It’s safe to say that white teeth are considered in style, and always have been. The demand for that bright ‘Hollywood’ smile is sky high, by both men and women. However, it seems that as of late people are opting for more budget-friendly at-home solutions. With social media growing bigger and generally having more influence on people, we have seen some new emerging trends like oil pulling and using activated charcoal to whiten teeth. But do these methods actually work, or are they selling you a dream? It may be hard to decipher between what works and what doesn’t so we are going to break it down for you. 

Oil pulling is a a natural method that can be done at-home by using any oil, but coconut oil seems to be the popular choice. Using a spoonful of oil, it is swirled around in the mouth, like mouthwash, for about 15 minutes to help “pull” out stains from the teeth. This is an ancient method referred to as “kavala” or “gundusha”, which can be traced back to Indian folk tradition. Although oil pulling has many benefits such as: reducing bacteria in the mouth, inflammation of the gums and bad breath, there is no clear evidence that it helps with making teeth visibly whiter. 

Another popular trend is using activated charcoal in the form of charcoal toothpaste or charcoal powder to whiten teeth. The fine grained black powder is porous and highly absorbent, which allows it to bind to toxins and produces containing this ingredient claim to remove coffee stains and wine stains. Again, there’s no scientific evidence to support this and there is concern that the abrasive texture might cause harm by wearing away the tooth enamel. It is best to avoid such abrasive products because once you wear away the enamel on the surface of the tooth, it is an irreversible process. We would therefore be reluctant to advise this and would be mindful of recommending tried, tested and proven products that whiten effectively and safely.

Other at-home methods that are less trendy but still quite common are whitening toothpaste and whitening strips. Whitening toothpaste can be effective in removing surface stains, such as coffee or cigarette stains, from the teeth but they won’t significantly change the natural colour of your teeth. However, a good whitening toothpaste we recommend is ‘Colgate Max White Expert Complete Whitening’ toothpaste, which contains optic brighteners that reflect blue light to make your teeth look instantly whiter, thereby giving a gentle and quick brightening effect.

Teeth whitening strips have hydrogen peroxide embedded in them, and applying them to the teeth allows the prolonged contact with peroxide to bleach the surface of the teeth. When using the strips it’s common to see uneven blotches as a result of inadequate application and poor seal and uneven contact. They work, but nowhere near as well as dentist supervised at-home whitening systems, which will involve perfectly bespoke moulds constructed to fit the surface and curvature of your teeth, thereby resulting in a superior seal, contact of bleach to tooth and even treatment.

Clinics also use hydrogen peroxide in the home kits provided by dentists. As teeth whitening is a regulated treatment by the General dental council, the teeth whitening provided by your dentist for home use will be of a much higher percentage than those bought over the counter, but will be safe to use, with carefully produced delivery systems ensuring no damage to your enamel. This means a much better result will be achieved from at-home whitening kits delivered by and supervised by your dentist rather than over the counter products.

In office teeth whitening uses light and heat activated hydrogen peroxide, a bleaching agent, which gently oxidises and remove stains embedded in enamel. The procedure usually takes 90 minutes. The dentist will apply the bleaching agent onto your teeth and a light is then shone onto the teeth to activate and accelerate the product. This treatment alone may result in an immediate improvement though will not be a long lasting result if not followed up or preceded by home teeth whitening supplied by your dentist. This is because the peroxide agent works best when used cumulatively and consecutively for approximately two weeks, allowing the product to seep deeper into the enamel and brighten and whiten the teeth.

If you want to achieve long-term whitening results then in-office procedures are the best way to go. Whitening treatments offered by dentists are much stronger and more effective than the trendy at-home methods that have no real scientific evidence to back their effectiveness. In office procedures are also much quicker which means you don’t have to go through the hassle of repetitive applications at home. 

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