The truth is, many of us are insecure about the way our teeth look. Funny enough, there’s a huge chance that there’s nothing wrong with them, but the unnaturally white teeth we see on the covers of magazines and in commercials can cause us to have unrealistic expectations and insecurities. 

The aim here is not to get your teeth unnaturally, or overly white, but to remove stains and brighten the smile where possible. Before we look at ways to whiten teeth, let’s talk about things that can cause them to stain or become discolored. This way, you will know what you should be avoiding:

Common causes of teeth discolouration

Healthy, white teeth can become discolored or stained by:

  • Smoking- Surely you’ve seen those commercials that warn against tobacco use where a common side effect of smoking is tooth decay. But, it doesn’t happen overnight. When a person smokes, over time, the teeth may
  • Poor dental hygiene- Brushing your teeth is super important because your toothbrush, with the help of toothpaste, scrubs away temporary stains from food and plaque build-up before they have a chance to set. Failure to do so can cause permanent discoloration. 
  • Food and drink- Certain foods such as coffee, curries, tea, wines, and soda can cause teeth to stain over time, especially when consumed every day, and cleaning practices such as brushing or rinsing are delayed.
  • Trauma- Trauma to the teeth, whether by a fall, hard bite, sporting accident or any other form of impact can cause damage to the tooth. 
  • Aging- As we age, our hair becomes grey and brittle, similarly, the teeth can change into a grey or yellow color as the enamel wears away and exposes the dentin.
  • Heredity- Sometimes, a person’s teeth may appear “less white” or naturally brighter simply because of genetics, as enamel thickness can vary.

Ways to overcome discolouration

The most obvious way to get whiter teeth or overcome discoloration is by not doing things to cause it. This means, avoid smoking, brush your teeth regularly, avoid certain foods, or wear a mouthguard when playing sports.

If you already suffer from discoloration, here are some things you can do to get the brighter, whiter smile you deserve:

Buy whitening strips

Whitening strips are available at most pharmacies and supermarkets and are one of the most common and cheapest DIY whitening treatments. These strips contain certain whitening chemicals that are placed over the teeth and are activated by your saliva. 

Be sure to follow the instructions on the packet as using strips for longer than intended can cause damage to the gums and can erode your enamel.

Try a whitening kit

Whitening kits come in different forms and are available by prescription and over the counter.

Prescription whitening kits are usually more effective and typically come in the form of trays.Your teeth will have to be covered with a special gel, after which you have to bite down into the tray for a certain period of time, sometimes even overnight. 

Over the counter whitening kits are usually weaker and can come in the form of trays, gels, pens

Try a baking soda and hydrogen peroxide paste

Many kinds of toothpaste already contain baking soda and hydrogen peroxide because they work well to kill bacteria and to fight stains. You can make your own whitening paste by combining one tablespoon of peroxide with two spoons of baking soda. Then, apply it to your toothbrush and brush for 2-3 minutes. 

Use whitening toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste is different from regular toothpaste in that it contains gentle whitening agents that help to whiten the teeth over time. Though it is not readily noticeable, it is typically safer to use than whitening kits which can be potentially harmful if misused. 

Go to the dentist

There are different in-office whitening options to try, starting with routine cleaning. Routine cleanings help to remove plaque, lodged food particles and other hard to remove stains that a toothbrush, floss or mouthwash cannot remove.

Teeth whitening at a dentist includes coating the teeth with a special whitening gel, then focusing a special activating lamp or laser over the teeth. This process typically takes an hour and offers instant results. 

If necessary, the dentist may suggest veneers. Veneers are thin shells that are placed over the teeth to improve their appearance. This will require customization and can last for more than a decade. 

Your dentist will be able to answer all your questions and address all your concerns with regards to whitening teeth at-home or in-office.