With the lifting of masks, whitening teeth is undeniably one of the trendiest beauty concerns. “The eyes may be the reflection of the soul, but it’s the mouth that we usually look at first on a face,” says Dr. Irwin Smigel, the American dentist who lightened Elizabeth Taylor’s smile.
Although laser whitening and the use of cosmetics took off in the 1970s, the desire to whiten teeth is not new. Four thousand years ago, during the time of Cleopatra, wealthy Egyptians were proud to show off their opulence and beauty with their whitened teeth, obtained from a paste made of pumice powder and wine vinegar. Today, the nagging advertising campaigns extolling the merits of a bright smile have turned our bedrooms into makeshift dentist’s offices, with activated charcoal powders, products to be applied with a brush, toothpastes specially designed by dentists, and mouthwashes with coconut oil. Deciphering.
How to get white teeth naturally?
“To clean the teeth gently with a mixture of honey and smoked salt to which we add a few drops of vinegar”, this is what the influential French surgeon Guy de Chauliac recommended in the 14th century. Today, if a new generation of technological products with lamps and heating surfaces is making the news, there are still cheap and natural recipes to have white teeth. At the moment, a few techniques to do at home are very popular, including activated charcoal powder to whiten teeth. But is it really effective? The theory is that charcoal removes stains from your teeth through a process called “adsorption”. The finely ground black powder mixes bones, olive pits, charcoal, sawdust and processed coconut shells. The powder is activated when it is treated with intense heat that produces a change in its structure, making it more porous than regular charcoal. No one can say that your teeth will magically become white, but this powder has proven to be effective in absorbing plaque and other substances that deteriorate the color of your teeth, significantly improving the brightness of your smile.
How to whiten your teeth at home (with a little help from the dentist)?
Flashback to the 17th century, when barbers filed teeth and used an acid that eventually attacked the enamel. Today, dentists use concentrated hydrogen peroxide for instant whitening, but the treatment can be expensive. “The process is effective, but the results vary from patient to patient and it’s hard to determine what the outcome will be,” Penelope Hall, a British dentist based in Singapore, tells us. “For many people, it proves to be quite painful, although the pain usually only lasts a few days. Patients often end up using teeth whitening trays at home to maintain the result, which is even more expensive.” According to Penelope Hall, the best way to get white teeth is to combine trays custom-made by your dentist with whitening kits found in stores, such as those from Opalescence. “The advantage of trays prescribed by dentists, worn by patients at home, is that they can improve the process by regularly buying new syringes of whitening gel. These custom-made trays use lower levels of peroxide than those found at the dentist’s office, which is why they need to be used more regularly.”
Another much talked about home remedy is coconut oil mouthwash. This Ayurvedic practice involves vigorously circulating a teaspoon of coconut in your mouth for 20 minutes each day. The idea is that the oil helps to remove plaque, and thus whiten teeth. While coconut oil does improve oral hygiene – getting rid of many unwanted bacteria – there is little evidence that it actually whitens teeth. Many people say coconut oil whitens teeth, but there is no evidence to support this idea,” says Eminé Ali Rushton, an expert in Ayurvedic medicine and author of a book on wellness and diet based on these techniques. I use coconut oil to clean my mouth, gums and teeth, and to get rid of toxins, and I also feel that charcoal and coconut toothpastes give my teeth a sparkle. Since they are slightly corrosive, and they clean deeply, they leave teeth whiter afterwards. But on its own, coconut oil is not effective.
Baking soda is great for removing stains, but it can be a bit corrosive,” says Penelope Hall. It doesn’t whiten enamel per se, it deep cleans the tooth by removing plaque and stains. “ That’s the rub: most treatments that claim to whiten teeth actually only remove stains. If some surface stains are caused by caffeine, wine, soda, tobacco, certain medications, disease, or genetic factors, it is often possible to prevent stains before they occur, rather than having to correct them later.
How to prevent the appearance of stains on the teeth?
Unfortunately, tooth discoloration is often linked to rather pleasant practices, such as drinking coffee, or wine, so getting rid of these guilty habits – along with cigarettes and berry smoothies – is the key to keeping teeth white. Saliva production is key to fighting yellow plaque. Therefore, the most important time of day to brush (for 2 minutes) is just before bedtime. During the day, we swallow our saliva about 2,000 times, but while we sleep, we often swallow it only 20 times, which explains the dryness of our mouth when we wake up. Nutritionist Natasha Corrett also advises eating foods that crunch under your teeth, such as apples, nuts, seeds, cauliflower or raw broccoli – because the action of crunching stimulates saliva production. But in the end, all whitening treatments have only a temporary effect, including strips that sit just above the enamel. Tea, coffee, tobacco, wine and soda will always come back to stain your whitened teeth. So, to prevent further discoloration, all you have to do is deprive yourself of the good stuff (!) and keep using whitening toothpaste. Or, more realistically, you can simply continue to mix causes and remedies as you see fit.