Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction
May 20th, 2021
When it comes to teeth whitening, you may see many different methods featured online and in magazines—from oil pulling to charcoal, and even turmeric. It's no surprise that DIY whitening is top of mind, either. When the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry asked people what they’d most like to improve their smile, the most common response was whiter teeth.
Healthy smiles come in many shades, though it's tempting to think ingredients in our own kitchens could hold the key to a brighter smile. Still, just because a method is natural doesn’t mean it’s healthy. In fact, DIY whitening can do more harm than good to your teeth. Here’s how:
The approach maintains you can make your teeth whiter and brighter using household staples that are naturally acidic (like lemons, oranges, apple cider vinegar), contain digestive enzymes (such as pineapple or mango) and something that is abrasive (like baking soda).
When eaten as usual, fruit is a great choice. However, fruit and vinegar contain acid, and you put your pearly whites at risk when you prolong their contact with your teeth or use them to scrub your teeth because acid can wear away your enamel. Enamel is the thin outer coating of your teeth that protects you from tooth sensitivity and cavities.
These methods claim that scrubbing your teeth with ingredients like activated charcoal or a baking soda-hydrogen peroxide paste will bring a shine back to your smile.
There is no evidence that shows dental products with charcoal are safe or effective for your teeth, according to the September 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.
Also, using materials that are too abrasive on your teeth can actually make them look more yellow. Enamel is what you’re looking to whiten, but if you’re using a scrub that is too rough, you can actually wear it away. When that happens, the next layer of your tooth can become exposed – a softer, yellow tissue called dentin.
Spices and Oils
Swishing oils like coconut oil in your mouth (oil pulling) or using spices like turmeric can help whiten your teeth.
There is no reliable scientific evidence to show oil pulling or turmeric whitens teeth. Save the oil and spices for healthy meals instead.
Still Interested in Whitening?
The best natural ways to keep your teeth white are everyday healthy habits, including:
- Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes
- Use a whitening toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance
- Cleaning between your teeth once a day
- Limiting foods that stain your teeth, like coffee, tea and red wine
- Not smoking or using tobacco
- Regular visits to your dentist for checkups and cleanings
If you want to try a specific whitening product or service, just talk to Dr. Johnson or your general dentist before you begin. There are at-home bleaching options that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which means they’ve been tested to be safe and effective for your teeth.
Whitening may not work on all teeth, and if you are a candidate, some methods—whether at-home or in the dental office—may be better for your teeth than others.