Ever since my braces came off when I was fifteen, I have been fairly meticulous about caring for my teeth though I admit to falling off the flossing wagon every so often. This is largely motivated by a desire to avoid my dentist's tools of horror; I didn't lose any teeth when I was fitted for braces, I don't have any fillings, my wisdom teeth lie dormant, and this is how I like it. In fact, I get a little paranoid about my oral health sometimes, cornering my mother at the most inopportune moments to have her examine my teeth for signs of decay. Not too long ago, I woke up in a panic from a dream where my molars had rotted away, leaving nothing but cobwebby nerve endings peppered with black spots that resembled dragonfruit seeds. I carried that nightmare with me for weeks after.
When I started my first job, I realized how essential coffee breaks were to a worker. I was already a moderate coffee drinker, but I now upped my daily dose because I was often cold, bored and sleepy at work. My supervisor H. was a darling newly-minted PhD in her late thirties and a fellow coffee junkie. She had just returned to Taiwan after spending twelve years in London, bringing back with her a British accent and what appeared to be very British teeth that seemed out of place in her Chinese Snow White face. A front tooth was blackened; dead to the world, H. explained, after someone had accidentally hit her in the mouth with a "brolly".
One day, after a trip to the dentist, H. had a question for me. "You know, you have really white teeth for a coffee drinker. How do you do it?"
"I-I- do?" I squeaked. My teeth were healthy, but they were more yellowed ivory than white.
"Yes. You know, my teeth used to be as white as yours. Then I embarked on my PhD studies and began to drink several cups of coffee a day."
I looked at the mouth from which those words were originating. I caught another glimpse of her teeth. Alarm bells went off in my head. That very evening, on my way home from work, I ransacked a Watson's store in search of a whitening toothpaste and obsessively monitored the colour of my teeth for months.
As far as tooth-whiteners are concerned, Malaysian consumers don't have much to choose from although every other tube of toothpaste claims that it has "whitening" properties. I've used whitening toothpastes from Colgate and Darlie, but I seem to have the greatest success with Australia's Pearl Drops Whitening toothpaste.
After using it for about a month, the stains on my teeth were noticeably (but not dramatically) lightened. Some whitening toothpastes don't foam well and have a harsh, abrasive feel to them, but Pearl Drops froths and cleanses like regular toothpaste. Like all whitening products, do not expect a miracle. The fluorescent chops celebrities sport in magazines are veneers or the handiwork of expensive designer dentists in New York and Malibu who use potent bleaching gels and even X-rays to whiten teeth. Pearls Drops retails for around AUD$4.00 in its native Australia, but at RM16.90 in Malaysia, it's still pricier than what we are used to paying for toothpaste here.
Pearl Drops is available in pharmacies and supermarkets in most Malaysian cities. If I can find mine in the Jusco supermarket here in Ipoh, you'll be able to get some wherever you're living.