Natural teeth whitening is a chemical-free way of improving the color of your teeth. There are plenty of herbal remedies to naturally get a brighter smile. They are not only safe but also good for your overall health too. They are worth a try in case you have sensitive teeth or gums or are allergic to peroxide-based chemicals. Research shows certain fruit extracts are effective against stains and minor tooth discoloration but they do not promise 100% results.
6 DIY natural teeth whitening tips: the good and the bad
There are many reasons why the natural color of your teeth may fade over time. Smoking, alcohol, poor dental hygiene, unhealthy diet, and acidic foods are some of the common reasons leading to the discoloration of teeth. As we age, we start to lose the natural color of our teeth because of everyday wear and tear. If you are currently facing this problem, you are probably thinking about a solution. At the same time, their efficacy is debatable and they do not promise desired results.
- Oil pulling with natural oils
- Use baking soda and lemon
- Avoid stain-inducing and sugary foods
- Avoid smoking and alcohol
- Hydrate for healthy gums and teeth
- Add fruits, and veggies to your diet
Oil pulling with natural oils: YES
Many people from the field of alternative medicine rave about the method of oil pulling for teeth whitening and cleaning. Introduced to the world by Ayurvedic medicine in India, it is fast gaining popularity in the world of herbal remedies for whiter teeth. It allegedly removes ‘ama’ substances from the mouth which refers to toxin accumulation in the mouth. Oil pulling is possible by using several edible oils including coconut, sesame seed, and sunflower oils. The way to do oil pulling at home involves taking less than half a cup of oil and rinsing with it for at least 5-10 minutes. Not only for whitening, but this method is allegedly also good for getting rid of bacteria and bad breath, preventing gum disease, cavities, and even cardiovascular diseases. Here’s a demonstrative video to show you how to do oil pulling at home. Make sure to discuss this with your dentist before using it because your teeth may aggravate further if they have too many issues.
Word of caution when using coconut oil: There is not enough evidence to conclude that coconut oil whitens teeth but certain sources mention that it contains antimicrobial properties. What that essentially means is that it kills the bacteria in your mouth and it results in multiple improvements. It works against tooth decay, bad breath as well as gum disease. Therefore, since it is completely natural, there is no harm in trying it. However, natural ingredients take time to work so you may not see results immediately. Furthermore, we recommend you first consult your dentist to make sure you are not allergic to it or in case you have sensitive teeth.
Use baking soda and lemon: NO
Baking soda is a fairly popular remedy known to visibly brighten the surface of teeth. It is easily accessible at home and does not cost an arm and a leg too. The only problem is that it only works on light stains and slight discoloration. The combination of baking soda and lemon balances out the high ph levels of lemon juice and together form a neutralized solution.
Sodium bicarbonate or baking soda is one of the most popular whitening remedies. However, studies suggest that if left for a long time or with repetitive use, it can damage the enamel as well. When that happens, there is an exposure of dentin making the tooth further vulnerable to problems. Ideally, baking soda must not be left for more than 2 minutes on your teeth. It minimizes the risk of gum irritation, dental erosion, and sensitivity. On the other hand, if you wear braces or permanent retainers, baking soda poses the risk of damaging the dental glue. Therefore, we advise you to be careful when using baking soda and make sure you do not go overboard.
Citric acid is known for its brightening effect on skin and teeth. However, at the same time, if you leave it for a long time on your teeth, you can do more damage than good. If left for more than 2 to 5 minutes, there is a chance for you to develop gum irritation and sensitivity issues. Dilution of citric acid is also important to minimize the chances of any damage. Therefore, caution is necessary if you want to use this ingredient to whiten your teeth.
