Ruth Griffin: Million dollar smile
Boost your smile with the latest treatments and products for teeth
Thich Nhat Hanh believes that, "Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful." The 91-year-old Vietnamese Buddhist monk may lean more towards the philosophical aspect of smiling, but science has shown that the mere act of smiling can lift our mood, lower stress and boost our immune system. Smiling essentially tricks our brains into believing we're happy, which can then spur actual feelings of happiness. So, how do we feel super confident in our smiles? By making sure we are tending to our dental and oral health every day.
For those of you who have a real fear of the dentist, I totally sympathise. I have very sensitive teeth and used to hate the dentist until I found a very gentle, understanding practitioner. As I am a coffee addict and my teeth stain easily, I get them cleaned twice a year. I've found the best way to combat staining is to keep my dentist visits regular and use a teeth whitening paste once a week. Read on to get some of the best new smile boosting techniques and products because as famed naturalist John Ray wrote, "Beauty is power, and a smile its sword."
One of the quickest ways you can improve your dental health is to invest in an electric toothbrush. The Philips Sonicare Easy Clean HX6511/50 is currently on sale for half price at €59.99 in Boots, boots.ie
DO IT YOURSELF TEETH WHITENING
It's important to mind the health and strength of our teeth, so here are some whitening solutions designed to remove stains and protect our teeth.
Try Oral-B 3D White Luxe Perfection Toothpaste and Oral-B 3D White Luxe Whitening Accelerator, both €5.50. Just like a good skincare routine would consist of at least two steps, your smile can benefit from a similar approach. The toothpaste works like an exfoliator to remove surface stains in three days. Then the accelerator acts to protect your teeth from future stains for up to 24 hours. From pharmacies and retail outlets nationwide.
The whitening pen
You can brush a whitening product straight onto your teeth with the Spotlight Teeth Whitening Pen, €14.99. Wipe on after your normal brushing, leave for five minutes then rinse off. From pharmacies nationwide and spotlightwhitening.com
The organic option
If you want to stay away from the peroxide in some products, try some organic teeth whitening products such as Jason Organic's Powersmile Whitening Toothpaste, with baking soda, silica, bamboo powder, €7.50, or Ecodenta Whitening Toothpaste, with mint oil, sage and Kalident, €5.80, from health food stores nationwide.
The ancient technique
Oil pulling is a 3,000-year-old Ayurveda technique used for oral health and teeth whitening. Use sesame or coconut oil, swirl around the mouth for 20 minutes (any less and it won't work). The oil 'clings' to impurities on the teeth and when you spit the oil out you eliminate the dirt. Do not spit the oil out into the sink, as it can clog up. Best to spit oil out in the bin.
NOTE: Be careful if buying teeth whitening strips online. The US uses higher levels of hydrogen peroxide than is allowed in the EU. I found any of the American teeth-whitening strips I've used have made my teeth more sensitive.
MAKE-UP TRICKS FOR A BRIGHT SMILE
Flossing, brushing, regular dental visits and home whitening treatments are great for making your teeth look whiter and brighter, but some clever make-up can also help.
Choose the right shade of lipstick
Orange tones, such as peach, coral, and scarlet red, will only make stained teeth look more yellow; instead plump for a blue-based lipstick to make your teeth dazzle. Try cooler shades of pink, rose, mauve, plums, etc, which have blue undertones and generally avoid lipsticks with too much yellow in them.
Re-think the nude lip trend
Caramel toned lip-glosses might be en vogue, but they'll unfortunately emphasise any yellow/brown marks on your teeth. Instead, pick a rosy pink or clear gloss to remain natural, to keep teeth looking as white as possible.
Go easy on tanning
The oldest trick in the modelling handbook is that a tan will make your teeth look whiter, but the tone of your tan is really important. If your tan is too orange, it can reflect on your smile and make your pearly-whites look slightly tangoed. Go for a light bronzing gel on the face instead of full-on fake tan.
Make your eyes a focal point
Embracing defining colours for eyes can really make your eyes pop, and your teeth appear whiter as a result. Pretty eyes can also divert attention from the mouth.
A sweep of bronzer on your cheeks will really amplify your smile. Taupe-toned or matte colours really enhance the sparkle of your teeth.
