Say Cheese: Whitening Without Frightening

White teeth do a lot of talking. They talk about their owner—they say, "Hey, she's healthy, she's neither a smoker nor a heroin addict, and she practices good hygiene." Furthermore they say, "She's happy."

It may seem as though I'm obsessed with the ability of cosmetic products to make us look happier. Maybe you'd rather look younger. Fine, white teeth will also make you look younger. Our teeth naturally yellow with age, thus whiter teeth take us back to our prime. One of the easiest ways, in fact, to take a couple years off the face is simply to whiten your teeth. Doesn't matter if your teeth are crooked, if you have a hideous underbite, or are missing a few teeth altogether. Whiten them up, and reap the compliments.

A few of you out there have greyish teeth, rather than yellow-stained teeth. This is often due to tetracycline poisoning (from an antibiotic you took as a child or your mother took when she was pregnant with you). Don't waste your money on tooth whiteners; the staining is from within, and if you'd like a great white smile then chat with a dentist about veneers. It could change your life.

If, however, like many of us, your dingy smile is due to the accumulative effects of coffee, red wine and blueberry pie, then whitening your teeth is easy as... eating blueberry pie. I get compliments on my teeth quite often, by women. (Men will tell me I have a nice smile, but women are more specific. They say, "You have really white teeth!") They ask what I do. Do I get them professionally whitened?

That's not my secret. While I think a professional whitening job can immediately improve a woman's self esteem, it's expensive (up to $500) and the ingredients are a little iffy for my taste. Speaking of taste—eww... would I ever want to swallow that stuff? I don't even use toothpaste with flouride! And skip the drugstore whitening kits unless you absolutely need immediate results: they're full of gross chemicals.

The best thing you can do for your smile and your health is to make a decision to whiten your teeth every single time you brush, using a nontoxic method.

Here are a couple of my favorite teeth whitening tricks:

  1. Use food grade peroxide to swish and spit. It won't stick to your teeth to whiten them, but if you brush your teeth while it's in your mouth, you'll get an oxygenated tingling and foaming action that gently lifts stains.

 

Use baking soda as toothpaste. It's cheap, it works, it whitens. (It absorbs stains and scrubs them away.) Put a drop or two of food grade peppermint or spearmint essential oil in a cute one cup container of baking soda. Tasty! It's a natural abrasive, and the feeling of clean after you brush (dip a wet toothbrush into the powder) is the cleanest you will ever feel. Very similar to getting a professional cleaning. Do it for two weeks and you'll notice a whiter smile. Then do it for the rest of your life because it works and it's natural.

 

If you hate homemade stuff, try my favorite powdered packaged toothpaste, Eco-Dent Extra Brite. I like powders because gels and pastes disappear too quickly, and whitening is about getting rid of stains. Peroxide bleaches, but powders SCRUB. This company makes a couple of formulas; I like the whitening one because they added peroxide. You just flip the cap, and sprinkle a modest amount on your wet toothbrush, and brush. (If you wet the toothbrush after, you wash away powder.) While I'm not a fan of the foaming agent sodium lauryl sulfate (the oceans need less foam, not more), this toothpaste is fluoride-free, it whitens and it's natural.

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