We all hope for a bright, beautiful, and healthy smile. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the reality and tooth discoloration can often dull a beautiful, bright smile, leaving many to consider tooth whitening options. One trip down your local dental care aisle and you will find a wide variety of tooth whitening products. At the same time, a simple Google search will display many home remedies for brighter teeth. But what is the safest way to whiten your teeth? Can you safely whiten your teeth at home? In most cases, professional whitening with your dentist is often the safest and most effective option, but there are at-home alternatives that are very safe.

What causes tooth discoloration?

The most common cause of tooth discoloration is the food and beverages your drink every day. Foods and drinks high in dark pigments, such as coffee, red wine, curry spices, tomato products, and dark berries can contribute to staining and discoloration. A good oral hygiene routine can help reduce the risk, but the potential is still there. Other common causes of tooth discoloration can include:

 

    • Poor oral hygiene
    • Cavities and dental infections
    • Genetics
    • Too much fluoride
    • Tobacco use
    • Dental trauma
    • Aging
    • The use of certain medications
Professional teeth whitening at the dentist office

Professional teeth whitening offers the safest option

When it comes to teeth whitening, the safest and most effective option is a professional whitening treatment with your dentist. Not only will your dentist be aware of any potential dental concerns that could cause complications during the whitening process, but they are specially trained in the whitening procedure, helping to reduce the risk of potential complications, such as gum irritation and tooth sensitivity. In addition, the concentration of the whitening product used by your dentist is much stronger than any other available option, meaning you will achieve greater results in a shorter time frame.

Other teeth whitening options

If a whitening treatment with your dentist is not an option but you are still looking for a brighter smile, these at-home whitening options can be just as safe and effective when you closely follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Whitening toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste is designed to remove surface stains on your teeth caused by the food and beverages you eat. This product is used the same as your regular toothpaste, but typically contains an active ingredient, such as hydrogen peroxide, for additional whitening benefits. While some whitening toothpaste is safe for everyday use, others recommend occasional use in between regular brushing. If you experience tooth sensitivity, it is important to stop or reduce the use of whitening toothpaste.

Whitening strips and gels

Whitening strips and gels can be purchased over the counter and are designed to apply directly to your teeth for a specific time frame. The concentration of active whitening ingredients is less than what is used in professional whitening products, but it is still very important to follow the instructions closely to reduce the risk of irritation and tooth sensitivity.

Whitening rinse

Whitening rinses work to not only clean your teeth and help remove food debris, but they also contain an active ingredient that helps whiten your teeth and protect your teeth from future staining. As with any whitening product, it is important to follow the directions and use the whitening rinse as advised.

Whitening kits

Over-the-counter whitening kits can include everything from multiple whitening strip kits designed for multiple-day use to whitening trays similar to the ones used at the dentist for the application of whitening gel. These trays are one-size-fits-all and do not always provide the best contact with your teeth. In addition, they can increase the risk of gum exposure to the gel which can cause irritation.

Baking soda

Brushing your teeth with baking soda or a baking soda toothpaste can provide additional whitening benefits. The abrasive nature of baking soda helps to remove surface stains caused by food and beverages.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is the main active ingredient for most tooth whitening products. Adding a mouth rinse that contains hydrogen peroxide can help to reduce surface stains and protect your teeth from further staining. Equal parts of food-grade hydron peroxide and water can make an effective home mouth rinse. Be sure to spit out the rinse when you are done. Do not swallow.

Teeth whitening pens

Teeth whitening pens allow you to apply a whitening solution directly to your teeth with a painting motion. This application applies a thin film to your teeth which remains in place until it naturally dissolves. While this method may seem easier for some, it can be awkward and provides only minimal whitening benefits. As with any whitening product, if the pen comes into contact with the gums, it can cause irritation.

Take-home whitening trays from your dentist

If you are unable to go to the dentist for a whitening treatment, your dentist may recommend an at-home version. In most cases, this means a gel-type application in mouth trays for a specific time frame. Unlike over-the-counter trays, these trays are often fitted to your bite, helping to ensure contact with the gel. In addition, the whitening concentration can often be higher than over-the-counter options, meaning you may achieve whiter results.

Asian woman covering her mouth

Things to avoid when whitening your teeth

Unfortunately, when you perform a Google search for teeth whitening, you are likely to find many recommendations that are not only not effective whitening options but can also cause damage to your teeth. It is important you avoid these options and seek the advice of your dentist.

 

    • Oil pulling: While oil pulling may provide some oral health benefits, there is no evidence that it helps whiten teeth.
    • Activated charcoal: While activated charcoal for whitening has become popular, the fact is this product can actually thin the enamel of your teeth and increase the risk of tooth damage.
    • Lemon and baking soda: Many sites recommend mixing lemon juice and baking soda for an effective whitening product. Unfortunately, this combination of highly abrasive baking soda and highly acidic lemon juice can lead to damaged enamel.
    • Strawberries: Strawberries contain citric acid which can give teeth a whiter appearance. However, citric acid also accelerates the demineralization of the teeth which breaks down the tooth enamel.
    • Rubs: Rubbing products on your teeth, ranging from sea salt to wood ash combined with water or vinegar, are other popular tooth whitening options promoted online. Unfortunately, most of these products do not provide any substantial whitening benefits and can actually be hazardous to your health.

Tips to keep your teeth white

Whether you have just whitened your teeth or just want to try and keep your teeth as white as possible, following these tips can help you reduce the risk of dental staining and keep your smile bright and beautiful.

 

    • Avoid food and drinks that can cause staining: This can include coffee, tea, red wine, dark spices, tomato products, and dark berries. If you just can’t avoid these foods and beverages, try to minimize contact with your teeth, such as drinking through a straw, or brushing your teeth after exposure.
    • Follow a regular oral hygiene routine: A good oral hygiene routine will actively work to remove surface stains and keep your teeth looking bright and white.
    • Use whitening toothpaste occasionally: Adding a whitening toothpaste one of two days a week into your routine oral hygiene routine can help boost your surface whitening.
    • Stop smoking: Tobacco use can contribute to tooth discoloration.

Keep your teeth white and bright with professional whitening

Tooth whitening can be a very safe and effective way to keep your smile bright and white. However, as with any dental procedure, there are potential risks such as gum irritation and tooth sensitivity. This is why professional whitening services, such as those offered by New Leaf Rohnert Park, are your safest and most effective options. We understand your desire to have a bright and beautiful smile and our whitening services can achieve that. To learn more about our whitening services and oral health care, schedule an appointment with us today.