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White Teeth for the Holidays: 11 Insider Tips!

By: Dr. Michael G. Katsaros


At this time of year, many of our patients have more than a snowy “white” holiday on their mind. In fact, images of a “whiter” smile start dancing in their heads as well. From 20-somethings right out of college to boomer men in their 60s, patients from all corners want to give themselves the gift of pearly whites—to greet the holidays with a look that reflects health, vigor and beauty.

It’s becoming more and more common. Since the super-wattage smile craze took hold more than ten years ago, more than 100 million Americans have lightened their teeth using over-the-counter products like whitening toothpastes and whitening products. And this trend continues to raise the bar on tooth color. What we called a light shade in the past—is considered “too yellow” today.

That’s likely why we see so many patients who won’t tolerate the fact that as we age, our teeth can get up to one to two shades darker—with every passing decade! Heredity plays a role, but oral hygiene and nutrition also contribute to the color of our teeth.

The good news is we now know so much more about the technology of how to whiten teeth. We also know the factors and choices that affect the color of our teeth. So, here’s how you can have a holiday smile that looks healthy, young and vibrant:

1. Professional in-office Zoom light treatment offers the most efficient rapid lightening treatment, especially when it is followed up with an in-home custom-bleach-tray regimen to maintain the whiter color. With its combination of peroxide and LED light, the Zoom light can make teeth up to eight shades lighter—all in one session!

2. Wear whitening trays made in your dental office. The custom trays—made to wear for a few hours or during a full night’s sleep—deliver special bleach formulations and work well to whiten your teeth.

3. Brush your teeth twice a day. Every day. Make sure to use a good toothbrush. That means using a motorized Sonic Care or Oral B—which does the job much better than the old hand-held type. They provide excellent plaque removal and gum stimulation. Avoid being one of those who mistakenly “scrub” their teeth with hard brushes that can strip enamel making teeth yellow over time. (Enamel gives teeth their pearly white look. Once the enamel is gone, there is no bringing it back!”) Use only “soft” brushes. The American Dental Association recommends brushing for at least two minutes. Motorized brushes have built-in timers.

4. Floss-at least once a day. Forever.

5. Use Home Whitening Strips to help get rid of tooth stains. The thin, virtually invisible strips are coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel. Results are not as dramatic as with other methods, but they are easy to use and work well if worn for a week or more.

6. Maintain an excellent diet! Eat firm and crisp “detergent” foods that naturally scrub and help clean teeth as they are being eaten, like apples, raw carrots, celery, cucumbers, jicama and popcorn. Avoid acidic food and beverages like sodas, sugar-filled snacks and candies, and flavored waters and sports drinks. All are culprits that make your teeth yellower by eroding away the white enamel on your teeth. (Remember, enamel can’t be replaced!)

7. Think as you drink. Watch red wine, cranberry juice, dark colas. Remember that anything that can stain a white shirt can stain your teeth! Rinse your mouth after drinking or drink through a straw.

8. Watch out for foods that stain teeth. Deep-color blueberries, blackberries and beets can leave color on your teeth. Feel free to eat them for health, but remember to brush after eating or rinse with water.

9. Choose the Lighter Option. Iced cappuccino not espresso. Champagne or white wine not red wine. Grapefruit juice not cranberry juice. Keep mini-disposable brushes for on-the-go cleaning.

10. Scrape that tongue with a special “scraper” which helps keep bacteria and plaque at bay. If you can’t scrape, brush your tongue when you brush your teeth.

11. Wear blue-based colors and glosses (For women!). As every woman knows, makeup helps. Choose blue-based lip colors—cherry red, wine or berry shades. Skip pearly lipsticks, matte finishes and beige, brown or yellow undertones, which can accentuate discoloration.

Dr. Michael G. Katsaros, practices at Washington Center for Dentistry, 1430 K Street NW, Washington, DC. www.washdent.com 202-888-3254 [email protected]

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.