If you’re looking for fast and guaranteed results, professional teeth whitening systems such as the Philips Zoom in-office treatment or professionally prepared home bleaching kits are the way to go. However, if you’re interested in developing some healthy dental habits for the new year and beyond, here are a few great (and unusual) ways to achieve a healthier, whiter smile. For natural, healthy, and low-cost tips on how to whiten teeth, read on!
Tip #1: Use a New Brush
If your idea of economizing is to use your toothbrush until the bristles fall out, then you might want to think again. Not only is it kind of gross, but the older your brush, the less effective your brushing is!
Plan on replacing your toothbrush every 3 months or earlier, if the bristles are showing signs of wear. A tired brush simply won’t get into all of those little nooks and crannies. While you’re thinking about toothbrush care, be sure to rinse your brush thoroughly after each use and store it in an upright position so it can air-dry until you use it next. If you share a toothbrush holder with other members of your household, be sure to keep the brushes separated to prevent cross contamination.
Tip #2: Brush Your Tongue
For those who haven’t joined the tongue-brushing revolution, now is the time. Think about it: your tongue makes up a full third of the surface of your mouth. All those bumpy taste buds? Well, they’re the perfect environment for bacteria accumulation.
At the end of your brushing, gently brush from the back of your tongue forward, in even strokes. Be sure to rinse your brush after each stroke to rid your mouth and brush of any foul creatures that may cause bad breath and discoloration. Proper tongue brushing may also help prevent heart disease and oral cancer.
Tip #3: Don’t Reach for the Baking Soda
Sure, many ADA recommended toothpastes contain baking soda, but in safe quantities. While that box of baking soda may be your go-to solution for household stains, straight-out-of-the-box baking soda is not made for your teeth. While it’s true that a baking soda solution can fight bad breath, prevent gum disease, ease mouth ulcer discomfort, and yes, whiten teeth, prolonged use may wear away the thin enamel on your teeth that protects them from staining. Sustained use may also cause uncomfortable tooth and gum sensitivities. And if you have braces, beware!
Baking soda can loosen the glue holding the brackets on your teeth. And finally, baking soda does not prevent cavities.
Tip #4: Do Rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar
If you’re tired of the cloying aftertaste that commercial mouthwashes leave or can’t bring yourself to add one more bottle to the clutter on your bathroom countertop, then the wonder of nature that is apple cider vinegar (ACV) is just the ticket.
For a natural whitening mouthwash, mix one teaspoon of ACV with a cup of water and swish it around your mouth for one full minute. ACV mouthwash is a great home remedy for bad breath, thrush, chronic gum discomfort, and stained teeth. Be sure to rinse with water and brush after use.
Tip #5: Leave the Berries for the Birds
So this is a tough one, but dark foods like blueberries, tomato sauce, and soy sauce can cause staining. There are plenty of great arguments for berry and tomato consumption, though, so rather than banning antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries and tomatoes or heart-healthy red wine, just remember to rinse and reach for a toothbrush after you swallow.
Tip #6: Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
Eat them raw, that is. Unprocessed carrots, apples, cauliflower, and other crunchy food are not only good for your body, but they’re also great for your teeth. These natural dental treatments help prevent cavities by removing surface stains and plaque.
In fact, apples, carrots, and celery account for 3 of the 7 foods that Colgate deems “best for your teeth.” (The other 4 honorees are cheese, yogurt, leafy greens, and almonds.)
Tip #7: Wash that Citrus Right Off Your Teeth
Lemon water has been hailed by celebrities and health gurus alike as an all-natural digestive aid. It’s been cited as a great source of nutrients and skin-nourishing antioxidants. The elixir has been touted as an immunity-booster, inflammation reducer, toxin flusher and more. But wait!? Lemon water is bad for my teeth?
While apples are recommended, the acid in that healthy and oh-so-trendy lemon water you’ve been guzzling may be doing a number on your teeth. Never fear, after your morning glass of lemon water, savoring an orange, or sipping on a cup of hot lemon, simply rinse your mouth with pure water and wait an hour or two before brushing your teeth. Water and your natural saliva should easily remove the acids that can erode tooth enamel.
Tip #8: Say Farewell to Energy Drinks
We all know that coffee, tea, and wine stain your teeth, but the acids in energy drinks are even more effective at eroding the enamel on your teeth. A study published in the peer-reviewed General Dentistry tested 13 sports drinks and 9 energy drinks for acidity and then analyzed their effects on tooth enamel.
The study found that although both sports drinks and energy drinks caused permanent damage to tooth enamel, energy drinks were twice as harmful! So if you’re really desperate for a caffeinated pick-me-up, consider sipping your potions through a straw, rinsing, and brushing your teeth regularly.
Tip #9: Drink More Water
Not only is water a great way to stay hydrated and flush unwanted toxins from your body, but drinking water throughout the day rinses away unwanted deposits on your teeth.
“Mouth Healthy,” the ADA’s blog, cites four additional reasons that water is the best beverage for your teeth: tap water with fluoride strengthens your teeth; it keeps your mouth clean and free of bacteria and acids; it fights dry mouth which may lead to tooth decay; and unlike sweetened drinks that cause tooth decay and promote cavities, water is calorie-free!
Tip #10: Chew on This
Chewing gum reduces the bacteria in your mouth that causes bad breath. These bacteria may ultimately damage your enamel and cause permanent discoloration. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that Big Red, which contains cinnamic aldehyde, a plant essential oil, was particularly effective. However, it’s worth noting that although Big Red is rich in cinnamic aldehyde, it’s not sugar-free.
The ADA has found that chewing sugarless gum increases the flow of saliva which reduces plaque acid, strengthens teeth and reduces tooth decay. Win-win.