Tips to Get a Family Photo-Ready Smile

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Coffee? I can’t get going until I’ve had it. Red wine? My favorite way to end a tough parenting day. Judging from the hilarious illustrated article “The Uppers & Downers of Parenting (Or, Coffee & Wine)” that went viral, I’m not alone in these vices. And between the stress of the holidays and the merrymaking, I would gamble that consumption of these two beverages won’t be on the decline.

Unfortunately, coffee and wine (yes, even white) are notorious for staining teeth. Basically, if it can stain a white t-shirt, it can stain your teeth. Add in the fact that enamel naturally wears as we age, and yellowing teeth become quite the issue.

Thankfully, all hope is not lost, especially if stains have a yellowish hue. There are plenty of ways to brighten up your chompers and keep them whiter, longer. Follow the tips and tricks below and you’ll be flashing some very pearly whites in no time. I suggest completing a whitening treatment before the holidays (and all those family photos) and then making maintenance a resolution for the New Year.

Step 1: Whiter Teeth Now

Teeth whitening treatments use bleaching agents such as carbamide peroxide to remove both deep and surface stains. This is the most effective way to ditch the dinginess, but it is also, of course, the harshest. Some people notice tooth or gum sensitivity or an occasional sharp shooting pain referred to as a “zinger.” I’ve had all of the above and while they aren’t the most pleasant side effects, for most people, they go away after the treatment ends. These products can wear down enamel with overuse, so stick to the recommended application time and try to maintain the results as long as possible with the tips listed in Step 2.

In-Office: Treatments

Most dental offices offer professional teeth whitening treatments. A bleaching agent is applied to teeth and lasers or lights are often used to enhance the process. These appointments will typically cost $300 and up.

At-Home: Kits

There are a wide variety of at-home teeth whitening systems available. Some offer a peroxide solution that you paint on your teeth and others come with peroxide-based whitening gels and trays. I’m using Smile Brilliant, which is great because they create custom fitting trays similar to ones you can have made at a dentist’s office, except at a more affordable price. As a busy mom, I appreciate anything I can DIY to avoid the hassle of making appointments. At-home whitening kits are available in a wide range of price points.

Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening Trays $119.95
Glo Science Glo Brilliant Kit $199
GO SMiLE Teeth Whitening System $89

At-Home: Whitening Strips

Whitening strips are coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel that is applied to teeth for a period of time each day, usually for three to 14 days. If you have sensitive teeth, opt for a longer treatment period with a less aggressive gel. They offer good results, are easy to use, and are an affordable bleaching option.

Crest 3D White Luxe Whitestrips Supreme FlexFit $47.99
Crest 3D White Whitestrips Gentle Routine $34.99
Rembrant Intense Stain Dissolving Strips $20.69

At-Home: Natural Treatments

There are a few home remedies for more natural teeth whitening. These options may be preferable if your stains are mostly on the surface, you prefer a non-bleach alternative, or if your teeth are very sensitive.


Teeth Whitening

1. Activated Charcoal

If you’re on Pinterest, you might have seen this trick popping up on your feed. Activated charcoal is available in capsule form at most health food stores and is harmless if ingested. It adheres to surface stains, allowing them to be rinsed away. Open and empty one to two capsules worth into a small amount of water to form a paste. Apply the paste to your teeth, wait three minutes, and rinse. Because charcoal may be abrasive, brushing with it is not advised.

Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal $6.99

2. Baking Soda

Baking soda works as a scrub, polishing surface stains and plaque away. Simply wet your toothbrush, dip it in baking soda, and brush as you normally would. Baking soda is abrasive and can weaken your enamel over time, so stick to periodic use.

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda $2.99

Step 2: Maintaining Whiter Teeth

Teeth Whitening

Know your enemies

The following are all notorious for staining teeth:

  • coffee
  • tea
  • wine (red & white)
  • grape juice
  • cranberry juice
  • soda
  • blueberries
  • blackberries
  • beets
  • soy sauce
  • tomato sauce

Teeth Whitening

Eat your way to brighter teeth

Now the good news! These items actually clean teeth while you eat them:

  • apples
  • celery
  • cauliflower
  • carrots
  • hard cheeses

Damage control

Can’t give up your coffee? Me neither. Here’s how to minimize the damage:

  • brush, floss, and rinse twice a day
  • visit your dental hygienist for regular cleanings
  • use a whitening toothpaste or mouth rinse
  • drink with a straw
  • rinse your mouth with water after consuming anything potentially staining
  • chew sugarless gum — it offers some cleansing and triggers saliva, which neutralizes acids
  • avoid sports or energy drinks — they erode tooth enamel, opening the door to stains
  • don’t smoke

Cheers to a brighter smile through the holidays and beyond! I’ll leave you with one final tip perfect for upcoming holiday photo opps: a blue-based red lipstick like Ardency Inn’s Lovecat will make your teeth appear whiter. Apply it and say “cheese!”

Image source: Thinkstock, Drugstore.com

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