Whenever we turn on a television, flip open a magazine, or log onto our favorite social media channel, we’re bombarded with images of celebrities with brilliant white teeth. They give the impression that if we flipped off the lights their smiles would still glow in the dark. Obviously, these people have spent more than a little time in the dentist’s chair to get their neon white toothy grins, but what if you don’t want to go in for dental bleaching or other professional procedures? What can you do at home to naturally whiten your teeth?
REASONS YOUR TEETH MAY BE YELLOWING
There are many reasons why teeth become yellow. Here are a few of the main ones:
Aging: The outer layer of teeth, known as enamel, tends to weaken with age.
Acidic Foods: Eating highly acidic foods or beverages like soda, processed foods, candies or other sweets can reduce the amount of enamel on your teeth over time.
Antibiotics: Extensive or ongoing use of antibiotics can cause discoloration of the teeth.
Cigarette Smoking: Smoking turns teeth yellow so if you haven’t quit yet, it might be time to do so.
Coffee or Tea: While we may love these beverages and reap their energy-boosting and other health benefits, the reality is that they can stain our teeth. Cut back on coffee or tea.
Fluoride Excess: While our bodies need tiny amounts of fluoride, the amount most of us get in our water and toothpaste is excessive and can damage tooth enamel.
Gum Disease: Bacteria in your mouth can wear down tooth enamel.
Red Wine: The tannins in red wine can stain teeth.
WAYS TO NATURALLY WHITEN YOUR TEETH
From hydrogen peroxide to baking soda, to oil pulling, what are the best ways to naturally whiten your teeth? Let’s explore the options:
Reduce or Avoiding Tooth-Staining Habits: Cut back on sodas, processed foods, and sweets. Sugar has been shown in the Journal of Dental Research to contribute to the growth of Streptococcus mutans, which can damage tooth enamel. Only use antibiotics when prescribed by your doctor (and don’t use them if you have a virus as they only work on bacteria). Quit smoking and cut back on coffee, tea, or red wine. You can also drink your cold coffee or tea beverages through a metal or glass straw, which helps to reduce exposure.
Activated Charcoal: While the internet is full of claims that activated charcoal whitens teeth, there is no research at this time to support the claim. So, if you choose this method of applying ground, activated charcoal to teeth, and letting it sit for several minutes a day, do so at your own risk.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Research in the Journal of Sichuan University in China found that apple cider vinegar was effective at reducing dental discoloration; however, it can also soften teeth if excessively used. So, it is best to use it as a mouthwash only on occasion.
Baking Soda: Brush your teeth with baking soda. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry found that using a toothpaste with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide noticeably whitened teeth after 6 weeks. Add a drop of peppermint essential oil (make sure the one you use is suitable for internal use) to freshen breath.
Brush and Floss Regularly: Brush after meals and snacks and start flossing daily to prevent bacteria from building up and damaging enamel.
Filter Your Water: While I’m not aware of any research that shows filtered water whitens teeth, getting the excess fluoride out of your water will help to keep tooth enamel stronger. And, when tooth enamel is stronger, teeth remain whiter. While you’re at it, you might want to switch to natural toothpaste that is free of fluoride.
Hydrogen Peroxide: Some people recommend hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth. While hydrogen peroxide has a bleaching effect on some surfaces, and also has antibacterial properties, the approach hasn’t been subjected to much research. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry found that using a toothpaste with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide noticeably whitened teeth after 6 weeks. Be careful if you use hydrogen peroxide as there are potential safety hazards. Be sure to use heavily diluted hydrogen peroxide to avoid burning your skin or gums. The safest way to use it is as a mouthwash in a 1.5% or 3.% dilution. Be sure the product you select is suitable for oral use.
Kaolin Clay: While some internet sources claim that kaolin clay whitens teeth, there isn’t any research demonstrating its purported effectiveness.
Oil Pulling: An ancient oral health practice in the Ayurvedic tradition of medicine in India, many people swear by oil pulling and its ability to whiten teeth and improve oral health. While sesame oil is traditionally used, coconut oil contains lauric acid and has antibacterial properties. Just use one tablespoon of oil and swish it around in your mouth for about 10 minutes at a time, on a daily basis. Because excessive oil can clog drains and contribute to sewer “fatbergs” it is best to spit the oil into a trash can.
Pineapple: Some people claim that eating more pineapple or applying pineapple to your teeth can help whiten them due to the enzymes known as bromelain found in raw pineapple. One study found that the combination of bromelain and papain from papaya, applied to the teeth, was effective at reducing discoloration. More research is needed to prove this approach.