How to whiten teeth is probably one of the most searched-for terms in the age of the internet. “The eyes may be the soul of the face, but the mouth is the first thing people look at,” says Dr Irwin Smigel–the dentist who once whitened Elizabeth Taylor’s smile–told New York Magazine in 1981. Although Irwin developed laser bleaching and veneers in the 1970s, which are still used today, the invention of teeth whitening actually dates back to ancient Egypt. 4000 years ago, wealthy Egyptians flaunted their beauty and status by whitening their teeth with a paste made from ground pumice and wine vinegar. Only wealthy people could afford it. Today, products for whiter teeth are overrunning the mass market with at-home whitening products piling up in drugstores. But can they really give you a bright white smile? Vogue answers the most important questions about how to whiten teeth, especially without bleaching them.
Why some teeth are yellow and others are not
It is well known that coffee, tea, red wine and nicotine discolour teeth. For whiter teeth, you should therefore reduce your consumption of these stimulants or, at best, stay away from them altogether. However, many people do not have completely white teeth by nature. The spectrum of natural tooth colours ranges from white to eggshell and slightly yellowish. So if your teeth are more yellow than your peers, it’s not necessarily a sign that they’re discoloured. It can also simply be your natural tooth colour. If they are darker, this indicates that the enamel is thicker and therefore more robust. In other words, if you don’t have snow-white teeth, you are less prone to tooth decay.
If your tooth colour is naturally dark, only professional bleaching by a dentist can help to change it. Do you suspect that you have discolouration behind your teeth that are not quite white? Then try these tips for a bright white smile.
How to whiten teeth without bleaching: 6 best tips
- Professional teeth cleaning
It doesn’t always have to be bleaching. The annual professional teeth cleaning (PZR) by the dentist also has a whitening effect. During the treatment, dark tartar and discolouration from coffee, tea, red wine and cigarettes are reliably removed–even in the interdental spaces. Afterwards, the teeth are fluoridated and polished, giving them a smoother and shinier appearance. Proper dental care at home is crucial to maintain the effect for as long as possible.
- Electric brushing
An electric toothbrush with a round brush head that oscillates, rotates and pulsates helps best to remove stubborn plaque from coffee, tea and wine. Innovative toothbrushes like the Oral-B iO10 have a special whitening program that uses powerful vibrations to remove plaque. This works particularly well with the accompanying polishing attachment.
- Use whitening toothpaste
Conventional whitening toothpaste works by using more or less abrasive cleaning particles. They cannot lighten the natural colour of teeth, but they can remove discolouration caused by coffee, tea, and the like. But beware: due to the increased cleaning power, whitening products can attack the tooth enamel in the long term. Special care should be taken with pain-sensitive teeth and exposed tooth necks. Be sure to consult your dentist before use.
- Clean the interdental spaces daily
This is the first place where tartar and discolouration collect. Alternating the use of dental floss and interdental brushes before every brushing is the best way to prevent discolouration–and also tooth decay. Special whitening mouth rinses are a good addition. Not so much because they dissolve discolourations, but rather because they do not promote new ones. Some mouthwashes can actually discolour teeth.
- Oil pulling for whiter teeth
Oil pulling with coconut oil can reduce plaque bacteria and plaque–and in this way also help teeth become a little brighter again. Oil pulling, whose origins lie in Ayurvedic medicine, can replace tooth brushing–which takes some getting used to–or supplement it. Here’s how–put a tablespoon of oil in your mouth, pull through your teeth slowly and gargle gently. Spit out, preferably in the trash, as oil can clog drains in the long run. Washing out the mouth with water is not necessary, but recommended because of the taste before the upcoming meal.
- Use teeth whitening products without hydrogen peroxide
Strips and LED devices for home use are supposed to be able to fulfil the desire for white teeth in no time. But there’s a big catch: the products usually work with a whitening gel based on the bleaching agent hydrogen peroxide. And its application can lead to hypersensitivity, i.e. pain-sensitive teeth. For home use, the maximum concentration of peroxide is therefore regulated – to a level that makes whitening impossible. It, therefore, makes much more sense to use products such as Vardis, which strengthens the enamel, thus smoothing the tooth surface and making the smile look whiter.