The Sarcastic Photographer…
“Oh my! Is that Cheddar or Gouda?”
“Where are you from?”
“Oh, what a lovely place, and famous too! I understand that’s where they invented the tooth brush. Anywhere else and it would’ve been called a TEETH brush!”
Perhaps that analogy is a bit extreme, if not cruel, in reference to someone’s smile.
The truth remains, we all want the brightest, most appealing smile possible. At times, our pearly whites can become less than sparkling unless we make a concentrated effort to keep them so.
The almost universally applicable cliché “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” certainly applies here!
History of Tooth Whitening
I recently saw a documentary about ancient health methods and included in that was a segment on dental care, or lack there-of.
The quest for a bright white, appealing smile dates as far back as 2000 B.C. to the ancient Egyptians!
It’s truly amazing, but it’s reported that their method of tooth whitening involved chewing a pasty concoction of pulverized pumice and wine vinegar. Of course, the damage to the tooth enamel was such that tooth decay and the ensuing pain, for which the wine also availed itself, was quite common.
The early Romans had their own method, as well….
The Romans realized early on that ammonia was effective in tooth whitening.
What is a ready source for ammonia?
Ever walk past a poorly maintained kitty litter box?
Smells kind of like ammonia, yeah?
You guessed it….
Though they seemed to prefer their own urine over cat urine, they did use the human by-product as their whitening agent. Amazing but true, the wealthy actually had there urine based products imported!
“I hear the Persian stuff works best!” And we thought our modern day mediciney tasting mouth wash was atrocious!
As recently as the early 1800’s, in the days when barbers not only provided a ‘shave and a haircut…two bits’, they also provided medical attention to include tooth whitening.
Their method was, well, quite original…they would file the teeth and afterwards, swab them with nitric acid!
Granted, the immediate result was indeed white teeth, but the long term effects resulted in horrendous tooth decay and eventually extraction, at which time, the barber was again called upon.
It is fairly well known that the ‘Father of our Nation’, George Washington had as fine a set of wooden teeth money could buy. Though, he had a dentist, not just his barber!
Popular (and not so popular) Solutions:
In my research, I read several forums regarding tooth whitening and found some recurring, obviously effective methods, as well as, some ideas that made me cringe!
“Need white teeth, and need ‘em now?”…
One comment I read, though it’s certainly not recommended, suggested using a popular abrasive household cleanser that comes in powder form and is packaged in a green cardboard can!
There are a number of such products readily available at your local retailer.
Quite likely, it’s already in the cabinet under your kitchen or bathroom sink!
I hear it works well on porcelain!
Harsh abrasives are your teeth’s worst enemy; plain and simple. Abrasives wear away at the tooth enamel, thereby allowing cavities and their subsequent complications to develop.
Through the wonders of modern research, one need only be able to afford it, to have a healthy smile rivaling the most attractive and toothiestHollywood actors & actresses.
Where do you suspect many of them likely got their smiles?
As our ancestors and forefathers have proven, white teeth, while attractive, are not necessarily healthy teeth.
Given the broad spectrum of dentistry, there is no substitute for regular visits to your dentist to ensure the overall health of those gleaming choppers!
In the Meantime…
Smokers, coffee and dark beverage drinkers (tea, soda, red wine, etc) and irregular brushers, listen up!
The following solutions, by no means, are intended to circumvent regular dental check-ups; they are merely methods of keeping that bright smile it’s brightest between visits.
The area of dental care concerning the topic of whitening alone, is ocean vast.
Let’s explore some of the simpler and more affordable ‘do-it-yourself’ methods:
- Hydrogen Peroxide and/or Baking Soda:
Many commercially available types of toothpaste and other products such as whitening systems involving dental trays, whitening strips and topical applications such as paint-on films, typically contain one or both of these ingredients.
Hydrogen Peroxide penetrates the crystal like structure of the tooth enamel and bleaches stains within the dentin, while Baking Soda acts as a mild abrasive removing surface stains.
A paste consisting of the two ingredients, though not overnight, with regular daily use will serve to improve the whiteness of most teeth over a two to four week period.
To help protect your teeth and greatly improve the taste, using this concoction in conjunction with your regular fluoridated toothpaste will be of benefit.
Fluoride is a proven protector of tooth enamel!
Not excited about putting peroxide into your mouth?
Here are some perhaps more pleasant approaches you can try:
It’s sounding better already!
An article provided by AARP Magazine states that strawberries contain the enzyme known as malic acid.
Among its other benefits, this enzyme deteriorates stains which commonly discolor our teeth.
Mash up a strawberry into a paste-like consistency and rub it onto your teeth. Let it stay in place for five minutes, then rinse and brush and floss as you normally would.
With applications consistently repeated over a week or few, you should begin seeing some positive results.
- Crunchy Fruits and Vegetables:
Apples, carrots and celery are good examples of natural whiteners. By virtue of their crunchy texture, they tend to scrub away stains as you chew them.
In addition, they create more saliva as you chew them. Saliva aids in neutralizing the acid that causes tooth decay.
These foods also have health benefits extending far beyond dental health.
Arthur Glosman, D.D.S., a cosmetic dentist inBeverly Hills,CA, states that, “Health and beauty are intertwined.”
“When someone is healthy, they are beautiful. When they are not, no amount of white teeth will make them look good.”
So, load up on crunchy fruits and veggies and chomp away!
- Natural Oils:
During my perusal of various natural whiteners, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and sesame oil were all touted to have a cleansing effect on teeth.
A ‘tongue in cheek’ quip referencing greasy hair is, “You ought to change that oil!”
Now, armed with this new tid-bit of information, someone, (likely that sarcastic photographer again!) could say, “May wanna oil those teeth while you’re at it!”
This whitening method is referred to as ‘oil pulling’.
Oil pulling suggests that the natural elements in these oils actually ‘pull’ the factors which cause staining, from your teeth.
The oil pulling method, according to an article by David King at Whitening Teeth Secrets, a ‘dot com’ dedicated to oral hygiene, is performed by holding a tablespoon of the oil in your mouth and lightly swishing for fifteen minutes allowing the oil time to lubricate and extract stains from your teeth.
This was a new one on me!
Who qualifies as a candidate for tooth whitening by conventional methods?
A rule of thumb, as stated by Dr. Golub-Evans, referenced by Good Housekeeping, a method of determining if whitening products will be effective, is to use a sheet of white paper as a comparison to your tooth color.
If your teeth appear yellowish against the paper, the discoloration is due to surface staining and can likely be corrected using conventional products.
If the teeth, however, appear grayish, the discoloration is likely within the tooth and bleaching or scrubbing, will have little effect.
This circumstance is best addressed by a dentist.
When it gets right down to it:
After researching this topic, while maintaining an eye for objectivity, my conclusion is clear.
As someone who could use some whitening of the teeth, and having tried various tricks and tips for my own smile, there are numerous home solutions and concoctions that do offer some improvement.
In my opinion, clinically proven methods, which have offered much better results, at least in my case, I believe, are the wiser choice.
The old fashioned ‘lore’ type solutions may well be effective in maintaining a white set of teeth and improving that smile to an extent.
It is my belief, however, that to go from tainted color to sparkling ‘porcelain’ white, let the dentist take you there.
Then…consider it an investment and do all you can to maintain it.
A bright smile is beautiful and something worthy of many compliments.