Flashing a big smile is easy. Getting teeth to be bright and white can be a challenge. Many Iowans are experimenting with home remedies and store-bought whiteners in order to get pearly whites. Dr. Ed Schooley, dental director of Delta Dental of Iowa, says to steer clear of anything that’s not directly recommended by your own dentist.

“You have to watch out for anything you buy over the counter and take home that doesn’t come with professional advice,” Schooley says. “If the teeth become sensitive using these bleaching agents, I would certainly abandon their use right away.”

A variety of toothpastes now claim to have teeth-whitening properties but Schooley says that’s more of an advertising technique. “You might get an extra shade out of them,” Schooley says. “When you think about the toothpastes, they can only eliminate some of the extrinsic stains, the stains on the outside of the teeth that we get from drinking coffee or the cola drinks.”

He says it makes more sense to be wary of what you consume to avoid getting the stains on your teeth in the first place. “Certainly it’s going to be coffee, even tea, all of the cola drinks, chocolate actually because the cocoa really contributes to (staining),” Schooley says. “As long as we moderate our use of those and have good hygiene habits, we should be okay.”

He say optimum whitening depends on the use of a custom-made bleaching tray, which only a dentist can fit properly. Also, without supervision, the chemicals can aggravate sensitive teeth and gums or damage existing dental work, like fillings and crowns. For more information on oral health, visit: www.deltadentalia.com