Blindingly white teeth have become an American trademark and countries around the world marvel at our bright smiles. From your local newscaster to the current biggest starlet in Hollywood, everyone has a perfectly beaming white smile. Now that television and movies are in striking high definition, we are bombarded with images of perfectly neon white teeth everywhere we look. This trend started around the early 2000s and had recently spanned into a multi-billion dollar global industry of teeth-whitening products and services. Everyone is looking for the perfect way to get an impossibly white smile while trying various at-home products, as well as in-office whitening.
Despite a plethora of products on the market, some people want to use natural methods for whitening their teeth without involving harsh chemicals or whitening agents that could cause undesirable side-effects. People have been testing out these natural treatments for some time now, but how effective are they? It seems that with every natural method, there are also some caveats to keep in mind. So make sure to do your research before you try any of these holistic techniques.
- Baking Soda
Brushing your teeth with baking soda has been a go-to method for decades, often a life-hack you can find in any beauty or health magazine. Since baking soda is a popular ingredient in many commercial types of toothpaste, it seems like it could be a good idea to try at home. Along with its whitening properties, it can also help neutralize the acidity in your mouth, preventing bacteria and buildup, which is a major plus.
The typical recipe for baking soda paste is 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 2 teaspoons of water.
While brushing your teeth with water and baking soda won’t whiten them immediately, it can significantly help reduce superficial staining on the teeth caused by coffee, wine, and smoking. However, it won’t whiten the inner core of the teeth, as a professional grade whitening system does. So don’t expect a huge change. Also, make sure you are not brushing with pure baking soda too hard and too often. Only do it a couple of times a week. The grainy texture can wear away at your enamel, causing more significant problems than yellow teeth!
- Oil Pulling
There has been a lot of talk about oil pulling within the past decade, especially with the big “all natural” trend of self-care. However, oil pulling is a traditional Ayurvedic method that is centuries old! It has been historically used to help remove toxins from the body by swishing oil in the mouth to remove bacteria. Previously, sunflower and sesame oils were used to do this, but any oil will work. A popular oil people use today is coconut oil because it has a pleasant smell and taste, making it easier to swish in your mouth for 10-15 minutes a day. Another benefit of using coconut oil is that it contains lauric acid, known to reduce inflammation and eliminate bacteria.
Some studies have shown that sesame oil is effective in reducing bacteria in the mouth, especially Streptococcus mutans, one of the types that can cause plaque and gingivitis. While there are no studies that prove oil pulling can make your teeth whiter, the bacteria-killing benefits make this method worth a try.
To try pulling oil, put 1 tablespoon of coconut oil (or your oil of choice) in your mouth and swish it around like you would mouthwash. Make sure the oil is at room temperature. Swish for up to 20 minutes (if you can handle it) and spit the oil out when you are done.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV has many holistic uses, and many people swear by it. Some use it to help control their heartburn, their diets, and even skin irritations and inflammation. It’s been used as a disinfectant for centuries and can also be a useful cleaning product. It contains acetic acid which is great for killing bacteria and is the reason why it can be useful for whitening your teeth.
Studies that have been conducted using ACV do claim that it can help whiten and brighten teeth, however at a significant cost of softening tooth enamel. The acetic acid in ACV is too hard to use frequently on teeth, which is why this method is only recommended for once-a-week use.
To try the ACV rinse, dilute half a cup with water and rinse several times.
- Hydrogen Peroxide
Many people use hydrogen peroxide on wounds due to its disinfectant properties. It’s also used in things like hair dye because it has bleaching agents. Many whitening products you can buy at the drugstore contain concentrated amounts of hydrogen peroxide, but much more than you will be using at home. There is even commercial-grade toothpaste that contains 1% baking soda and hydrogen peroxide that has performed well in whitening tests.
However, there is no evidence that simply rinsing with hydrogen peroxide will help whiten teeth. Furthermore, there are worries about the safety of using hydrogen peroxide orally, even when diluted. If overused, it can use gum inflammation and heightened tooth sensitivity. Some even fear that it could cause cancer, though it has not been confirmed.
To try this method, mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water. You can use this as mouthwash or mix it with baking soda to create a paste and gently brush your teeth with it. As with ACV, don’t use this method too often as it can erode your tooth enamel, potentially causing major problems.
The best way to keep your teeth white is to avoid staining them with food and drink that is notorious for causing yellowing like coffee, soda, red wine, and dark berries. You don’t have to cut them out completely, but avoid them if you are concerned. Brush your teeth an hour after consuming any of these, to limit their staining effects. If you have questions or concerns about these home remedies, speak with your hygienist about their safety and if they would be good for your personal oral health.