I am embarrassed to confess that at 25 years of age, I’ve been trialing teeth whitening treatments for almost 10 years.
It all started when, at about 15, I got my braces off. I remember staring at the mirror and rather than being ecstatic about having a mouth free from metal, I was disappointed.
My teeth had become discoloured and I hated them.
There started my obsession with teeth whitening.
Only recently I discovered that I am not alone; the ubiquitous image of big, white teeth has established a new and unattainable beauty standard, internalised by men and women alike.
Big white teeth have absolutely saturated our culture. Image via Getty.
In an ideal world, we'd just accept the colour of our teeth (healthy teeth come in all different shades) and get on with our lives.
But right now I'm going to take the position of a wise mother: you are beautiful just the way you are. But if you're going to do something, then I would prefer you did it safely.
So, with some expert advice from the Chair of the ADA's Oral Health Committee, Dr Peter Alldritt, and Deputy Chair of the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Committee, Professor David Manton, here's everything you need to know about whitening your smile.
Watch: Some people, like our publisher Mia Freedman, just get lucky in the white teeth stakes. Dammit. (Post continues below.)
Baking soda was one of the first remedies I tried as a teenager. Logically it makes sense, as sodium bicarbonate is abrasive so it works to gently remove any surface stains on the tooth. This should theoretically leave teeth looking whiter.
- Mix several teaspoons of baking soda in with about half a teaspoon (or however much it takes to make a paste) of water.
- Wipe any residual saliva off teeth.
- Put a liberal amount on a toothbrush and apply.
- Leave on for about three minutes, and then rinse.
Pros: It won't damage your teeth like many other whitening treatments do. Also it's super cheap.
Cons: The change won't be drastic. My teenage self expected to look like Hilary Duff overnight, and that is not what happened. Note: I still do not look like Hilary Duff.
Expert opinion: "This is not a reliable source of bleaching," Professor Manton insists. "The best way to avoid stained teeth is not drinking too much of products that cause staining, such as tea or coffee, or red wine. Regular effective brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste and regular cleans by your dentist can also help keep your teeth white."
Dr Alldritt adds, "Never use lemon juice or other acidic 'natural remedies' to whiten your teeth. They can abrade and erode (dissolve) the enamel from your teeth, making them thinner and more yellow."
Experts say this is not a reliable source of bleaching. Image via iStock.
When I first heard about this as a teeth whitening method I thought it was hoax — similar to 'step on your iPhone and it works as a set of scales!' or 'charge your phone by microwaving it!'