One of the most obvious signs of ageing is yellowing teeth. Nothing says ‘I am past it’ louder than that flash of yellow that accompanies your smile. So it’s no surprise that more and more people are attaching importance to white teeth. Toothpaste advertisements exploit this fact by showing us models with perfect teeth and smiles only to con us into thinking that their product can give us the same thing. Often it doesn’t, of course.
The traditional method of teeth whitening has been to apply bleach. But bleach is only smeared on the enamel, the dead part of the tooth, and some studies have shown that applying bleach to the gums could result in demineralization. There are products called whitening trays, which are moulds that fit your teeth like a mouth guard of a boxer, and you keep them on for an hour or two every day. For better results, you can squeeze a drop of peroxide gel into the mould before you slip it on.
Whitening strips are also available in supermarkets and drugstores. They’re made of polyethylene, and a lining of peroxide gel is present on the inside of the plastic. They generally come in pairs, one for your upper row of teeth, and the other for the bottom row. You should pay particular attention to the ingredients of whitening strips: if there is any chlorine dioxide, run in the opposite direction, because it will cause significant damage to your enamel.
Whitening pens do much the same thing, but you can apply the gel directly onto your teeth three times a day. The gel dissolves in thirty or so seconds, and there is usually a recommended period of ‘rest’ for your teeth – generally thirty minutes – after the application during which you should not eat anything.
You could also go to the dentist and get your teeth whitened by laser. The dentist will enclose your gums in a protective rubber shield, apply gel to your teeth, and then place you under a laser which will activate the chemicals present in the gel to whiten your teeth.
If all of this sounds too artificial to you, basic habits such as brushing twice daily, having your teeth cleaned professionally once every six months, and judicious intake of coffee, tea, red wine and curry will help your teeth go through life with a steady white glow.
Smile well, and smile a lot!