7 secrets to whiter teeth

PHOTO: 7 secrets to whiter teeth

Do you have teeth that have been gradually discoloured over the years due to smoking, coffee and wine? Read on for tips on how to reverse the stain and get the shine back.

Step #1: Choose the right toothbrush

To do a good job, you need the right tool.

According to dental surgeons interviewed by The Straits Times, toothbrushes with soft bristles are better for brushing teeth.

It goes against the common wisdom that says medium or hard bristles make better brushes as they do a better job of brushing, but doctors say they may be too traumatising for the gum and cause it to recede.

This can expose more root surface and cause root sensitivity, said Dr Edwin Heng, vice-president of the Singapore Dentral Association.

Soft bristles on the other hand are flexible, and can reach in betweeen teeth easily, said Dr Asha Karan, a dental surgeon at Smile Makers Dental Clinic. She added that it lowers the risk of damaging the gums.

So which toothbrush should I buy?

Other than soft bristles, key features you should look out for when buying a toothbrush is one that has 1) a small enough brush head to reach the back corners of the mouth, and 2) longer bristles at the tip for reaching those hard-to-reach teeth at the back of the mouth.

For brush head sizes, look for one between 2cm and 2.5cm long. Children should take care to use toothbrush heads appropriate to their age group.

Or try these special toothbrushes:

  • Extra-soft toothbrushes

These have very soft bristles which are suitable for people with very sensitive teeth.

  • Orthodontic toothbrushes

If you wear braces, try this. Wearing braces often makes it difficult to remove food trapped between the braces and the teeth. An orthodontic toothbrush has bristles which are indented in the middle. This helps in cleaning around the brace brackets.

  • Interdental brushes

This toothbrush is designed to remove pague from the surfaces of teeth and along the gumline.

The cone-shaped bristles of this toothbrush can go between the wires of orthodontic braces and the teeth. The different levels of thickness of the bristles accomodate varying widths between teeth.

While dental floss cleans between the teeth, interdental brushes are more suitable for cleaning between wider spaces.

  • Electric toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes may not offer a significant advantage over a regular toothbrush - if you have the dexterity.

For those who may not be able to handle a regular toothbrush well, such as the elderly or physically handicapped, a electric toothbrush might help.

Try Philips Easyclean ($99, www.philips.com. sg), the winner of this year's Men's Health Grooming Award.


Brush better

Step #2: Brush better

Plaque can be easily removed by daily tooth brushing.

But if this plaque is left, along with calcium ion in saliva, it would turn into tartar - which cannot be removed by tooth brushing.

Doctors recommend brushing teeth for at least two minutes. Three minutes is even better. According to Dr Heng, five minutes is the best.

However, a recent survey by Men's Health revealed that 65 per cent of Singapore men brush their teeth for two minutes or less.

How to use:

  • Dentists recommend holding the brush head at a 45-degree angle away from your gumsa and massaging in a rotating motion.
  • Pay attention to your gumline, as this is where gum disease starts, and the back molars, which are notoriously more difficult to clean than the front teeth.
  • Don't neglect your tongue and the inside of your cheeks, as this is where most of the bacteria in the mouth resides.
  • Brush at least twice a day, once in the morning and another before you go to bed. But refrain from brushing too often as this may cause gums to recede.

Step #3: Take care of your toothbrush

Clean the bristles of your toothbrush under running water and rub them gently with your fingertips to remove any traces of debris.

After shaking the toothbrush dry, remember to store it in a well-ventilated area to dry them properly. Do store them apart as this will prevent the spread of diseases through the contact of bristles.

Important: DO NOT leave your toothbrush in a moist environment, as this will encourage bacteria to grow.

Additionally, never share toothbrushes as gum diseases and blood-borne infections can spread by sharing toothbrushes.

When to change:

Dr Heng recommends that you change your toothbrush once every three months.

Even if the bristles have not frayed, bacteria is bound to build up in the brush over time. Additionally, a frayed brush is likely to encourage a user to use more force when brushing, hence risking damaging the gums and teeth.

The extra mile

Step #4: Go the extra mile

Brushing is often enough. To get really clean teeth, it is ideal to bring in the extra ammo - flossing and mouthwash.

Flossing every day ensures that hard-to-reach areas in between teeth are cleaned and prepares those areas for rinsing. Choose a suitable time to floss, when you aren't hurried, such as before bed.

Using a mouthwash that has antiseptic properties, kills bacteria that can linger on in your mouth even after any trace of food has been removed. Rinsing can also help prevent the build-up of tartar and plaque, not to mention clean, fresh breath.

Step #5: Use a straw

To keep your teeth whiter longer, drink dark liquids - such as coffee, cola or tea - with a straw.

If it can stain a white shirt, it will stain your teeth. The less contact the drink has with your teeth, the less it will stain.

And if you can't brush afterwards, drink water or suck on a sugarless mint. Doing so promotes saliva flow, which naturally cleanses your teeth.

Step #6: Smarter way to whiten

Over-the-counter products are good, low-cost maintenance after you've gone through professional teeth whitening, says Dr Wilson Goh, dental surgeon and the managing director of Team GPA dental clinics.

"OTC whitening kits usually come in lower concentrations of the whitening agent." This means you'll have to be patient, as it'll take longer to do the job.

Try Clever White Teeth Whitening Kit ($49, from Guardian, guardian.com.sg).

Beat sensitivity

Step #7: Beat Sensitivity

Sensitivity is a recognised side effect of tooth whitening, whether done the first time or subsequently, says Dr Seah Yang Howe, specialist endodontist of Francis Lee Dental Surgery.

A study in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry reports that people who brush with potassium nitrate toothpaste for two weeks before starting at-home whitening are less likely to feel increased sensitivity.

Try Pearlie White Advanced Sensitive toothpaste ($6.10, from Watsons, watsons.com.sg).



Get a copy of December 2011 issue of Men’s Health for health, fitness and lifestyle tips that are 100% useful. Men’s Health is published by SPH Magazines is available at all newsstands now.

Mirza Malik is an associate editor with Men’s Health magazine by SPH Magazines.

Check out more stories at Men’s Health online, www.menshealth.com.sg.