Similar to caring for aging skin, it's always best to take preventative measures with your teeth to avoid problems down the line — especially given the cost of dental care. To see what we can do to optimize our chances for healthy gums, mouth, and teeth, we spoke with New York-based cosmetic and restorative dentist Laura Torrado, D.D.S., F.A.G.D.
The Fashion Spot: What foods/drinks are best to avoid if you're looking to keep your teeth as white as possible?
Dr. Laura Torrado: While dark colored fruits and vegetables like berries and portobello mushrooms have a lot of antioxidants, they can cause discoloration of the teeth so it is important to make sure you brush after eating them. Red wine, coffees, and teas are the main offenders when it comes to drinks. Because what is getting stained is the existing plaque on your teeth, brushing before eating and drinking is very helpful to keep your smile as white as possible.
tFS: Do you have any suggestions for buying toothpaste? Floss?
LT: Toothpaste is simply a mild abrasive to remove the adhesive pellicle on your teeth that we call plaque. Any paste would basically get rid of plaque, but the one requirement to look for when purchasing toothpaste is that it contains fluoride to re-mineralize enamel.
Floss is just an aid to reach in between the teeth and clean where your toothbrush can’t reach so it is really a matter of preference in determining which type to buy; waxed, non waxed, minty, non flavored, they will all work the same. Waterpicks are also handy to remove inter-dental plaque.
tFS: Do you have any tips for buying at-home whitening kits?
LT: Over-the-counter bleaching kits contain a low concentration of peroxide as opposed to the ones you can purchase in the office so they are pretty mild and safe. At the same time, their low concentration makes it difficult to achieve great results, making them suitable just for a very subtle change in color.
tFS: Any other easy DIY things people can do to keep their teeth as white as possible?
LD: The old recipe of baking soda and peroxide always works. It will remove plaque and whiten at the same time. This is not something to be used all the time because of the lack of fluoride and abrasiveness but it's good to do in moderation. Despite what many people believe, eating lemons is not a good idea as they have citric acid that decalcifies your enamel.
tFS: Secrets for keeping breath as fresh as possible?
LD: Bad breath can stem from several places: gums and tongue, throat, lungs, and stomach. So just evaluate, are your gums healthy? When was the last time you got a professional cleaning? Do you maintain good home care? Is your throat aching? Is it possible that there is an underlying bacterial infection? Do you have acid reflux or other digestive problems? What kind of food have you been ingesting? For instance, spicy foods have essential oils that metabolize in the blood and the air exchange in your lungs at respiration will contain the smell of the spicy food.
tFS: How important is it too clean your tongue?
LD: It is very important because your tongue harbors bacteria, which produces sulfur compounds with the resulting malodor so brushing it helps prevent this.
tFS: Use fluoride mouthwash?
LD: Always! Although there is a debate with regards to what the safe level of fluoride content is; the amount in mouthwash is minimal and it is not for ingestion!
tFS: Any dietary tips to help ensure strong teeth?
LD: While growing up, intake of calcium and fluoride is important. As an adult, a well balanced diet will maintain the already calcified enamel, and keep the mouth cavity-free.