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Source: Rizal Deathrasher

In general, a bright, white smile makes a good first impression. Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with a beaming set of pearly whites. If your teeth are a shade or two off from beaming, and you find yourself hiding behind your hands every time you smile, the tips below may help. Keep reading to learn the five best ways to achieve healthier, whiter teeth.

1. See Your Dentist

If you’re unsure about over-the-counter teeth whitening products (which is perfectly understandable), visiting your dentist is the best way to go. Not only can you be sure your teeth will be whitened in the safest way possible, you will also get it done in a shorter amount of time.

Today’s advanced technologies give dentists the ability to whiten patients’ teeth up to eight shades lighter in as little as just one visit. If you’d rather take things slow, most dentists also offer alternative whitening options, including take-home solutions. These may not work as quickly as the in-office whitening methods, but their lower intensity means they tend to cause less sensitivity.

2. Brush and Floss as Recommended

Don’t underestimate the power of good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing twice a day using a good toothpaste will remove the vast majority of the things that cause tooth discoloration. Follow brushing and flossing with an antibacterial mouthwash to ensure you eliminate all the germs that cause plaque.

Use a whitening toothpaste a couple times a week to remove surface stains while sticking to a regular fluoride toothpaste in between. Be sure to visit your dentist for regular cleanings as well to ensure your teeth are as healthy as they can be.

3. Avoid Stain-causing Food and Drinks

While it’s true that teeth yellow with age, consuming certain food and drinks can help the process along. Known teeth-staining culprits include dark berries, dark soda, coffee, tea, and red wine.

If you do consume these foods, be sure to brush your teeth as soon as possible afterward and use a straw when drinking to bypass contact with your teeth altogether. Lastly, try to avoid chewing tobacco and smoking if you can as these behaviors are known to cause tooth discoloration and other oral issues.

4. Brush with Baking Soda

While science hasn’t proven that brushing with baking soda significantly whitens teeth, many toothpastes include the ingredient because of its whitening and anti-bacterial properties.

Brush your teeth a few times a week using a paste of one-part baking soda to two parts water. The paste will be gritty, which helps brush away surface stains. Keep in mind that this method is not an overnight whitening treatment. However, you should notice a difference with regular use.

5. Add Hydrogen Peroxide to Your Dental Routine

Hydrogen peroxide has been used for years for its bacteria-fighting capabilities. As a dental aid, it’s highly effective as a bleaching agent. It’s important to note here, however, that peroxide may cause gum irritation if used in high concentrations.

To use hydrogen peroxide safely to whiten your teeth, dilute it with equal parts water and swish before brushing. Alternately, you can use equal parts peroxide and baking soda to form a paste to brush with. As with the baking soda, only use peroxide a few times a week for best results.

People take notice of a smile full of sparkling white teeth. The reality is, however, that many of us are unhappy with the color of our teeth. If this sounds familiar, speak with your dentist or use one (or all) of the tips listed above to achieve healthier, whiter teeth.