Avoid stain-inducing and sugary foods
To prevent stains and discoloration, it is crucial to avoid certain foods and drinks. If it is impossible to avoid, limiting their use helps teeth to be stain free. The first and foremost culprit behind surface stains and discoloration is caffeine. We recommend taking not more than 2 cups of coffee or tea in a day to preserve the natural shade of your natural tooth. Apart from caffeine, try to limit your intake of citrusy foods, such as lemon, and grapefruits. Moreover, try to avoid consuming fruit juices made of these fruits along with fruits such as blackberries, and cranberries because they have dark pigmentation. Other stain-inducing foods and beverages include tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, red wine, cola, soy sauce, beetroot, etc.
Stick to proper oral hygiene
The most basic and most important part of preventing oral problems is a consistent dental care regimen. If you follow a proper oral hygiene routine every day, your teeth appear bright and clean. The basic oral hygiene habits include brushing and rinsing your teeth after your main meals, flossing, and visiting your dentist every month. This way you avoid stain-inducing substances from sticking to your teeth and turning into plaque. In the long run, a lack of oral hygiene leads to an array of problems, such as tooth decay, stains, and gum disease. These issues eventually affect the color of your teeth and lead to mild or extreme discoloration.
Avoid smoking and alcohol
We already know consumption of alcohol and cigarettes leads to many serious health problems. At the same time, many oral issues occur because of smoking and alcohol including oral cancer, periodontal disease, and tooth loss. In a study, smokers and non-smokers were assessed to check dental discoloration levels. The results suggest that smoking indeed discolors teeth and upon assessing, smokers are also not satisfied with the esthetics of their teeth.
Hydrate for healthy gums and teeth
Hydration not only boosts your overall well-being but is also known to improve your oral health. It may not be the solution but it helps in the prevention of many dental issues including dry gums, periodontal disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss. These issues ultimately lead to the discoloration of teeth and this is why we say hydration is an important element. At least 7-8 glasses of water are essential to keep your gums in good health and for the improvement of overall oral health. Many studies on this subject suggest that dehydration makes teeth more vulnerable to periodontal disease and discoloration.
Add fruits, and veggies to your diet
Fruits are great for vitality, well-being, and even dental health. Certain fruits contain compounds and enzymes specifically good for white teeth. Research suggests that certain fruits and veggies such as strawberries, plums, celery, carrots, papaya, and pineapples increase saliva production. More saliva production means more self-cleaning of the mouth, ultimately leading to a natural cleansing of the mouth and teeth. Saliva protects the enamel from breaking down and losing the natural color of teeth. We talk about these foods more in detail in the next part of this article.
Best natural teeth whitening foods
As important as it is to know about the ways of naturally whitening your teeth, it is just as important to know what foods to consume. If you add these foods to your diet, your teeth are less likely to lose their original color. Staying close to nature offers many benefits and one of them is to have naturally less stained teeth and attractive teeth. Here is a list of foods we recommend you add to your diet to preserve the natural shade of your pearlies:
According to studies, strawberries contain enzymes called Ellagic acid, malic acid, and naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide. With the application of strawberries on teeth, ellagic acid penetrates the enamel and lightens the teeth. As a result, the teeth appear bright, clean, and fresh. Moreover, if you consume them it freshens your breath with a fruity smell and kills bad bacteria causing bad breath. Similarly, other berries also contain anti-oxidative and anti-carcinogenic properties that naturally improve oral health and prevent oral cancer as well. However, strawberries are safer to use. They do not stain the teeth because their pigmentation is not that dark.
Another fruit known to have a whitening effect on teeth is pineapple. Besides its delicious taste, who knew pineapple benefits your oral health? The main substance or enzyme in pineapples that has a bleaching effect is ‘bromelain’. An experimental study concludes that pineapple extract is effective against stains on teeth. The study also says that pineapple extract lessens any harsh effects of hydrogen peroxide when there is a combination of both. On the other hand, the study also shows that other additives with hydrogen peroxide do not show the same brightness as pineapple extract.
