There is probably no one on this planet who doesn’t want whiter teeth. No wonder it’s the most popular desire of patients seeking to improve their smile, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Wanting whiter teeth isn’t asking for too much considering that the color of your teeth can impact your level of self-confidence.
There are many people who are exploring natural teeth-whitening options, and it doesn’t mean they can’t afford to go to the dentist. They probably don’t have the time or don’t like getting into the dentist’s chair. As you continue reading, you will learn about popular and proven ways to get whiter teeth, methods that don’t work, and what’s harmful to your teeth or oral health.
Proven Natural Teeth Whitening Methods
Teeth start to get yellow, brown, stained, or discolored due to age and poor oral hygiene. Other causes are plaque, tartar, foods containing dye, red wines, fruit juices, coffee, tobacco, and medication. Some foods that stain also cause the enamel of your teeth to wear away, making it more prone to yellowing. Once the stains set into the enamel, they are difficult to get rid of. Brush and floss all you like, these stains won’t budge!
Perhaps it’s time to try some home remedies. DIY teeth whitening using everyday products has been a thing for a long time. In fact, ancient cultures used fruits and plant parts to clean their teeth. You may also hear people say they use things such as baking soda and charcoal. The question is, do they work? Here are some common natural methods that prove to be effective, especially for surface stains:
Regular Brushing and Flossing
What better way to start your new teeth whitening regimen than to cultivate a habit of brushing and flossing every day? Besides helping to prevent cavity and keeping your gum healthy, brushing at least twice a day helps to keep your teeth clean and bright.
For one, daily oral care will remove plaque that makes your teeth appear off white and stains from foods or beverages you consumed that day. Fluoride toothpaste also contains a light abrasive substance that helps buff away superficial stains from the teeth.
Avoid Foods and Beverages that Stain
A good way to keep your teeth sparkling white is to avoid foods and beverages that are infamous for staining the teeth enamel. Known offenders are dark berries, curry, soy sauce, tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, fruit juices, red wine, tea, coffee, and soda.
If you do consume these offending foods or drinks, be sure to rinse your mouth with water afterward. This will help prevent staining. It’s also okay to brush. Just wait for 30 minutes before you do so to protect the teeth enamel. Remember you can still enjoy fruits such as apples, strawberries, and pineapples that may help keep your teeth bright by cleaning away bacteria.
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, seems to be a versatile household product that is used for baking, cleaning, and eliminating odors. Various toothpastes and teeth-whitening products also contain baking soda. Some individuals prefer to make a paste using equal parts of baking soda and water and use it to brush their teeth.
Studies find that baking soda works well to remove surface stains that taint the natural color of your teeth. Sodium bicarbonate is a chemical compound that has a mild abrasive action. This makes it effective for scrubbing away teeth stains and making the teeth look whiter over time. Baking soda also reduces bacteria in the mouth that causes plaque.
Oil pulling is a traditional practice of the Ayurvedic culture. It involves squishing coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil around in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes to “pull out” oral bacteria. Bacterial activity in the mouth causes plaque to develop and tarnish the natural white color of your teeth.
When it comes to the choice of oil, a lot of people prefer coconut oil because of its pleasant taste. Coconut oil also contains high levels of lauric acid, a substance that kills bacteria and reduces inflammation. So besides reducing bacteria and plaque, coconut oil may also help prevent gingivitis and gum disease.
However, there is no scientific research that confirms that oil pulling can effectively whiten teeth.
Hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent that has been used for years for wound treatment and to kill bacteria. 3% hydrogen peroxide solution is most commonly sold at drugstores. There are also commercial whitening products and toothpaste that contain hydrogen peroxide.
One study finds that painting a 6% hydrogen peroxide gel on the teeth makes the teeth appear whiter after two weeks. Another study concluded that brushing with a commercial toothpaste containing peroxide and baking soda twice per day whitened the teeth by 62% in 6 weeks. Nevertheless, experts recommend using a 1.5% or 3% solution to avoid irritating the gum.
Regular Dental Checkups
While you consider these natural home teeth-whitening options, don’t forget that an excellent way to achieve a stain-free smile is by visiting your dentist regularly. Your dentist can deep clean your teeth to get rid of stubborn or intrinsic stains that remain even after you try at-home remedies.
You can even ask your dentist what home therapies are safe and which ones are harmful. Many dental clinics also offer teeth whitening services to clients who wish to brighten their smiles with a professional touch. These services are especially beneficial to patients with dentures, dental implants, crowns, and porcelain veneers. Teeth with these cosmetic treatments do not usually respond to natural methods.
