Your teeth can easily dull and discolor as you age, especially if you have a habit of eating and drinking foods that stain tooth enamel and allow plaque to buildup on the tooth’s surface. Another common discoloring mechanism is eroded enamel, which leaves the naturally yellowish dentin to become visible in your smile. Such staining issues can be treated with a combination of whitening remedies and regular cleanings.
Teeth-whitening is an $11 billion dollar industry in America. Of that, around 1.4 billion is in the form of DIY whitening products. The choices may look simple and harmless, but you should look at the product’s packaging for its main ingredients. You’ll likely find the whitening agent to be bleaching chemicals, which can cause tooth sensitivity, irritated and receding gums, and erosion. Overuse can even cause the teeth to look brittle, chalky, and/or translucent.
However, you can get a whiter appearance without such sacrifices to your dental health. Here are a few natural and safe tooth whitening options that nix bleaching.
Five Natural And Safe Alternatives To DIY Bleaching
1. Oil Pulling
This ancient Ayurvedic remedy comes from India and is said to improve oral health, freshen breath, remove toxins, and make your smile more white. Your mouth contains hundreds of harmful and helpful bacteria strains. The harmful bacteria is a major contributor to gum disease and tooth decay, which can leave a yellowing smile.
Oil pulling is designed to lessen the number of bad bacteria. While not scientifically proven, regular oil pulling users commonly claim to have whiter and brighter smiles.
You can use sunflower, sesame, or coconut oil. Many prefer the latter due to its pleasant taste and lauric acid content. You’ll put one tbsp of your preferred oil in your mouth. Swish it for 15 to 20 minutes before spitting into the trash. Repeat daily. Remember that coconut oil solidifies at room temp, which could result in a clog if spit down the drain.
2. Baking Soda
You’ve likely noticed that baking soda is a common ingredient in many commercial toothpastes. It’s mild abrasive consistency makes it ideal for softly scrubbing away surface stains and plaque without damaging enamel, and it’s an alkaline that helps prevent bad bacteria from growing.
You’ll need to be patient, though. This whitening remedy isn’t as immediate as bleaching, but it’s a lot safer and healthier.
Studies show that commercial baking soda toothpastes are quite effective. You can also make your own by combining one part baking soda to two parts water. Speak with your dentist about how often you should use a baking soda toothpaste. A common recommendation is to alternate a baking soda toothpaste and a fluoride toothpaste for each brushing.
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide has a long history of killing bacteria, and it’s a natural bleaching agent. Looking at commercial whitening products, you’ll notice that many actually contain hydrogen peroxide. Studies have found that toothpastes with both baking soda and 1% hydrogen peroxide can significantly whiten teeth over time.
The problem with commercial whitening products is that many use concentrations that could be unsafe and harmful, particularly with regular and prolonged use. Tooth sensitivity and gum irritation are two common complaints. Plus, these products are often combined with other questionable bleaching ingredients.
It’s a much healthier and safer option to dilute 3% hydrogen peroxide at home for a toothpaste or mouthwash. Just make a solution of half hydrogen peroxide and half water, which equals a 1.5% solution. For toothpaste, combine two tsps of hydrogen peroxide with one tsp of baking soda.
The key here is to not overuse the solution, which can be erosive. Speak with your dentist for recommendations. A couple of times per week is generally considered safe.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Thanks to its acetic acid content, apple cider vinegar has been used as a natural disinfectant for centuries. It’s one of the best cleaning products for your home, and it also makes for a great natural cleaning and whitening product for your teeth.
One study on animals showed that apple cider vinegar has a bleaching effect. Yet, by being an acid, you must be cautious that overuse doesn’t soften the tooth’s surface and erode enamel. Again, consult your dentist for specific usage instructions, but a couple of times per week is generally considered safe.
You’ll also want to limit the amount of time the acid is in contact with your mouth. Make a half-and-half solution of apple cider vinegar and water. Swish throughout, spit, and rinse with clean water.
Eating raw fruits and veggies is a great way to rub plaque off the tooth’s surface as you chew. You can also make a toothpaste out of certain fruits. Strawberries have malic acid that naturally removes tooth discoloring. Mix a puréed strawberry with a tsp of baking soda to exfoliate and buff away stains. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is also commonly found in commercial toothpastes. You can mix a puréed slice of pineapple with baking soda, too. In either case, be sure to rinse well after brushing and limit use to only a couple of times per week.
The best way to whiten is to prevent stains before they happen and to not do anything counterproductive to the above natural whitening methods. This includes:
– Brush and floss regularly, including after meals.
– Keep regular cleaning and checkup appointments at your dentist’s office.
– Limit your consumption of staining substances like tea, red wine, coffee, and soda.
– Avoid tobacco use.
– Limit dietary sugar to mitigate bad bacteria growth, and always brush your teeth after eating sugary, sticky items.
– Strengthen tooth enamel by getting plenty of dietary calcium.
– Always speak to your dentist before using unproven and/or questionable whitening methods like activated charcoal, kaolin clay, fruits peels, and bleaching agents that could compromise the integrity of your oral health.
In closing, there are quite a few natural, safe alternatives to commercial whitening products. If you’re looking for something stronger than these remedies, then it’s best to speak with your dentist. Professional whitening treatments are available, and your dentist can help you determine if it’s the right choice for your desired outcome and overall oral health.