How To Get A Real White Smile — Plus All Your Other Pressing Dental Questions Answered

What discolours your teeth; does charcoal actually whiten teeth; are electric toothbrushes better?


Amy Hopkins |

It’s not often you can get an expert to answer your burning questions. I chatted to Joburg-based dentist, Dr Bongiwe Nhlangulela, aka Dr Bee, who was a wealth of dental knowledge. Plus, why we should be applying the same mindfulness we do to eating to our teeth brushing habits. Check out her Twitter and Insta too.

What causes teeth discolouration?

  • Poor oral hygiene habits like inadequate brushing, flossing or antiseptic washes that remove the plaque.
  • Stain producing substances, like coffee and foods that contain artificial colours and dyes, like curries or tomato sauce.
  • Genetics.
  • Developmental anomalies, like fluorosis (overexposure to fluoride during the first eight years of life).
  • Certain foods and drinks, like wine, coffee, cola, potatoes.
  • Tobacco smoking.
  • Certain medications, like tetracyclines (a class of antibiotics).
  • Ageing.

Is teeth whitening safe to do at home?

“It can be. Only if you use a product that has been prescribed by your dentist and according to the instructions given by them. Different whitening systems exist, so it’s important to have your dentist determine what is best for you. Those obtained over the counter or made at home without the oversight of your dentist I can’t comment on — I don’t recommend them, nor am I familiar with how they work exactly.”

In terms of side effects: “Side effects do exist depending on which system you use and also depending on the patient. Tooth sensitivity can occur during or after whitening. In my experience, it is usually transient. Gum irritation can occur as well.”

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What teeth whitening products do you recommend?

“Products are chosen based on the patient tooth type/dental condition, the age, method chosen to whiten and dental history. I don’t believe in a single product that can be used on all patients. It’s not that simple. As long as you stick to methods approved by your dentist for the products prescribed, whitening is safe.

“The most important thing is the how [in using] the products. Like I said, once your best choice has been identified, your dentist can show you how best to use them to ensure your safety.”

Is it true that activated charcoal whitens teeth?

“I haven’t tried it myself, nor do I know anyone who has, but I am under the impression it is safe to ingest. We weren’t taught about activated charcoal as a whitening agent in school even. I suspect there isn’t that much science behind it and I also suspect it works mechanically, based on the scratching of stains from your teeth.

“My warning off the top of my head would be to be very careful of the abrasiveness of the particles in the mineral — especially when applied with a toothbrush. This can accelerate thinning of the protective enamel layer of your teeth, leading to tooth sensitivity in the long term.”

What does a healthy teeth-care regime look like?

“Daily brushing, twice a day with the correct technique, using a soft brush and age-appropriate fluoride-containing toothpaste, flossing, using a mouthwash, eating healthy food, drinking lots of water and going to the dentist at least twice a year for routine check-ups.”

READ MORE: What Your Teeth Really Say About The State Of Your Health

What toothpaste do you recommend?

“I recommend the use of fluoride-containing toothpastes. I always go for anything with a minimum of 1450m ppm of fluoride (for adults).”

Are electric toothbrushes really better than manual?

Again: “The most important thing for me when tooth brushing is how one brushes,” says Dr Bee.

“Using electric brushes can be more beneficial. The simplest way to put it is for me to say this: electric toothbrushes do the job for you, the brush strokes, the vibrations, and the sweeping movements. I don’t imagine anyone can achieve the same precision or even frequency with the average manual dexterity, which is quite significant. I believe this is also why patients tend to brush hard. Because they are trying to achieve the same clean feeling, but this damages teeth.

“So, if you know which brush to use and how to use it correctly, you can brush well and much more safely. Also, believe it or not, people become fatigued or bored with manual brushes. With the electric toothbrushes available to us these days, brushing can be made more precise and can be more effective.”

How often should you change your toothbrush or head?

“The recommendation is every three months.”

What tooth-brushing techniques work to create that bright smile?

“You should brush your teeth for two minutes, spending 30 seconds on each quarter. Most of the time, we spend too much time brushing the front of our teeth, because they’re on display, and neglect the health of our back teeth. Also, don’t drink or eat anything for half an hour after you’ve brushed your teeth! The ingredients in the toothpaste need time to work on your teeth too.”

READ MORE: 5 Ways You’re Actually Brushing Your Teeth Wrong

What toothbrush do you currently use?

Dr Bee is currently using the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Sonic Electric Toothbrush.

Why? “Because it is so gentle and it leaves me with a real clean feel after brushing.” Some of the reasons that set this new electric toothbrush apart from the rest: Densely-packed bristles remove up to seven times more plaque than a manual toothbrush. You only have to hold it gently against your teeth for a real clean — no hard brushing! Five modes include:

  • Clean — for daily cleaning,
  • Gum Care — to gently massage gums
  • Polish — to brighten your smile
  • Sensitive — for gentle yet effective cleaning of sensitive gums
  • White — to remove surface stains.

Also, it has a timer. The QuadPacer lets you know when you’ve spent the optimal amount of time on each section of your mouth, while the SmarTimer signals when your total time is up.

#WHtestsIt

Review: “The Philips Sonicare DiamindClean Sonic Electric Toothbrush vibrates at a much higher frequency than my regular electric toothbrush. I love that it stops automatically when time is up. My dentist pointed out to me — in the past — that I over-brush my teeth and brush too hard. Apparently many of us do this! I used to use a manual toothbrush and I was actually damaging my gums by brushing too hard in the front. Already changing over to an electric toothbrush made a big difference.

“With this one, the vibrations really work so well! My teeth feel clean and I don’t hurt my gums in the process. Do you ever get that little bit of blood when you’ve brushed your gum too hard by accident? Well I’ve been using this toothbrush for a few days now and don’t have that at all. Sometimes the high vibrations feel ticklish. I use the ‘clean mode’ and then sometimes do the ‘polish mode’ too. Can we also just acknowledge how pretty this brush is?”

Video

Watch me test the brush on this insta video below.

 

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It vibrates at a much higher frequency than my regular electric toothbrush. I love that it stops automatically when time is up. My dentist pointed out to me – in the past – that I over-brursh my teeth and brush too hard. Apparently many of us do this! I used to use a manual toothbrush and I was actually damaging my gums by brushing too hard in the front. Already changing over to an electric toothbrush made a big difference. But with this one, the vibrations really work so well! My teeth feel clean and I don’t hurt my gums in the process. Do you ever get that little bit of blood when you’ve brushed your gum too hard by accident? Well I’ve been using this toothbrush for a few days now and don’t have that at all. Sometimes the high vibrations feel ticklish. I use the “clean mode” and then sometimes do the “polish mode” too. Can we also just acknowledge how pretty this brush is? Some cool teeth-care tips from Dr Bee (dentist): You should brush your teeth for two minutes, spending 30 seconds on each quarter. Most of the time, we spend too much time brushing the front of our teeth, because they’re on display, and neglect the health of our back teeth. Also don’t drink or eat anything for half an hour after you’ve brushed your teeth! The ingredients in the toothpaste need time to work on your teeth too.

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