If you’re dreaming of a gleaming, white smile, here’s what you need to know
Nutritionist, author and TV health expert Amanda Hamilton reveals her tips for keeping teeth beautifully white.
Everybody loves a nice set of pearly whites, and while specialist toothpastes may help, it’s definitely worth thinking about the cause, rather than simply treating the symptoms.
Tooth discoloration occurs in two forms: extrinsic, which occurs on the outer enamel layer, and intrinsic, which occurs on the inner structure of the tooth. Staining generally occurs extrinsically, so the first step to avoiding this is being aware of which foods are particularly bad culprits. An easy way to approach this is to consider anything that can stain your clothes is also capable of staining your teeth!
So, coffee, tea, red wine and tobacco fall into this category, as well as less obvious foods such as blueberries, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. However, rather than abstaining completely, an effective way of counteracting any staining is to drink water after consuming them to wash away any stain-causing residue. You could also start drinking through straws as dentists often advise children, but I’m not so sure that would work in the context of a wine bar!
Discoloration can also occur through intrinsic damage to the tooth, which is often caused by a build-up of plaque, leading to tooth decay. Here the culprits are the more obvious ‘bad guys’: fizzy drinks, concentrated fruit juices, sweets and sugary cereals can all erode tooth enamel and cause cavities.
There are also foods you can add to your diet that will help. Crunchy raw vegetables, nuts and fruits all act as a great mild abrasive and stimulate saliva in the mouth, which helps keep bacteria levels balanced and teeth polished.
A study by Harvard University revealed that the natural acids in strawberries and oranges can help whiten teeth, and the enzyme bromelain in pineapple can naturally help remove stains. However, studies at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health contest this, claiming the acids found in certain fruits such as oranges are so strong that they can break down enamel. The key, therefore, is balance.
Dairy can also be beneficial, as it contains protein, calcium and phosphorous – all of which are good for strong, healthy teeth. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the lactic acid in dairy products can help prevent tooth decay.
There’s a deeper story here, too. Good oral health is vitally important for our overall health. The mouth contains many different types of bacteria and the health of your mouth can be an indicator of the condition of your body as a whole. The Academy of General Dentistry has found that approximately 90 per cent of systemic diseases have oral manifestations in the form of swollen gums, mouth ulcers and gum disease, so this is something to be aware of.
Ginger and basil can help keep your oral hygiene in good shape. Ginger has anti-inflammatory benefits and basil has natural antibiotic properties, both of which help keep bacteria levels balanced.
There are no proven supplements that specifically whiten teeth; however, vitamins A and C are particularly important for good gum health and can be supplemented or found in foods such as broccoli, oranges, carrots and dark leafy greens.
Last but not least, be sure to visit the dentist regularly and take heed of their good advice!