Unproven Natural Teeth Whitening Methods
Many people make the mistake of trying natural teeth whitening methods that don’t work as they seek a cleaner and whiter smile. Here are some methods that are not supported by adequate scientific evidence. In some cases, their safety and efficacy were not tested or are questionable:
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV): Apple cider vinegar has the potential to remove bacteria that tarnish the natural color of your teeth. Some people mix a ½ spoonful of vinegar with one cup of water and rub the mixture on their teeth every day before bedtime. However, there is no scientific evidence that using ACV helps to whiten teeth. Instead, the acid it contains will only weaken the enamel and encourage tooth decay. Those who swear by apple cider vinegar try to avoid the risk by applying ACV solution or an apple cider vinegar and baking soda paste once per week.
- Fruit peels. There are claims that rubbing lemon, orange, or banana peels on your teeth for about two minutes daily can make them appear whiter. There is a belief that a compound called d-limonene and/or citric acid found in these fruits acts as a natural whitening agent. To date, there are no studies that confirm these claims.
- Kaolin clay: Proponents of this method claim that brushing with kaolin clay helps remove stains from teeth. The clay provides a soft, gentle abrasive action that polishes the teeth and may lighten stains. But there aren’t any trusted studies to back up the teeth whitening claims.
- Activated charcoal: This product is widely available on the market and is believed to have the ability to remove oral bacteria and toxins as well as tooth stains. Activated charcoal is also found in toothpastes that that can supposedly whiten teeth. Although some studies were done to test it as a teeth whitening agent, more studies are needed to confirm its safety and effectiveness. Some researchers say activate charcoal is too abrasive for the teeth and gum and can lead to loss of tooth structure.
- Turmeric: Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a traditional spice in India and is known for its culinary flavors. Some people also believe the active ingredient curcumin can whiten teeth. A common practice is to dab a wet toothbrush over turmeric powder and then brush the teeth. Although there is anecdotal evidence that it can whiten teeth, turmeric is not considered a proven alternative to cosmetic teeth whitening treatments. However, research does suggest that turmeric may reduce gingivitis and gum disease because of its anti-inflammatory effects.
How Long Does Natural Whitening Take?
The length of time it takes to whiten your teeth using natural methods will depend on the product you use and the severity of the stains or discoloration. For example, applying baking soda paste on the teeth for two minutes a few times a week can yield results within several weeks. The whitening effect is greater with higher concentrations of baking soda.
When it comes to hydrogen peroxide, teeth may appear whiter in a few days if the solution is applied to the surface of teeth 30 seconds before brushing teeth. The solution should be applied one time a day for a few days. Hydrogen peroxide may also be used as a rinse or a paste mixed with baking soda. One study found that a commercial mouthwash containing 1.5% hydrogen peroxide whiten the teeth after 4 weeks.
One thing to keep in mind is natural at-home treatments may not work for deep enamel stains such as those caused by genetics or trauma to the teeth. In addition to using home teeth whitening products, you still need to continue brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing to prevent issues such as plaque buildup or cavities.
Are Any Of These Natural Methods Harmful?
As you attempt to whiten your smile, you should know that just because a method is natural it doesn’t mean it’s healthy or safe. Try to get as much information as you can online or by talking to your dentist. Here are examples of natural teeth-whitening strategies that are considered harmful:
- Brushing with activated charcoal (causes gum irritation)
- Rubbing the teeth with lemons or oranges (erodes the enamel)
- Rinsing or brushing with apple cider vinegar (overuse damages the enamel)
Fruits such as lemon and oranges contain naturally acidic ingredients that may wear away your tooth’s enamel or cause other types of serious damage. It may also make your teeth sensitive. There is even a study in Operative Dentistry which finds that brushing with a mixture of fruit juices and baking soda has no whitening effects.
To avoid harm or any potential problems, some people prefer to stay away from home remedies. Besides, studies either conflict or aren’t enough to make a conclusion on the safety and effectiveness of natural remedies such as fruits or hydrogen peroxide. For example, the American Dental Association says swishing with peroxide may irritate the gums before it whitens the teeth.
There’s also concern that the overuse of peroxide will erode tooth enamel. But how much is too much or too little? The primary problem with the safe usage of certain natural teeth whitening products is a misapplication. Using the wrong mixture or formula or using a product too frequently creates a real risk of damage to the teeth and gum.
Erring on the side of caution and opting for a professional teeth whitening procedure may be a safer way to enhance the appearance of your teeth.
Bring It All Together
While it’s normal to stress over the color of your teeth, it can be relieving to learn that only a small perecentage of adults maintain naturally white teeth as they age. However, you can keep your smile bright by making simple diet or lifestyle changes as well as using home remedies that work and are not harmful.
The proven natural teeth whitening methods may be a good starting point, particularly if you’re not into drugstore teeth whitening strips, whitening gels, or whitening toothpastes. You should still continue to visit your dentist for exams and cleanings to keep your teeth sparkly clean.
Your dentist may even recommend professional teeth whitening to remove deep stains that cannot be removed using natural home remedies. Whitening procedures by your dentist can be done chairside or at home using a professional teeth whitening kit.