap, what else could a broke teenager ask for?!
Well, I should have held my breath on the word, cheap. In the end, (here’s the cautionary tale part) using baking soda wasn’t really all that cheap, because today, 15 years later, I am just beginning to deal with the repercussion of all the damage I have incurred on my poor mouth. As per my last dental checkup, I have very little enamel left on my teeth because I have essentially brushed it all off with the abrasive baking soda (did I mention that enamel does not grow back. ever?) and as a result of this, my teeth will slowly but surely become decayed from the inside, out- leading to a number of serious (and freaking expensive) dental issues. Last year alone, I spent a whopping $5,000 on a single tooth because it needed a plethora of procedures, in order to save it,
and I am considering handing my dear mother the bill. I can only imagine what other super fun dental work I have coming my way! If this little story doesn’t stop you dead in your tracks from ever using baking soda or baking soda toothpaste products, then please note that I also have the most sensitive teeth/gums. No, I am not talking about a sensitive teeth, I am talking about excruciatingly painful, sensitive teeth. My dentist has to go so far as to numb my entire mouth before a simple cleaning, in order to stop me from yelping like a sad pup. And if you know anything about numbing, you know that it involves needles. That’s right. Multiple needles, people. So if you hate needles, I would advise that you repeat after me.
I. will. not. use. baking soda. or. any. other. abrasive. ingredient. on. my . teeth…EVER.
And for the love of all that is pretty, please do not use baking soda and then rinse with pure lemon juice (yes! Let’s add a strong acid to the wound) as per many blogs and websites. This is just wrong, wrong, wrong.
Okay, so enough about me. Let’s talk about some simple, natural, and cheap things you can do everyday to maintain a healthy and white smile, minus the $5,000 price tag.
- Drink through a straw. If you drink teeth staining beverages like coffee or tea, try drinking them through a straw next time. I have done this for a number of years whenever I buy my daily coffee, and although you might get a few strange looks, your teeth will be so much whiter and happier in the long-run. The straw simply draws the beverage into your mouth without having the liquid go all over your teeth. So you still get to enjoy your beverages, without the yellowing. The the less contact these beverages have with your teeth, the better!
- Drink less acidic beverages. Many of us consume soda and fruit juice which are extremely acidic (ie: below a pH of 7). The acids in these beverages not only deteriorate your precious enamel (yellow teeth often happen from thin enamel), but the sugars make your mouth the perfect breading ground for cavities. Attempt to limit the amount of these that you drink, and if you must continue drinking your store bought orange juice, try switching to a low-acid version. They do exist. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to drink these items through a straw, as per above.
- Rinse your mouth with water. When you do consume foods and beverages that stain your teeth or have a high acid content (think: berries, wine, sports drinks, candy – or anything that leaves your mouth some sort of shade) try swooshing your mouth with water first before, you brush your teeth. This gets the initial acid and colour off our teeth, instead of simply brushing it into the already softened enamel. This is also a good thing to do immediately after eating, if you don’t have a toothbrush handy.
- Eat foods that whiten and clean teeth naturally. Fruits and vegetables such as celery and apples clean your teeth naturally due to their slightly (but safe) abrasive texture, while spinach and broccoli prevent stains by forming a film around the teeth. Yes, to salad!
- Use Strawberries to whiten naturally. If you do want to whiten your teeth naturally, try chopping down on strawberries. Although, yes they are a berry (which can stain) and they can be acidic, they contain a milder acid called malic acid, which gently removes discolourations from teeth. Plus the seeds gently buffs the surface of the tooth (as opposed to baking soda which is too abrassive)- simply crush up a berry and put the mixture on your teeth for 5 minutes and then rinse. Do this only once a week.
- Eat more raisins. This might sound odd, but according to Dr. Oz, eating foods that induce saliva production, is a excellent way of riding your mouth of plaque and keeping teeth white.
- Eat some cheese. Yes! There is finally a reason for me to be eating more cheese…okay, a little bit of cheese. There is evidence to suggest that eating a small amount of cheese or yogurt after a meal can prevent tooth-decay and promote re-mineralization through calcium and phosphorus.
- Use the softest toothbrush you can find. You might that think that getting your hands on a hard, abrasive brush will yield you beautiful teeth, but the only thing it will do it wear away your enamel and recede you gum line, leading to a whole host of issues. Buy a baby soft brush and be sure to brush your teeth using a c-like movement from your gums down your teeth- never, ever brush your teeth horizontally or aggressively across all your teeth.
Let me know if you have any other great, natural suggestions for keeping teeth healthy and white. Oh, and stop listening to your mother. :)