I have recently quit smoking but my teeth are quite yellow. Will whitening toothpastes help?

Teeth generally stain over a period of time and appear darker as we age. The outer layer gets stained by smoking, drinking tea or coffee and from certain fruit drinks like grape juice.

Whitening toothpastes can generally remove only minor stains from the external surface of the teeth. They cannot change the colour. These toothpastes contain some abrasive particles that help in physically scrubbing away minor stains. But they don’t work on major ones.

You should only use whitening toothpaste occasionally as overuse can lead to the erosion of protective enamel. In the long term, this can cause the teeth to appear dull and lacklustre.

The best way to remove stains is to visit a dentist or a hygienist for a professional cleaning and polishing. Using ultrasonic scalers and specialised polishing paste, they can remove all the stains safely and effectively, restoring your teeth to their original colour.

However, if you want to whiten your teeth, you’ll need a whitening procedure. This involves applying whitening gels that can leave your teeth between three to eight shades lighter. It can be done in the clinic or the dentist could make impressions of your teeth to give you custom-made bleaching trays and whitening gels to use at home. The gels dispensed by dentists are approved by the American Dental Association and certified safe to use.

There are many over-the-counter whitening gels and trays, but you need to be careful as in many instances, they can cause more harm than good. They are not custom-made, and the gels may leak on to your gums, causing chemical burns.