Fact vs. Fiction: Natural Teeth Whitening

When it comes to teeth whitening, you may see many different methods featured online and in magazines--from oil pulling to charcoal, and even turmeric. It's no surprise that DIY whitening is top of mind, either. When the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry asked people what they'd most like to improve their smile, the most common response was whiter teeth. 

Healthy smiles come in many shades, though it's tempting to think ingredients in our own kitchens could hold the key to a brighter smile. Still, just because a method is natural doesn't mean it's healthy. In fact, DIY whitening can do more harm than good to your teeth. Here's how: 

Fruits

Lemon and baking soda
Fiction:
The approach maintains you can make your teeth whiter and brighter household staples that are naturally acidic (like lemons, oranges, apple cider vinegar), contain digestive enzymes (such as pineapple or mango) and something that is abrasive (like baking soda).
Fact: 
When eaten as usual, fruit is a great choice. However, fruit and vinegar contain acid, and you put your pearly whites at risk when you prolong their contact with your teeth or use them to scrub your teeth because acid can wear away your enamel. Enamel is the thin outer coating of your teeth that protects you from tooth sensitivity and cavities.
 

Scrubs 

Activated charcoal
Fiction:
These methods claim that scrubbing your teeth with ingredients like activated charcoal or a baking soda-hydrogen peroxide paste will bring a shine back to your smile. 
Fact:
Using materials that are too abrasive on your teeth can actually make them look more yellow. Enamel is what you're looking to whiten, but if you're using a scrub that is too rough, you can actually wear it away. When that happens, the next layer of your tooth can become exposed a softer, yellow tissue called dentin.
Instead, choose a whitening toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. The Seal lets you know the toothpaste you choose is safe, effective and won't damage your teeth.
 

Spices and Oils 

Turmeric powder
Fiction:
Swishing oils like coconut oil in your mouth (oil pulling) or using spices like turmeric can help whiten your teeth.
Fact:
There is no reliable scientific evidence to show oil pulling or turmeric whitens teeth. Save the oil and spices for healthy meals instead. 
 

Still Interested in Whitening?

Patient getting her teeth whitened at the dentist
The best natural ways to keep your teeth white are everyday healthy habits, including:
  • Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes
  • Use a whitening toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance
  • Cleaning between your teeth once a day
  • Limiting foods that stain your teeth, like coffee, tea and red wine
  • Not smoking or using tobacco
  • Regular visits to your dentist for checkups and cleanings
If you want to try a specific whitening product or service, just talk to us (your dentist) before you begin. Whitening may not work on all teeth, and if you are a candidate, some methods--whether at-home or in the dental office--may be better for your teeth than others.

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Great Dental Health During Pregnancy

Being pregnant comes with many responsibilities--and the way you care for your teeth is no exception. It's a myth that calcium is lost from a mother's teeth and "one tooth is lost with every pregnancy." But you may experience some changes in your oral health during pregnancy. The primary changes are due to a surge in hormones particularly an increase in estrogen and progesterone - can exaggerate the way gum tissues react to plaque.

The benefits of receiving dental care during pregnancy far outweigh potential risks. Be sure to keep your dentist informed of any changes in your mouth such as swelling, redness or bleeding.

7 tips for maintaining a healthy mouth during pregnancy:

  • Brush thoroughly with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
  • Floss between your teeth daily.
  • Purchase products that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
  • Eat a balanced diet. If you snack, do so in moderation.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for a professional cleaning and check-up.
  • If you need help controlling plaque, your dentist may recommend rinsing at night with an antimicrobial mouth rinse.
  • If you have morning sickness and are vomiting frequently, try rinsing with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water to stop stomach acid from attacking your teeth.

How does a build-up of plaque affect me?

 
If plaque isn't removed, it can cause gingivitis red, swollen, tender gums that are more likely to bleed. So-called "pregnancy gingivitis" affects most pregnant women to some degree, and generally begins to surface as early as the second month. If you already have gingivitis, the condition is likely to worsen during pregnancy. If untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease.
 
Pregnant women are also at risk for developing pregnancy tumors, inflammatory, non-cancerous growths that develop when swollen gums become irritated. Normally, the tumors are left alone and will usually shrink on their own after the baby's birth. But if a tumor is uncomfortable and interferes with chewing, brushing or other oral hygiene procedures, the dentist may decide to remove it.
 

How can I prevent these problems?
 

You can prevent gingivitis by keeping your teeth clean, especially near the gumline. You should brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and after each meal when possible. You should also floss thoroughly each day. If brushing causes morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water or with antiplaque and fluoride mouthwashes. Good nutrition particularly plenty of vitamin C and B12 help keep the oral cavity healthy and strong. More frequent cleanings from the dentist will help control plaque and prevent gingivitis. Controlling plaque also will reduce gum irritation and decrease the likelihood of pregnancy tumors.
 

Could gingivitis affect my baby's health?

 
Research suggests a link between preterm, low-birthweight babies and gingivitis. Excessive bacteria can enter the bloodstream through your gums. If this happens, the bacteria can travel to the uterus, triggering the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which are suspected to induce premature labor.
 

When should I see my dentist?

 
If you're planning to become pregnant or suspect you're pregnant, you should see a dentist right away. For most women, routine dental visits are safe during pregnancy, but let your dental office know what month you are in when you make your appointment. Otherwise, you should schedule a checkup in your first trimester for a cleaning. Your dentist will assess your oral condition and map out a dental plan for the rest of your pregnancy. A visit to the dentist also is recommended in the second trimester for a cleaning, to monitor changes and to gauge the effectiveness of your oral hygiene. Depending on the patient, another appointment may be scheduled early in the third trimester, but these appointments should be kept as brief as possible.

If yours is a high-risk pregnancy or you have some other medical condition, your dentist and your physician may recommend that treatment be postponed. Be sure to let your dentist know if there is any change in the medications you take or if you have received any special advice from your physician. 
 

Are there any dental procedures I should avoid?

Non-emergency procedures generally can be performed throughout pregnancy, but the best time for any dental treatment is the fourth through six month. Women with dental emergencies that create severe pain can be treated during any trimester, but your obstetrician should be consulted during emergencies that require anesthesia or when medication is being prescribed. Only X-rays that are needed for emergencies should be taken during pregnancy. Lastly, elective procedures that can be postponed should be delayed until after the baby's birth.

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