Put down that Cherry Coke Zero. Your morning latte, midday Mars bar and Cheeto habits are tarnishing your teeth. ‘The rule of thumb is anything that can stain a white T-shirt can stain your teeth too,’ says Dr Elisa Mello, from Smile Design, a cosmetic and restorative dental practice.
The average cost of a professional whitening treatment is Dhs2,500 (Tower Clinic in Healthcare City is top notch, by the way), and Dr Mello notes that many of the procedures can cause some discomfort or pain. But you don’t have to suffer or shell out a ton of cash to clean up your chompers. Fortunately, Mother Nature has some natural (and cheap) solutions to prevent yellowing and help keep teeth bright.
An exception to the anything-that-can-stain-a-white-T-shirt rule, these contain a compound called malic acid, which can help loosen lingering stains. To make an all-natural lightening treatment, mash a few strawberries into a bowl, then, using your finger, spread the pulp all over your teeth. Leave it on a minute or two, then thoroughly rinse and brush it off. Just remember not to use this treatment for too long or too often; once a week is sufficient. ‘Strawberries contain natural sugars and can cause cavities if used for too long,’ Dr Mello explains.
It’s most commonly known for its use in treating cuts and scrapes (prepare for some rogue fizzing when using it), but it can also be used to disinfect your mouth, freshen your breath and whiten your teeth. ‘Just rinse and gargle (but never swallow) about a capful (one-part bleach to 4-parts water) once a week to help lift surface stains,’ Dr Mello instructs. ‘If you’re not comfortable swishing it in your mouth, dip a cotton bud into the peroxide and rub it over your teeth. Be sure to immediately rinse with water afterwards,’ she adds. It’s also a great way to kill germs or bacteria in your mouth.
It may take you back to those nursery years (remember mixing together your mother’s favourite lotions and potions in a bid to make the coolest paste in the world?), but mixing together some teeth whitening ingredients is totally above board. The materials used to make a do-it-yourself whitening paste can all be bought at your local Spinneys or pharmacy. Dr Mello suggests adding a few drops of water to a teaspoon of baking soda until it forms a thick paste. Then add a pinch of salt, two to four drops of hydrogen peroxide and a pea-size amount of toothpaste. Your homemade concoction is safe to use up to three times a week; or alternate it with your regular toothpaste. ‘Just remember to brush thoroughly, and don’t forget to floss!’ the dentist adds.
Dr Mello’s healthy teeth dos and don’ts
• Sink your teeth into apples, carrots, pears, guavas, cauliflower and cucumbers; they increase salivary production which flushes away stains over time.
• Load up on vegetables like broccoli, lettuce and spinach – they create a barrier-like film on teeth that can actually help scrub away stubborn stains over time and prevent them from recurring.
• Overindulge in dark liquids like soy sauce, red wine, fruit juices, coffee, tea and fizzy drinks or anything with artificial colours.
• Be fooled by ‘healthy’ beverages: sports drinks, energy drinks and fitness waters contain organic acids that are known to break down calcium, so they’re good at eroding your teeth. That includes energy bars.
• Load up on acidic foods like pickles, ketchup, green olives and most relishes – they can open up the pores of the tooth enamel, allowing for easy staining.