How to Remove Teeth Stains So You Smile More
If you’re feeling self-conscious about your smile, you are not alone! According to the American Association of Orthodontists, 48% of surveyed Americans say they’ve untagged themselves on social media for one reason: They hated their smile.
Why do people hate their smiles? For some people it’s self-consciousness about teeth discoloration. The good news is, there are a number of things you can do to remove teeth stains.
Before you start removing stains, you might want to figure out what you’re doing to cause tooth discoloration. After all, if you go through the expense and effort to whiten your teeth, wouldn’t it make sense to try to avoid those things or, if you can’t avoid them (we’re talking to you, coffee drinkers), recognize things you can do to minimize stains?
Do You Know What’s Staining Your Teeth?
Dental professionals typically bucket tooth-staining factors into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic stains are inside the teeth, and they are caused by medications, injuries, age, genetics, tooth decay and even from too much fluoride. The latter — a condition called fluorosis — is rare and happens only to children 8 and younger who are exposed to too much fluoride (Source: CDC).
Extrinsic stains are, as you might guess, things you do to stain your teeth — food, beverages and alcohol. Cigarette smoking, by the way, could be considered both an intrinsic and extrinsic factor, because smoking has been shown to contribute to tooth decay.
The general rule for foods and beverages that stain teeth is, if it will stain a tablecloth, it will stain your teeth. However, there are some “hidden” foods that are known to be teeth stainers too; namely, apples and potatoes. It’s true: The chemicals in these foods that cause them to brown when they are cut open or ripen have also been known to stain teeth.
The good news is, when you eat foods that are known to be stain-producing, you can minimize stains by rinsing or brushing your teeth within 20 to 30 minutes after eating.
Options for Removing Dental Stains and Whitening Teeth
Over-the-counter teeth whiteners: The least expensive and most readily available way to whiten your teeth is to use an over-the-counter peroxide-free teeth whitening gel or paste. To apply it, brush your teeth as you normally do. Then, dry your teeth with a soft — and clean — dry cloth. Hold your mouth away from the teeth and brush the tooth whitening formula directly onto your teeth. Let it dry for several seconds, then avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 30 minutes. Look for a formula that is safe to use every day and doesn’t cause your teeth to become sensitive. Some formulas with hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, but some people complain of increased sensitivity after using these.
Bonus tip: Tooth whitening gel is a great way to maintain a bright smile even after professional whitening, which is explained next.
Professional whitening: There are two basic ways to get your teeth professionally whitened. One is an in-office procedure and the other is an at-home kit prescribed by your dentist.
For the in-office procedure, your dentist applies a high concentration of a teeth whitening agent — typically hydrogen peroxide — to your teeth and “cures” it under a special light. The procedure takes 1 to 2 hours, and it can be a little awkward, because your teeth have to remain dry throughout the procedure. Your dentist will use a device to pull and hold your lips away from your teeth, so they stay dry. Some people report “zaps” of tooth sensitivity during and after the procedure, so talk to your dentist if this is a concern. Some people need only one tooth whitening treatment, while other people might need several visits.
In-office tooth whitening is the most expensive way to remove tooth stains, but it is also the most effective. This is why you might want to consider using a tooth whitening gel periodically after investing this much into brightening your smile!
An alternative to in-office whitening is professional teeth whitening that uses dental trays that are custom fit to your teeth. Your dentist takes a mold of your teeth and then usually sends those to a lab, which creates trays that fit over your teeth. Your home teeth whitening kit will include a set of needleless syringes filled with the whitening agent (again, typically this is hydrogen peroxide). You fill the trays with the whitener, secure them over your teeth and leave them in for the recommended amount of time — at least 1 hour.
For some people with sensitive teeth, their dentists might advise them to start with shorter periods.
What’s The Best Way to Remove Teeth Stains?
The best way to remove stains from your teeth is a multi-pronged approach.
First, identify factors that are causing your teeth to become stained. Then, either eliminate those factors, or increase your rinsing and brushing habits to minimize the stains.
Second, talk to your dentist to make sure there are no underlying conditions that would prevent you from whitening your teeth. Teeth whitening can aggravate gum disease, cavities, and other dental issues. So, get a clean bill of health from your dentist!
Third, try an at-home teeth whitening gel. It’s less expensive, less disruptive, and easier to tolerate than professional teeth whitening. If you aren’t satisfied with the results, then talk to your dentist about professional whitening.
Fourth, talk to your dentist about in-office procedures and prescription methods for whitening your teeth.
Last, incorporate smile brightening toothpastes, mouthwashes and gels into your regular oral care practice!