Among fruits, papaya is another fruit with multiple health benefits. Similar to the enzymes in pineapples, papaya also contains enzymes called bromelain and papain. They are proteolytic enzymes known to have many anti-cancerous properties and for brightening teeth. A recent study compares the effects of natural dentifrices (paste or powder) with a control dentifrice such as Colgate. The result of this research shows that natural enzymes significantly lighten the enamel almost as much as the Colgate sample. Bromelain and papain both help remove the layer of plaque on teeth. You can make a paste of papaya and apply it to your teeth for at least 5 minutes. On the other hand, if you enjoy the taste of papaya, make it part of your regular diet to reap its benefits.
Apart from fruits, there are certain veggies also with dental benefits. Celery is one of them known for its high water content and anti-oxidative nature. It fights against free radicals in the body and contains anti-cancerous properties. Since its water content is high, it hydrates the gums and its crunchy texture helps produce more saliva. When there is more production of saliva, the mouth naturally removes bacteria and there are lower chances of plaque build-up. More saliva production makes the teeth look clean and bright.
Due to the high percentage of lactic acid, dairy foods are known to have a positive effect on the esthetic of the teeth. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are great options to include dairy food in your diet. They protect the tooth enamel from staining and discoloring and also strengthen it due to their high calcium content. It also stimulates saliva production and allows the mouth to naturally remove toxins. Therefore, we recommend you add dairy foods to your diet today to naturally improve the appearance of your teeth.
What are natural teeth whitening strips?
There are plenty of ways of whitening your teeth with at-home whitening kits and strips. However, most of them contain harmful chemicals such as chlorine dioxide. They also contain hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide both of which are natural bleaching agents. Their percentage in the whitening strips is important because if it is high, there are chances of it harming your enamel. There are organic or completely natural variations of whitening strips in the market nowadays as well. They are non-toxic, vegan, free of peroxides, SLS-free, and free of preservatives. Such strips contain fruit extracts and their effects are not visible instantly since natural ingredients take time to show results. Therefore, if you try them do not expect them to show instant results. The results show only after weeks of consistent usage.
Natural teeth whitening with braces
For the most part, natural remedies for teeth whitening are completely safe, but it is better to consult your doctor before using them. The best part is there are no side effects from natural ingredients. However, if you wear braces, caution is necessary because some of the ingredients might react with dental glue or metals. Moreover, if you do not clean your teeth properly after using natural remedies, plaque buildup is possible. For example, baking soda and citrusy foods if left for a long time, may irritate your gums and create complications for your braces. Therefore, if you are undergoing braces treatment, do not use natural remedies without the dentist’s advice. If you need your teeth to be whiter while having braces, we recommend you talk to your dentist first for professional advice.
Natural teeth whitening for sensitive teeth
What you use on your teeth if you have sensitive teeth is of utmost importance. Sensitive teeth issues include sensitivity, irritated or swollen gums, and thin enamel. In such situations, supervision is important because anything can irritate your teeth. Therefore, talk to your dentist before using any of the ingredients.
Natural teeth whitening for toddlers and pregnant women
Since natural ingredients are free of any harmful chemicals, it is safe to use them during pregnancy. Due to pregnancy hormones, blood flow to the gums increases and they get more prone to swelling and bleeding. When this happens, using products with chemicals is not safe and causes further complications. However, do not expect a drastic change because natural ingredients take a lot of time to work and may not work for everyone.
On the contrary, toddlers must be at least 14 years of age to qualify for professional teeth whitening procedures. Again natural ingredients are safe so there is nothing to worry about. However, be careful with the amount and time of application because since their jaw is still developing, complications may occur. To be safe, talk to your dentist before using anything on your toddler’s teeth.
-Carey C.M., Tooth whitening: what we now know. J Evid Based Dent Pract. 2014;14 Suppl:70-76. link
-Chakravarthy P., Acharya S., Efficacy of extrinsic stain removal by novel dentifrice containing papain and bromelain extracts. J Young Pharm. 2012;4(4):245-249. link