A favourite with celebs, you can choose standard veneers, or the newest ultra-thin veneers that can be placed straight over the existing tooth, so there's no grinding down of the natural teeth. At MyDental, mydental.ie, conventional veneers are €450 per tooth and ultra-thin ones are €695.
NOTE: Veneers need to be replaced after 10 years.
If you fancy looking into veneers, but are put off by the cost - which can be up to €4,000 for a full set - clinics such as Dublin's Teeth Whitening Fairies may be some help with their clip-on veneers. This has been described as the dental version of hair extensions! You simply slide the clip-on veneers into your mouth above your real teeth for a perfected smile. It costs €300 for the top teeth, and €500 for both top and bottom sets. See teethwhiteningfairies.ie
If you're trying to run a plastic-free household, check out the bamboo toothbrush options at your local health food shop. Simply chuck in your brown bin after you're finished with them.
Ask the expert with Dr Richard Lee Kin
Dr Richard Lee Kin is a periodontist and owner of Mint Dental Clinic. He specialises in the treatment of gum disease and reconstructive surgery. See mintclinic.ie.
Top tips for dental and oral health?
* Most dentists agree that electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual brushes.
* Thoroughly brush your teeth twice a day for four minutes with a fluoride toothpaste.
* Clean between your teeth daily with interdental aids or floss.
* If your toothbrush is old and frayed, get a new one.
* Check with your dentist about the use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth, and about use of dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from decay.
* Limit consumption of sugary and acidic drinks and snacks - this includes so-called 'healthy' snacks such as fruit juices, fruit bars and muesli bars. This is just as important for tooth decay as the amount of sugar or acid the food contains.
* If you need to snack, eat 'tooth-friendly' foods such as cheese, nuts, apples, carrots and celery. Milk-based drinks are preferable and tap water is better still.
* Limit alcohol consumption and avoid smoking.
* Brush up on your brushing technique - how you brush your teeth is important, too. Incorrect brushing can lead to receding gums (which is irreversible) as well as gum disease.
* Visit your dentist regularly - everyone's needs are different, so have a chat to your dentist about how often you need to have your teeth checked by them based on the condition of your mouth, teeth and gums.
* Chew sugar-free gum after meals - chewing gum makes your mouth produce more saliva.
How can we best protect our enamel?
By avoiding foods that are known to cause a lot of damage. Sugary and hard foods, acidic fruits and beverages are among the most damaging to your tooth enamel. When those substances stick to your teeth and interact with bacteria in your mouth, acid is produced, which can damage your enamel. Avoid these foods when you can, and if you do consume them, remember to brush thoroughly afterwards. You can also protect your enamel by practising good oral hygiene habits, like regular brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and visiting your dental professional for regular professional cleanings.
How can we keep our smiles white as we age?
After a certain age, the ravages of time and lifestyles can affect our smiles dramatically. Whitening your teeth provides immediate benefits to help you look younger and feel more confident. It's best to start with a thorough cleaning with your dentist or hygienist to remove those stubborn extrinsic stains and to get correct advice on your toothbrush technique - one size does not fit all. Toothpastes are, in my opinion, effective dentifrices and are good at removing tooth deposits such as stains and plaque but claims that they whiten teeth should be objective. Today, tooth whitening procedures are very popular and safe, and can work very well but sometimes take longer and occasionally increase sensitivity. Whitening agents do not work on caps, crowns or fillings. If you've had some dental work done, you should speak with your dentist before you whiten your teeth to be sure the results will look uniform.
Can DIY whitening strips damage our teeth?
Be cautious of any DIY whitening, with no studies conducted, you don't know longterm what you may be doing.
Can you get braces at any age?
Technology has hugely improved the design of braces, and now the likes of Invisalign braces have resulted in more controlled, faster, less forceful orthodontic movement of teeth. As long as your teeth and gums are healthy there is no age limit to treatment. Faye Dunaway had them at the tender age of 61! These new braces, and others like them, are far more discreet than some of the older models, resulting in a surge of interest from adults. Among other options are ceramic braces which are clear and "tooth-coloured".
What are the common mistakes we make with dental care?
Recent research has found that we either spend too little time brushing or are brushing incorrectly. Most dental problems - such as poor diet, smoking or ill health - are self-inflicted but preventable. Prevention and early intervention are key. Early stages of gum disease and tooth decay can be treated relatively easily and successfully and it can save your precious smile. Visiting your dentist today could be the best investment you ever make.